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scrounge: /skrounj/ informal verb: to actively seek [books] from any available source

It's not that I'm going out of my way to select books illustrated by Kadir Nelson -- it's just that he seems to be the current master of illustrating the African American story, and so many of his books are highly acclaimed, and rightly so. His illustrations here evoke a strong sense of determination, identity, and community, among other things.

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans is the stunningly illustrated story of African Americans in America -- who have been here since long before the country became independent, and have contributed so much to America's success and sense of identity ever since. 

Written in a voice that is both informative and informal, this story traces African Americans' history, from the first settlers through slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the fight for Civil Rights. It also includes some lesser-known aspects of African American history, such as various inventors, and people who went west during westward expansion, including cowboys.

The narrative occasionally makes reference to grandparents and uncles, etc., but it wasn't clear to me until the end who the narrator was supposed to be. At first I thought it was simply meant to be a "collective" voice, but in the epilogue it becomes more clear that the narrator is someone who is very old, who culminates her story with a vote for Barack Obama, the first African American president of the United States.

Of course, trying to fit such a large amount of history into a book this size is a challenge, and can result in gaps and lack of nuance in the treatment of some topics. Still, this is a very valuable contribution to history written for children, and would make a great addition to any US history classroom or homeschool program.

Scrounged From: Our local library

Format: Hardcover
Author/illustrator: Kadir Nelson 
Pages: 112
Content Advisory: References are made to violence in the context of slavery and war.

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