God Bless the Child (Contains CD)
Author: Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog, Jr.
Illustrator: Jerry Pinkney
Pages: 32
Publisher/Date: Amistad/HarperCollins/2003
ISBN: 0060287977
Age Levels: 4 and up

Book Review

God Bless the Child is a masterpiece: visually stunning and emotionally appealing.

Taking the words to Billie Holiday's and Arthur Herzog Jr.'s bluesy "God Bless the Child" as his text and inspiration, Pinkney depicts a family's move in the 1930s from the rural South to the industrialized North in what was known as the Great Migration.

His exquisite "slice of life" watercolor paintings are wonderfully atmospheric, capturing perfectly the period and people.

The final page is one of hope, and the promise of a better future. The single painting shows a young boy sitting in a classroom holding a book, talking with his teacher. As Pinkney notes in an afterword, "At the time 'God Bless the Child' was written, education was largely a privilege of the wealthy . . . Free public education was prized as the great equalizer—the stairway out of poverty for those with the courage and opportunity to climb it."

This book is a labor of love. One can see this clearly in the facial expressions, the gestures, even the postures of the characters. No detail is neglected. Each page feels like an inexorable progression forward—even the endpapers. (The front endpapers show what appears to be a cabin's rough, wooden walls, while the endpapers in the back of the book show painted wallpaper.)

Reviewed by the teachers at Education Oasis.
©2004 Education Oasis® http://www.educationoasis.com

About the Author

Billie Holiday is one of the most famous jazz singers of all time. She was born Eleanora Fagan Gough in 1915 in Baltimore, Maryland, but changed her name to Billie after her favorite film star, Billie Dove, and Holiday, which was her father's last name. As a child, and in the beginning stages of her career, she endured many hardships. She made her first recording in 1933 at the age of eighteen. She quickly rose to stardom, and six years later she introduced the world to two of her best-known songs: "Strange Fruit" and "God Bless the Child." Billie Holiday's star burned brightly, but too briefly. She died in New York City at the age of forty-four.

About the Illustrator

Jerry Pinkney is the illustrator of more than a hundred books for children. A five-time winner of both the Caldecott Honor and the Coretta Scott King Award, he has been recognized with numerous other honors, taught illustration and conducted workshops at universities across the country, and created art for the United States Postal Service's Black Heritage stamps. Books Mr. Pinkney has illustrated include The Ugly Duckling, John Henry, The Nightingale, and Noah's Ark. The father of four grown children, he lives and works in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, in a nineteenth-century carriage house with his wife, author Gloria Jean.