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A Band of Angels: A Story Inspired by the Jubilee Singers Hardcover – January 1, 1999

4.9 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A groundbreaking African-American chorus founded in 1871 inspires this warm and moving picture book. "Grandma Ella was born into slavery... but no one could chain her voice," begins Aunt Beth in response to the girl narrator's request for her favorite story. After the Civil War, Ella becomes one of the first students to attend the Fisk School, a newly formed institution for freed slaves in Nashville. She has been at her studies only a short time when the school's run-down buildings and dire financial situation puts Fisk on the verge of closing. But Professor White, who teaches music, recruits Ella and fellow members of the school chorus to tour the northern states and raise money for Fisk. In the North, the singing group meets with harsh discrimination that moves them to perform not the slotted popular tunes of the day but the "powerful songs of courage" known as spirituals?a program change that earns them both money and accolades. Hopkinson's (Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt) lilting text interweaves subtle details about racial tensions after the Civil War while emphasizing the importance of education and of being true to oneself. Colon's (My Mama Had a Dancing Heart) watercolor and colored-pencil compositions are awash in soft, golden light. His characteristic cross-hatching technique adds texture and depth to each painting, and scenes of the chorus lost in song?voices raised, eyes closed?reveal the courage and heart of these trailblazing singers. Ages 5-8.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 1-5?This picture book is both touching and inspirational. The narrative is written from the point of view of the great-great-granddaughter of Ella Sheppard, one of the original Jubilee Singers from the Fisk School in Nashville, TN, the first school for freed slaves. As Aunt Beth tells about the struggles of Ella and the rest of the chorus to raise money to save their school, the girl imagines what her great-great-grandmother might have thought or felt. The singers traveled throughout the North after the Civil War performing popular music. However, it was only when they began to perform the "jubilee" or spiritual songs such as "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" that they gained popularity. Later, they sang for Queen Victoria and President Grant and the funds they raised helped to build Jubilee Hall and establish Fisk University. Hopkinson's poignant prose sets the tone for this glimpse into a little-known bit of black history. Using the device of a family storyteller and a child narrator brings immediacy to the tale and a personal connection to the events. Colon's soft watercolor and colored-pencil illustrations are full of gentle greens and browns. The sepia tones add an antique look to the book. This heartwarming presentation is not a historical account, but rather a human look at recorded facts. A fine read-aloud with a good story, uplifting pictures, and fascinating information.?Beth Tegart, Oneida City Schools, NY
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 590L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing/Atheneum; 1st ed edition (January 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689810628
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689810626
  • Product Dimensions: 10.8 x 8.8 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,687,352 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I must be one of thousands and thousands of people who can't remember when I first learned songs like "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"--and I had no idea that we owe our knowledge of that song and other spirituals to the Jubilee Singers. The author does a terrific job of making the reader care about Ella (based on Ella Sheppard Moore), who never does get the education she wants so much but who manages to help save both Fisk University AND songs like "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and "Go Down, Moses." Raul Colon's illustrations are warm and moving. This is a book to give as a present to anyone who loves music (especially spirituals and other traditional songs), not just to kids.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful introduction to the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University in TN. The Jubilee Singers brought the Negro spirituals to the attention of the world. A very inspiring story. In spite of the humiliation of being refused meals or lodging because of their skin color,
these heroic young people proved to the world that they were able to contribute to our country's life.
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By A Customer on January 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover
It gave me chills, to read Deborah Hopkinson's newest book, A BAND OF ANGELS. Every bit as touching and inspiring as Hopkinson's SWEET CLARA AND THE FREEDOM QUILT, this is a true story about a little-known chapter in African-American history. Ella Shepard and the Fisk U. Jubilee Singers' dedication to a cause greater than themselves led them to preserve many of the old spirituals that were on the verge of being forgotten. They took this music into the world, raising money to keep the doors of Fisk open, so others could come behind them and learn. Raul Colon's artwork is full of tenderness and a look of long-ago longing that blends perfectly with the text. A great book for sharing during Black History month, but even better for just any time of year, any time you want to share a story about a strong woman, and human beings who find a way to triumph in the face of adversity.
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Format: Hardcover
A Band of Angels tells the story of Grandma Ella, a character who is inspired by Ella Sheppard Moore who was a pianist for the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University. We learn that Grandma Ella was born into slavery and freed at fourteen when the civil war ended. The story details how young Ella worked tirelessly to save money to attend a new school for freed slaves known as Fisk School. After saving her money and arriving at Fisk, Ella continues working so that she can stay in school and also joins the school chorus. In spite of her personal efforts, she still faced the very real possibility of having to leave school because the school itself was experiencing great financial hardship. While school officials had pretty much given up hope of keeping the school open, the school chorus and Professor White, the choir director, believe that they can help save the school by doing concerts throughout the North. The story then chronicles the experiences of the choir which range from jubilant moments to performing in virtually empty concert halls.
A Band of Angels is a book that provides a colorful way to share a proud part of African American heritage with your children. Colon's illustrations add greater depth to the story and will help children better visualize the events that take place. While this is a work of fiction, the story is based on real people who selflessly used their talents to keep Fisk's doors open. The book also provides a good introduction to Negro Spirituals, which were kept alive through the voices of the Jubilee Singers. In addition, readers will see how this brave group of singers would not let racism quiet their talented voices. Above all, the story will help inspire children to hold fast to their dreams in spite of the hurdles or difficulties they may encounter along the way.
Reviewed by Stacey Seay
The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers
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Format: Hardcover
When I heard about this book on NPR I wished there were more places to hear about children's books like this one. It seems as though bookstores often carry only light and fluffy or series books. I love to share historical fiction with my children and love books like A BAND OF ANGELS.
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