This book may be shelved with picture books, but it is written to children old enough to grapple with the ugly pain of America’s historic inequities and injustices. The language is rich and nuanced, written in first person, as if Fannie Lou Hamer were telling the story of her life. Quotes (which are very helpfully attributed in the back matter) are seamlessly incorporated into the storytelling (and indicated by italics), and Weatherford has captured the plain-speaking, colloquial tone of her voice in all of the text:
My family–all twenty-two of us–worked in the field.
Wasn’t no other work to do.
They didn’t have no such thing as factories;
These factories are something new
The story follows Hamer through her difficult childhood as a sharecropper, through her courageous persistence in trying to vote in the deep South, and her subsequent experiences (including a traumatic beating) trying to bring civil rights to all in America. The language is lyrical and beautiful. The story is sobering.
This is Ekua Holmes’ picture book debut as an illustrator. Her drawings are evocative and rich. It’s a beautiful, haunting book.
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes. Candlewick: 2015.