We Could Fly

Candlewick. Nov. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781536222548.
K-Gr 3–A song inspired by a children’s book becomes a children’s book. A Black mother and daughter draw on the resilience of their ancestors to process their own generational trauma of slavery in this exceptional story. Told in musical conversation—the text comes from Giddens’s song of the same name—the mother imparts the levity of the spirit despite the adversity it faces. According to the back matter, the inspiration for the song was the Coretta Scott King Award–winning The People Could Fly, a collection of African American folktales by Virginia Hamilton. Women, as Giddens phrases it, “hold the family lore” so her narrative centers the matriarchs—past, present, and future. The lyrics translate to the picture book format with ease. Uchendu’s ethereal depictions of sprawling landscapes are layered with sweeping trails of spirits’ ascents, making the incorporeal visible. In a sunset-streaked palette of dreamy reds, pinks, oranges, blues, and purples, the illustrations introduce a level of visual metaphor that furthers the artistic tradition of virtuosos Leo and Diane Dillon in their art for the Hamilton book.
VERDICT A magically sublime testimonial to spirituality and ancestral connection, perfect for home or classroom reading with young ones.

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