Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans

by Kadir Nelson (Author) Kadir Nelson (Illustrator)

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans

Kadir Nelson's Heart and Soul is the winner of numerous awards, including the 2012 Coretta Scott King Author Award and Illustrator Honor, and the recipient of five starred reviews.

The story of America and African Americans is a story of hope and inspiration and unwavering courage. This is the story of the men, women, and children who toiled in the hot sun picking cotton for their masters; it's about the America ripped in two by Jim Crow laws; it's about the brothers and sisters of all colors who rallied against those who would dare bar a child from an education. It's a story of discrimination and broken promises, determination, and triumphs.

Told through the unique point of view and intimate voice of a one-hundred-year-old African-American female narrator, this inspiring book demonstrates that in gaining their freedom and equal rights, African Americans helped our country achieve its promise of liberty and justice--the true heart and soul of our nation.

Supports the Common Core State Standards

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Publishers Weekly

As in We Are the Ship, Nelson knits together the nation's proudest moments with its most shameful, taking on the whole of African-American history, from Revolutionary-era slavery up to the election of President Obama. He handles this vast subject with easy grace, aided by the voice of a grandmotherly figure who's an amalgam of voices from Nelson's own family. She does not gloss over the sadness and outrage of her family's history, but her patient, sometimes weary tone ("The law didn't do a thing to stop it," she says about the Ku Klux Klan. "Shoot, some of the men wearing the sheets were lawmen") makes listeners feel the quiet power that survival requires. In jaw-dropping portraits that radiate determination and strength, Nelson paints heroes like Frederick Douglass and Joe Louis, conferring equal dignity on the slaves, workers, soldiers, and students who made up the backbone of the African-American community. The images convey strength and integrity as he recounts their contributions, including "the most important idea ever introduced to America by an African American"--Dr. King's nonviolent protest. A tremendous achievement. Ages 9-up. (Aug.)

Copyright 2011 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Gr 5 Up--Expanding his focus from the close-up view of history applied in previous books, Nelson uses his formidable skills for the larger landscape: the black experience in America from slavery to the presidency. Like most surveys, the book is organized by struggles and wars; unlike traditional overviews, the facts are filtered through the eyes of a black woman with attitude to spare. This invented narrator, whose "Pap" was kidnapped as a child in Africa and whose brothers fought in World War II, does not suffer fools. Her colloquial commentary, addressed to "honey" or "chile," introduces and interprets the events. Occasionally her voice drops out, and a more textbooklike tone prevails, but mostly her presence provides the heart and soul of the story; readers will care about this information because they care about her. Nelson's oil portraits and tableaux consistently display technical virtuosity, drama, and dignity. From single-page compositions of historical personalities (Frederick Douglass, Joe Louis, Rosa Parks) and representative characters (a Revolutionary War soldier, students at Woolworth's) to full-spread, murallike scenes of a slave ship, a battle, a big band, Nelson varies the viewpoint and contrasts light and darkness to tell a riveting tale. The purpose is presented in the prologue and recast in the epilogue and author's note: "You have to know where you came from so you can move forward." Provocative and powerful, this book offers a much-needed perspective for individuals of all ages seeking to understand America's past and present.--Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library

Copyright 2011 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

As in WE ARE THE SHIP, Nelson knits together the nation's proudest moments with its most shameful, taking on the whole of African-American history. He handles this vast subject with easy grace. [Nelson's] jaw-dropping portraits radiate determination and strength. A tremendous achievement.—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Kadir Nelson
Kadir Nelson is the Caldecott Medal-winning artist of The Undefeated and a two-time Caldecott Honor recipient for Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford and Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine. Among his numerous other awards are three NAACP Image Awards, two Coretta Scott King Author Awards, and three Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards. His work has appeared in many publications including The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and The New Yorker, and his paintings are in the private and public permanent collections of notable institutions across the country, including the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C.; The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown; the International Olympic Committee, and the US House of Representatives. Kadir lives with his wife is Southern California, and invites you to visit him at www.kadirnelson.com.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Balzer & Bray/Harperteen
Publication date
December 23, 2013
Coretta Scott King Award - Author Winner Title(s)
BISAC categories
JNF018010 - Juvenile Nonfiction | People & Places | United States - African-American
JNF025170 - Juvenile Nonfiction | History | United States/General
Library of Congress categories
African Americans
United States
African American influences
Coretta Scott King Award
Honor Book 2012 - 2012
Capitol Choices: Noteworthy Books for Children and Teens
Recommended 2012 - 2012
Parents Choice Awards (Fall) (2008-Up)
Gold Medal Winner 2011 - 2011
Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award
Nominee 2013 - 2013
Jane Addams Children's Book Award
Honor Book 2012 - 2012
Sequoyah Book Awards
Nominee 2014 - 2014

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