Beautiful Blackbird

Book review by
Marigny Dupuy, Common Sense Media
Beautiful Blackbird Book Poster Image
Retelling of African tale will engage kids.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the author and illustrator was honored with his second Coretta Scott King Award for this book.

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What's the story?

This retelling of a traditional African tale of the Ila-speaking people of Zambia is set long ago when of all the brightly colored birds of Africa, only Blackbird wore the color black. The other birds thought that Blackbird was the most beautiful because his color included all the colors under the sun, so they asked him to make a blackening brew to mark them with his beautiful black. He agrees to do as they ask, but he warns, "Color on the outside is not what's on the inside. ....We'll see the difference a touch of black can make. Just remember, whatever I do, I'll be me and you'll be you" Pleased with their new markings, the beautifully decorated birds sing a song praising Blackbird and the color black.

Is it any good?

This ode to black, the most inclusive color of all, is satisfying in many ways. The story is an old one brought to new life by the author. Told in the best traditional storytelling fashion, the author uses repetition and rhythm to great effect. Rhyme is woven discreetly into the text and there are short poems within the storyline.

Ashley Bryan's cut-paper collage artwork is in an array of interesting muted colors -- from maroon and pink to green, blue, orange, gold, and, of course, black. The figures are lively and incredibly expressive. Young children will enjoy the colors, the spirited pictures, and the fun of the lilting text.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about inner beauty. Why do the other birds want to be blackened? Would they truly be the same as the blackbird? What is the book's overall message?

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