Synopses & Reviews
What began as a spiritual has developed into one of America’s best-known songs, and now for the first time it appears as a picture book, masterfully created by award-winning artist Kadir Nelson.Through sublime landscapes and warm images of a boy and his family, Kadir has created a dazzling, intimate interpretation, one that rejoices in the connectedness of people and nature.
Inspired by the song’s simple message, Kadir sought to capture the joy of living in and engaging with the world. Most importantly, he wished to portray the world as a child might see it—vast and beautiful.
"The popular spiritual finds new life as a picture book celebrating diversity and community. An African-American boy is at the heart of the lyrics featured here experiencing the song's universal sentiments firsthand. The line 'He's got my brothers and my sisters in His hands' is accompanied by the boy's crayon drawing of his multiethnic family; the same family is shown flying kites in an illustration of 'He's got the wind and the clouds in His hands.' The greatness of Earth, moon and sea are also seen with awe through the boy's eyes. Nelson's (Salt in His Shoes) interpretation remains wide-reaching in its themes, yet still intimate via his protagonist's view. The warm, joyous result encourages readers to apply the song to their own lives and situations. The artist's mix of watercolor, oil and pencil creates often velvety-looking portraits and textured details in blades of grass or folds of clothing. A painting of the yellow-slickered boy in front of a wall of glistening green leaves, letting his face be splashed by raindrops is particularly engaging. Ages 4-up. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Nelson uses the old spiritual—offered here, astonishingly, in its first singleton, illustrated edition,though it’s available in many collections—as a springboard to celebrate family togetherness. Each line of a four-verse version of the lyric captions an intimate scene of an African-American lad, three sibs (one, lighter-skinned, perhaps adopted) and two parents in various combinations, posing together in both city (San Francisco) and country settings, sharing "the moon and the stars," "the wind and the clouds," "the oceans and the seas," and so on. Sandwiched between views of, more or less, the whole world, Nelson alternates finished paintings in his characteristic strong, bold style with authentically childlike crayon drawings done with his left hand—demonstrating a superb ability to evoke both grand and naïve effects. Moving, reverent, spiritual indeed."
-Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Nelson’s vibrant signature illustrations rendered in pencil, oil, and watercolor breathe new meaning and life into this favorite Sunday school spiritual in which families, communities, and forces of nature are celebrated with lively images and inspiring scenes. The cover painting of an African-American boy against a colorful landscape beckons readers inside to discover the wonders of creation. With each page turn and line of verse, Nelson gives fresh, thought-provoking interpretations to the lyrics that will stir the imagination and spark discussion. For example, “He’s got my brothers and my sisters in His hands” depicts the boy, present throughout the book, holding a childlike drawing of people of different races and skin tones, suggesting the notion that all humanity should be viewed as “brothers and sisters.” The simple, repetitious flow of the words and the refrain make this an excellent read-aloud choice as well as a sing-along favorite. A moving, artistic celebration of our world and the people who share in its splendors."
-School Library Journal, starred review
A Coretta Scott King Award winner ("Ellington Was Not a Street") adapts the beloved spiritual for this beautiful picture book, creating a dazzling interpretation that rejoices in the connectedness of people and nature.