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Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans (Jane Addams Honor Book (Awards)) Hardcover – September 27, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


As in WE ARE THE SHIP, Nelson knits together the nation’s proudest moments with its most shameful, taking on the whole of African-American history. He handles this vast subject with easy grace. [Nelson’s] jaw-dropping portraits radiate determination and strength. A tremendous achievement. (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

The dramatic oil paintings heighten the dignity of this story, whether they are of well-known historical figures, common folk or landscape…This intimate narrative makes the stories accessible to young readers and powerfully conveys how personal this history feels for many African-Americans. (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

Nelson…adds to his notable titles with this powerful view of African American history. Illustrated with 44 full-page paintings, this handsome volume is told in the fictionalized, informal voice of an African American senior looking back on her life and remembering what her elders told her. (Booklist (starred review))

Provocative and powerful, this book offers a much-needed perspective for individuals of all ages seeking to understand America’s past and present. (School Library Journal (starred review))

Nelson effectively creates a voice that is at once singular and representative. A tour de force in the career of an author/artist who continues to outdo himself. (Horn Book (starred review))

From the Back Cover

The story of America and African Americans is a story of hope and inspiration and unwavering courage. But it is also the story of injustice; of a country divided by law, education, and wealth; of a people whose struggles and achievements helped define their country. This is the story of the men, women, and children who toiled in the hot sun picking cotton for their masters; it’s about the America ripped in two by Jim Crow laws; it’s about the brothers and sisters of all colors who rallied against those who would dare bar a child from an education. It’s a story of discrimination and broken promises, determination and triumphs.

Kadir Nelson, one of this generation’s most accomplished, award-winning artists, has created an epic yet intimate introduction to the history of America and African Americans, from colonial days through the civil rights movement. Written in the voice of an “Everywoman,” an unnamed narrator whose forebears came to this country on slave ships and who lived to cast her vote for the first African American president, heart and soul touches on some of the great transformative events and small victories of that history. This inspiring book demonstrates that in gaining their freedom and equal rights, African Americans helped our country achieve its promise of liberty and justice—the true heart and soul of our nation.


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 10 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 5
  • Lexile Measure: 1050L (What's this?)
  • Series: Jane Addams Honor Book (Awards)
  • Hardcover: 108 pages
  • Publisher: Balzer + Bray (September 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061730742
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061730740
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 0.4 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #495,952 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Kadir Nelson is a two-time Caldecott Honor Award recipient. He has received an NAACP Image Award, a CASEY Award, the 2009 and 2014 Coretta Scott King Author Award, and the 2009 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award. Among Mr. Nelson's other awards are gold and silver medals from the Society of Illustrators. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and The New Yorker. He lives in Los Angeles, CA. Learn more about Kadir Nelson at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Portianay VINE VOICE on October 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
... I actually physically hugged the book to me, (and I am not known as a hugger!) and had tears in my eyes. It is that profound. I heard the author interviewed on NPR the other day, and was excited, because I knew I had already ordered it for our public library's children's collection. When it got here, I could hardly wait to read it! I was not disappointed! I pride myself on my civil rights collection in our children's department, and am always thankful for my upbringing in yes, a white family of the sixties (I am 52 now), but by parents who admired Dr. King and believed in him. So, I have a keen interest in new books on this topic. This one is a delight, from start to finish, yes, even the "hard" things one must read in this history. The illustrations are so very beautiful, they are breathtaking.
When I put out a display of books on this topic, it is such a relief to have books that I can give to a small child without worrying, can he/she handle this yet? There will be time, as they grow, for the Emmett Till horror, the lynchings, and so terribly much more! But when they are small, still, I need for them, and for their parents, to have a way to discuss this without causing night terrors. This book fills that need.
Bless you, Mr. Nelson! You were a delight on the radio, and this book is a delight in our library!
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on October 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Humans tend to be a highly visual species. When folks tell you not to judge a book by its cover, that's an optimistic sentiment rather than a rule. People like to judge by covers. Often we haven't time to inspect the contents of all the books we see, so the jackets bear the brunt of our inherent skepticism. With this in mind, Kadir Nelson has always had an edge on the competition. If the man wants to get you to pick up a book, he will get you to pick up a book. You often get a feeling that while he doesn't really care when it comes to the various celebrities he's created books for over the years (Spike Lee, Debbie Allen, Michael Jordan's sister, etc.) when it's his own book, though, THAT is when he breaks out the good brushes. Nelson wrote "We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball" a couple years ago to rave reviews. Now he's dug a little deeper to provide us with the kind of title we've needed for years. "Heart and Soul" gives us a true overview of African Americans from start to near finish with pictures that draw in readers from the cover onwards. This is the title every library should own. The book has heart. The pictures have soul.

An old woman stands in front of a portrait in the Capitol rotunda in Washington D.C. Bent over she regards the art there, recounting how it was black hands that built the Capitol from sandstone. "Strange though . . . nary a black face in all those pretty pictures." Looking at them you would swear black people hadn't been here from the start, but that's simply not true. With that, the woman launches into the history of both our nation and the African Americans living in it, sometimes through the lens of her own family.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jason Frost VINE VOICE on October 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
With all the "apps" out there, I wish someone would invent a "standing in awe" app. That way I could just tap and let some computer algorithm explain how I feel. Books like this one need that because there is no way to convey, in words, how truly magnificent it is. You know how when you see a perfect sunset and you just watch it because words would cheapen the moment? That's the way I feel about this book.

The cover sets the tone for this future classic and... wow. This story is told through the voice of a woman (Kadir's grandmother) who has lived through the visit of the first slaves to the election of President Obama. The narrator transcends time, as does our history. In the telling of this story, our narrator is very honest. And not from the "chip on the shoulder" angle either. Just honest. One of the first stories that made me go "what?" was hearing why Pap wouldn't let his family eat black-eyed peas on New Years.
Another point was the picture of the whipping tree. I'm from South Carolina and we used to visit Charleston all the time. I hated it then but I miss it now. Anyway, there was a street in Charleston that was two way. In the middle of the street there was a large tree. I remember my mom telling me that slaves used to hang from that tree. The tree in this book isn't the same tree, but I got that same weird feeling that I got when I saw this painting. One of awe, horror, fascination, and sadness.

Grandmother continues her story and every once in a while, throws in a dash of humor. Suffice it to say that she wasn't the only woman who found Dr. King attractive. :- Hearing about our history from Grandmother is a treat, but what REALLY makes this book stand out are Kadir's paintings. And not just one or two.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By James Charnock on February 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I do not quibble over giving this book four stars because I don't think it suits the age range for which most recommend it. Ideas and events are brought up that younger (targeted) readers will scratch their heads over--and the author seems to gloss over--even if they are pertinent to the telling of a section of that history of blacks in America.

I would have liked the book better if the author had zeroed in on smaller, but significant, points in the history of blacks in America. Besides, much of this information can be found elsewhere.

On the other hand, Nelson's art is great, his writing close to superb, and the near-folksy style is entertaining. And, of course, the content--though exhaustive, and somewhat rushed in parts--is thorough, the latter more appreciated if one has some prior knowledge.

I'm sure the scope of the author's task was necessarily a difficult condensation, and he did as good a job as could be done, considering the volume of history. I simply feel it is more suitable for high school--rather than middle school--where the information can be a source for additional research by students.
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Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans (Jane Addams Honor Book (Awards))
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