A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Folktale referencing the history of oppression of Black and Brown people in the U.S. Historical note at end gives more context, explaining experiences like the Trail of Tears, slavery and the Civil War, and the establishment of Maroon communities in search of freedom. Author's note honors Zora Neale Hurston and her contributions to the literary canon.
Love prevails above all things. Mother Nature protects. You can always go home.
Positive Role Models
Bentley is a Black man who escapes slavery and establishes a village for other runaways to seek refuge. Magnolia Flower is a strong-willed young woman who values loyalty and intelligence over money and things.
The River tells the Brook the story of Black and Indigenous people who escaped slavery and fled relocation. With beautiful illustrations, figurative language, and authentic names like Swift Deer and Magnolia Flower, the love stories between Black and Indigenous people and their tales of perseverance are portrayed.
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Violence & Scariness
The book mentions slavery, the Trail of Tears, and the oppression of Black and Brown people in the United States.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Magnolia Flower is an adaptation of author Zora Neale Hurston's short story "Magnolia Flower," first published in 1925. Author Ibram X. Kendi, a fervent Hurston lover, will be working to adapt more of her books for children. This first effort is beautifully illustrated and uses folklore to tell a love story against the backdrop of the oppression of Black and Native American people in the United States. A historical note at the end of the book explains the historical references in the story, like the enslavement of Black people and the relocation of Native Americans at the hands of the United States government. An author's note details Kendi's passion for sharing Zora Neale Hurston's works with younger readers.
Is It Any Good?
This modern adaptation brings beauty to a story of oppression often told for how ugly it is. Magnolia Flower, from its charming title and colorful pages to its lovely figurative language and endearing love story, takes the first step towards accomplishing author Ibram X. Kendi's important mission: making the work of Zora Neale Hurston accessible to young readers. And it does so delicately, shifting the focus from the horrors of this time in history to the love, loyalty, labor, and perseverance that Black and Indigenous people have exuded for centuries, without denying the traumas.
Though it is a picture book, it is better suited for readers who are familiar with the true history of the United States. Additionally, the folktale structure and flowery language could be difficult for the youngest readers to digest. Nevertheless, young eyes will be captivated by the stunning artwork of illustrator Loveis Wise. The book is a true launchpad for recentering the narrative of U.S. history, honoring Zora Neale Hurston and her legacy, and building cultural awareness and sensitivity.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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