Monday, January 9, 2023

Today's read... Build a House by Rhiannon Giddens

We're swaying toward historical in today's recommended read, and that for the younger readers out there. This picture book started out as a song collaborated by Rhiannon Giddens and Yo-Yo Ma (I added the video below). Since I always am ready to get lost in something performed by Yo-Yo Ma...amazing celloist...I was curious to pick this one up. Since this one also includes a link to an 'exclusive' recording with the two, it could make a lovely read aloud, too. Plus, I find the calming scene on the cover with a touch of personality from that cute little girl and a donkey inviting. Yep, I have a soft spot for donkeys...well, as long as I'm not riding one to pick wild plums. Oh wait! That was a pony.

*clears throat* Let's just say that both can be a bit stubborn.

Anyway, let's see how these match up.

by Rhiannon Giddens
 Illustrated by Monica Mikai
Candlewick Press
Picture Book
40 pages
ages 4 to 8

Grammy Award winner Rhiannon Giddens celebrates Black history and culture in her unflinching, uplifting, and gorgeously illustrated picture book debut.

I learned your words and wrote my song. I put my story down.

As an acclaimed musician, singer, songwriter, and cofounder of the traditional African American string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Rhiannon Giddens has long used her art to mine America’s musical past and manifest its future, passionately recovering lost voices and reconstructing a nation’s musical heritage. Written as a song to commemorate the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth—which was originally performed with famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma—and paired here with bold illustrations by painter Monica Mikai, Build a House tells the moving story of a people who would not be moved and the music that sustained them. Steeped in sorrow and joy, resilience and resolve, turmoil and transcendence, this dramatic debut offers a proud view of history and a vital message for readers of all ages: honor your heritage, express your truth, and let your voice soar, even—or perhaps especially—when your heart is heaviest.



Set to the text of the same titled song performed with Yo-Yo Ma a few years ago, this is a lovely illustrated read which invites to sing along.

I already found the cover scene inviting with it's wholesome invitation to visit. But of course, the book itself is about the story of how the family got to that point. This follows the lyrics of the song performed with Yo-Yo Ma a couple years ago and does include a link to a recording, so it can be enjoyed by young listeners.

The text is very simple and repetitive, making it easy to pick-up and join in (read or sung). While this gives a glimpse at the problems slaves faced and their fight to live their own lives, it stays down-to-earth, meaning that young listeners won't have any trouble understanding what is going on and will sympathize with the circumstances. It's gentle, so even sensitive readers won't have any problems with it, and it ends on a inspiring note, while keeping that food for thought and understanding.

I do enjoy the illustrations. The young girl adds the needed element for listeners to connect with. After all, her kind nature is more than visible, and it's not hard to picture her asking the listener to come and play with her. The family also keeps a positive attitude even when things aren't the best, creating a warm family atmosphere. 

And here they are...

Rhiannon Giddens cofounded the Grammy Award–winning Carolina Chocolate Drops and the Black female supergroup Our Native Daughters. She is the recipient of a 2022 Grammy Award for Best Folk Album for her collaboration with Francesco Turrisi on They’re Calling Me Home, and she has been nominated for additional Grammys as a soloist and collaborator. A musician, singer, songwriter, actor, librettist, and MacArthur Fellow, her many roles and honors include serving as artistic director at Silkroad and performing for the Obamas at the White House. Rhiannon Giddens lives in Ireland.
illustrator’s comments:
Monica Mikai studied painting and earned an MFA at the New York Studio School. She is the illustrator of The Proudest Color by Sheila Modir and Jeffrey Kashou and My Mother’s Wildest Dreams by John A. Light. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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