Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Harlem's Little Blackbird

Harlem's Little Blackbird

Renee Watson
Illustrator:  Christian Robinson 
Historical Fiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 9
Random House Books for Young Readers, 2012   ISBN: 978-0375869730

Florence Mills lived in a “teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy” house in Washington, D.C. From her mother, Florence learned songs, spirituals that her parents, who used to be slaves, had sung to lift their spirits during hard times. Florence quickly learned that song is a powerful force. On the school playground she sang and danced, dancing the cakewalk better than everyone else. In fact she was so good at it that she began singing and dancing in contests and she took home many medals.

Florence was invited to perform at a fancy theatre, but she was told that her family members could not watch because they were “Negroes.” Florence’s response was to announced that if they could not be in the audience, she wasn’t going to perform. In the end the theatre manager agreed to let Florence’s parents and sisters into the theatre.

Just a few years later Florence’s family moved to New York City. Florence and her sisters formed a singing and dancing trio and they were very popular, but audiences loved Florence best, and soon she was in Shuffle Along, a show that “introduced jazz to white audiences.” Night after night Florence danced and sang, giving her audiences a show that they would never forget.

In this splendid historical fiction picture book the author tells the story of an African-American performer who did not let racism stop her from reaching for the stars. Throughout the book the engaging text is accompanied by delightful collage artwork.

An author’s note at the back of the book provides readers with further information about Florence Mills.