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Every Little Thing by Cedella and Bob Marley with by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

cover for Every Little ThingEvery Little Thing, Cedella Marley’s adaptation of Bob Marley’s song Every Little Thing could be called the companion book to Marley’s adaptation of her father’s One Love song. This time, the protagonist is a little boy from a loving family who spreads the joy and comfort that his parents give him through their affection and forgiveness, with other kids. Once again, Brantley-Newton’s illustrations powerfully tell a story with Marley’s words serving as the lyrical underscore for what is happening. I couldn’t help singing this book to my daughter and she easily and happily sang along in between asking questions about what was going on in the story. The narrative starts when the protagonist wakes up in the morning, follows him through a day of playing in the rain, and sun, enjoying time with his pets and three little birds, as well as his friends. He befriends a shy and isolated friend, makes a mess of his kitchen trying to bake a cake, is forgiven by his parents, sulks about bedtime, before his parents hug him and tuck him in, then he awakens in the next morning happy again. While the cast of characters is much smaller than that in One Love, a fair representation of black and white characters with different phenotypes is present. I was particularly happy to see an Asian child included as the subject of the protagonist’s friendship in the illustrations of this book as Asians were absent from the book One Love. Without question, this book is a joy to read, and once again the illustrations are perfect for the pre-literate child to practice “reading” comprehension skills in decoding the story told by the illustrations.

Recommendation: Highly Recommended ages 0+

Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda

Let Freedom Sing by Vanessa Newton

cover for Let Freedom SingWith stylistic, cartoon-like illustrations and a focus on the children’s gospel song, “This Little Light of Mine,” Vanessa Newton tells the story of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s until the 21st century in a way that is accessible for children as young as three years old. Filled with illustrations of people of all racial, ethnic, and lifestyle backgrounds working together for freedom, this book is a fun, inviting representation of the United States’ Civil Rights Movement. If you buy this book for your three-year-old, it can grow with them up to the age of ten. Every reader will sing the song that appears, at least in part, on every page. The illustrations tell the non-violent conflict aspect of major moments in the Civil Rights movement, however the language accompanying the illustrations in the foreground typically just names the historical figure saying that they let their light shine. A typical example is an illustration of Rosa Parks on the bus and the words:
“Rosa Parks refused to move,
She let her light shine.”

If your child asks questions, you can fill in the gaps with history at the depth and detailed level that your child can handle. On the inset of some of the pages, there is a more detailed history that you can read to older children. The one exception to what I’ve described above is the image of protestors holding rocks ready to throw them at Ruby Bridges. You may want to turn past that page for younger readers. I am also bothered by the author/ illustrator’s choice to draw Barack Obama as a dark-skinned man more reminiscent of the King children than himself. Other than an inexplicable choice on the illustrator’s part to mis-represent Barack Obama, I like this book for all children.

Age Range: 3-10
Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda