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1619 Project

Hannah-Jones, Nikole

The 1619 Project’s lyrical picture book in verse chronicles the consequences of slavery and the history of Black resistance in the United States, thoughtfully rendered by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and Newbery honor-winning author Renee Watson. A young student receives a family tree assignment in school, but she can only trace back three generations. Grandma gathers the whole family, and the student learns that 400 years ago, in 1619, their ancestors were stolen and brought to America by white slave traders. But before that, they had a home, a land, a language. She learns how the people said to be born on the water survived. And the people planted dreams and hope, willed themselves to keep living, living. And the people learned new words for love for friend for family for joy for grow for home. With powerful verse and striking illustrations by Nikkolas Smith, Born on the Water provides a pathway for readers of all ages to reflect on the origins of American identity. "Gr 2–5—An illustrated work on the 1619 Project for young readers, this adaptation begins with a school assignment. A young Black girl is told by her teacher to trace her roots, but she is not aware of her origins beyond a few generations. When she recounts this at home her grandmother responds by gathering the family members together to tell their story. Thus begins a visual journey back centuries to the Kingdom of Ndongo in West Central Africa, the birthplace of their ancestors, "They had a home, a place, a land, a beginning." The authors' storytelling is utterly hypnotic, revealing a vibrant community that once spoke their own language and flourished in building and trade. "They spoke Kimbundu, had their own words, for joy, for grow, for home." The opening pages radiate warmth, elation, and celebration through the artwork, which moves and dances along with the people. Sweeping brush strokes and earthy tones are splashed with a bright yellow. With the turn of the page, the triumphant atmosphere vanishes as terror envelops the community, artfully represented in dark mournful blues and deep fiery reds. Entire families are kidnapped and sent by white people to a new country sailing on the White Lion: "We were born on the water. We come from the people who refused to die." The horror of the voyage and the subsequent life in Virginia where these families became slaves is deeply felt through the evocative images. Chaotic sweeps of color are in balance with the smooth lines on the faces of the people who endured, resisted, remembered, and survived. Smith also adds African scarification pattern motifs throughout that create a striking textured effect. The narrative is told in a flowing verse that informs yet also stirs emotion. The lyrical text does not leave readers in despair but confident in the knowledge of the legacy so many Black people forged, "Never forget you come from a people of great strength," Grandma says, "Be proud of our story, your story." VERDICT A stunning work, providing a glimpse into the history of the Black experience before and after the slave trade; the poetic language and breathtaking artwork will have a lasting effect on readers.—Claire Moore, Manhattan Beach Lib., CA - School library journal"

Ages 7-10. Kokila.|||Grades 4-6. Kokila.|||860L Lexile|||juvenile

by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renee Watson ; illustrated by Nikkolas Smith.

Accelerated Reader AR LG 5 0.5 514181.

Target Readership: