Lift as you climb The story of Ella Baker

Patricia Hruby Powell, 1951-

Book - 2020

"A picture book about the life of civil rights activist Ella Baker"--Provided by publisher.

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New York : Margaret K. McElderry Books [2020]
First edition
Physical Description
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 29 cm
Ages 4-8.
Includes bibliographical references.
Main Author
Patricia Hruby Powell, 1951- (author)
Other Authors
R. Gregory Christie, 1971- (illustrator)
Review by Booklist Review

Born in 1903, Ella Baker grew up on her grandparents' North Carolina farm, where they'd once labored as slaves. There she learned to listen to others, to help people in need, and to "lift as you climb." From her grandfather's church pulpit, she heard the resounding question, "What do you hope to accomplish?" After college, Baker worked for the NAACP and SCLC. She gradually became a significant figure in the civil rights movement, challenging its leaders on occasion, speaking up for women within the movement, focusing on issues such as voting rights, and always listening at the grassroots level. She helped plan the Freedom Rides, and she advised and befriended many young activists throughout her career. In the striking gouache paintings, Christie uses strong lines and vibrant colors to recreate scenes from Baker's life and times, while expressing the leader's dignity, empathy, and determination. Repeatedly referencing Baker's childhood lessons, Powell's free-verse text conveys the importance of Ella Baker as a strong-minded woman working purposefully outside the limelight and making a significant difference within the civil rights movement. The question "What do you hope to accomplish?" tolls like a bell through the narrative, underscoring Baker's driving sense of purpose. As the book's closing line, the question challenges readers as well.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 4--7--Ella Baker (1903--86) was raised by the children of parents who were previously enslaved. From an early age, her parents told her she had the potential to change the world. She learned to listen to others and use what she heard for good. Throughout her life, she committed herself to standing up for human rights, always asking herself and others, "What do I hope to accomplish?" No matter the persecution or struggles she faced, Baker always rose above, lifting others with her as she climbed. This lyrical biography provides insight into the life of a member of the civil rights movement, creating connections between her work and modern times. Fears and obstacles are honestly depicted, as are injustice and violence. Christie's detailed illustrations are visceral. The artwork shows a Black man being beaten by two white police officers, Black youth imprisoned for peaceful protests, and buses burning after being firebombed. Some prior knowledge of Black American history is required to fully appreciate this book; terms such as emancipation and Negroes are used without explanation or context. Supplemental information detailing the purposes of different organizations Baker was affiliated with, as well as a time line of her life, provides clarity. The messages encouraging all people of color to vote and take their places in the government come through strong and clear. VERDICT A highly informative picture book biography that captures the determination and strength of an influential civil rights leader and adds to students' understanding of the civil rights movement.--Emily Beasley, Omaha Public Sch., NE

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Horn Book Review

"Church said / Help your neighbor. / Mama said / Lift as you climb." So began the lifework of civil rights activist Ella Baker. The granddaughter of a formerly enslaved couple who bought the land on which they had toiled, Baker was raised to help the less fortunate. As a civil rights leader, she would go to churches and schools, picnics and barbershops, and listen to what the people needed, believing the leadership could come from "the bottom up." This devotion to self-empowerment is captured with the refrain "What do you hope to accomplish?" Her leadership style sometimes put her at odds with others ("She challenged Reverend King with her ideas. Rather than just the elite and the middle class -- what about the poorest? What about the people at the bottom? Dr. King didn't always agree with Ella. But he respected her"), but her successes led her to spearhead the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), which later became SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee). The relaxed pacing, absence of quotation marks, and natural line breaks ensure a smooth read-aloud. Christie's painterly illustrations reinforce the details of Baker's life -- the cool, relaxed blue and green background of her childhood gives way to bright, energetic yellows and pinks as she works for the movement. Varied use of line adds subtle context -- the contrast between the ordered array of men to whom Dr. King preaches and the roundtable discussion of the women is telling. Extensive back matter includes an author's note, a glossary of organizations mentioned in the story, a timeline, and a bibliography. Eboni Njoku July/August 2020 p.154(c) Copyright 2020. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

Early in life, Ella Baker listened to her grandfather's sermons, her grandmother's stories about life during slavery, and her mother's advice to "Lift as you climb": the lodestars that guided Baker to her purpose and accomplishments. Powell's verse biography chronicles the professional life of civil rights leader Ella Josephine Baker. Not as widely familiar as Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Dorothy Height, she nevertheless played a pivotal role in educating African Americans of all backgrounds about freedom, voting, and their rights. The book cites Baker's working relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as they formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, as well as her work with the NAACP and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Christie's illustrations are in the style of African American folk art, a harmonious choice for the subject matter. Vivid colors abound, and the typeset alternates between black and white, both clearly legible against solid backgrounds. Centered in distinctive display type is Baker's oft-repeated question, "What do you hope to accomplish?" There is an urgency to the clipped text, accentuated by frequent use of the em dash: "Ella thought [Dr. King] should ask-- / not command. / Still, she agreed-- / for the cause." Substantial backmatter includes an author's note with further information about Baker's personal life, a glossary of the initialisms, a timeline, and a bibliography. A beautiful book and a welcome addition to the picture-book--biography shelf. (Picture book/biography. 5-8) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.