Loretta Little Looks Back: Three Voices Go Tell It

by Andrea Davis Pinkney (Author) Brian Pinkney (Illustrator)

Loretta Little Looks Back: Three Voices Go Tell It
Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade

From a bestselling and award-winning husband and wife team comes an innovative, beautifully illustrated novel that delivers a front-row seat to the groundbreaking moments in history that led to African Americans earning the right to vote.

"Right here, I'm sharing the honest-to-goodness." -- Loretta

"I'm gon' reach back, and tell how it all went. I'm gon' speak on it. My way." -- Roly

"I got more nerve than a bad tooth. But there's nothing bad about being bold." -- Aggie B.

Loretta, Roly, and Aggie B., members of the Little family, each present the vivid story of their young lives, spanning three generations. Their separate stories -- beginning in a cotton field in 1927 and ending at the presidential election of 1968 -- come together to create one unforgettable journey.

Through an evocative mix of fictional first-person narratives, spoken-word poems, folk myths, gospel rhythms and blues influences, Loretta Little Looks Back weaves an immersive tapestry that illuminates the dignity of sharecroppers in the rural South. Inspired by storytelling's oral tradition, stirring vignettes are presented in a series of theatrical monologues that paint a gripping, multidimensional portrait of America's struggle for civil rights as seen through the eyes of the children who lived it. The novel's unique format invites us to walk in their shoes. Each encounters an unexpected mystical gift, passed down from one family member to the next, that ignites their experience what it means to reach for freedom.

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Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

"Inspired by the collective voices of many," the married cocreators incisively invoke oral tradition in fictionalized accounts of a Black family enduring political and economic oppression under Jim Crow. In Mississippi, three dynamically rendered family members tell the stories of a changing society on the brink of change. Through a narrative running from 1927 to 1930, Loretta, the youngest daughter of sharecroppers, relates the casually dehumanizing effect of an intentionally mispronounced name in stories about her hardworking father. In the 1940s, Loretta's brother Roly, a foundling infant taken in by the Littles, grows up to be a sharecropper and landowner facing limitations similar to those that ruled his father's life. And in the 1960s, Aggie B., Roly's stubbornly independent daughter, takes up the cause of Black suffrage at the height of the civil rights era, detailing the dampening effect of hand-to-mouth poverty on political involvement. Selective incorporation of real-life historical figures (Emmett Till, Fannie Lou Hamer) and events (voter registration drives, Democratic National Conventions) lends authenticity to each narrator's story, an ideal accompaniment to the lyricism woven throughout. Art adds elegant portraits of land and family to these vivid tales, and end notes offer historical context and further reading recommendations. Ages 8-12. Agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (Sept.)

Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 5 Up—Loretta, Roly, and Aggie B., members of the Little family, recount their lives through original first-person narratives, poetry, and spiritual hymns. The first to tell her story is Loretta Little, who is as strong as any adult and can box cotton with the best of them. Her life as a sharecropper's daughter imbues her with great strength, but is not without sacrifice. Next up is Roly, whose story begins when Loretta and her sisters find him abandoned in a field as a baby and raise him. He grows up with an affinity for nature and an intuition for what the farm animals and crops need. The last to tell her story is Aggie B., Roly's daughter, and the B stands for "bold." Even though she is young, she stands by her beliefs and feels it is her duty to help African Americans exercise their right to vote. Every character has a unique voice and an engaging presence. From the first page, readers are invested in these characters' journeys as they navigate fantastic triumphs and devastating lows. The members of the Little family meld well with each other and realistically portray a close-knit family dynamic. This creatively written monologue novel uses the style of stage performance, allowing readers to visualize every monologue or poem performed. The pleasing artwork punctuates each chapter with added depth. VERDICT The combination of elements drawing on oral tradition and folklore set this book apart, making it an unforgettable reading experience. Perfect for every library.—Myiesha Speight, Towson Univ., Baltimore

Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

*"..timely and important read."—Kirkus, starred review
Andrea Davis Pinkney
Andrea Davis Pinkney(andreadavispinkney.com) is the New York Timesbestselling and award-winning author of numerous books for children and young adults, and has been recognized by the Coretta Scott King Author Award committee with an honor for Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fightersand a medal for Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America. She is a four-time nominee for the NAACP Image Award. In addition to her work as an author, Ms. Pinkney is a publishing executive. She has been named one of the "25 Most Influential Black Women in Business" by The Network Journal, and is among Children's Health magazine's "25 Most Influential People in Our Children's Lives." You can follow her on Twitter @AndreaDavisPink.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date
September 20, 2020
BISAC categories
JUV013030 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Multigenerational
JUV011010 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - African-American
JUV016200 - Juvenile Fiction | Historical | United States - Civil War Period (1850-1877)
Library of Congress categories
African Americans
Civil rights movements
20th century
Family life

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