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Comment: A well-cared-for item that has seen limited use but remains in great condition. The item is complete, unmarked, and undamaged, but may show some limited signs of wear. Item works perfectly. Pages and dust cover are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine is undamaged.
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Beautiful Blackbird (Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Winner) Hardcover – January 1, 2003

3.9 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Storyteller Bryan's (What a Wonderful World) singular voice provides rhythm and sound effects throughout this musical adaptation of a Zambian tale. When gray Ringdove calls the other monotone birds together and asks, "Who of all is the most beautiful?" they all reply, "Blackbird." They then encircle Blackbird, dancing and singing, "Beak to beak, peck, peck, peck,/ Spread your wings, stretch your neck./ Black is beautiful, uh-huh!/ Black is beautiful, uh-huh!" At the birds' request, Blackbird agrees to paint black markings on them (with the blackening brew in his medicine gourd), but he warns Ringdove that it's not the color black that will make them beautiful. "Color on the outside is not what's on the inside..... Whatever I do/ I'll be me and you'll be you." The message about inner beauty and identity becomes somewhat diluted by the closing song, in which the birds triumphantly sing, "Our colors sport a brand-new look,/ A touch of black was all it took./ Oh beautiful black, uh-huh, uh-huh/ Black is beautiful, UH-HUH!" But if the ending creates a bit of confusion, Bryan's collages make up for it with their exhibition of colorful splendor and composition. Scenes of the rainbow of wings are outdone only by a lakeside view of their colors intricately "mirrored in the waters." And Bryan's lilting and magical language is infectious. Ages 3-7.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 2-Because they haven't got a spot of black on their bodies, the colorful birds of Africa envy Blackbird. They extol his feathers that "gleam all colors in the sun" in their songs and dances. And although he assures them that "Color on the outside is not what's on the inside," he generously shares the blackening brew in his gourd. First he adds a necklace of midnight to Ringdove, then markings of black to every feathered creature large and small, causing them to finally sing, "Oh beautiful black, uh-huh, uh-huh/Black is beautiful, UH-HUH!" Adapted from an Ila tale from Zambia, this story delivers a somewhat contradictory message. Blackbird frequently affirms that it's what's inside that counts but his avian friends are certainly fixated on adding some black to their feathered finery. The story line is simple and the rhythmic chants of the flock frequently interspersed throughout the text add drama and a rapper's cadence. The cut-paper silhouettes are colorful but static, effectuating a stylized formality. The endpapers include an image of the scissors used to create the collages and reinforce the physical process behind the art. This unusual and little-known pourquoi tale may supplement larger collections and serves as a thoughtful and entertaining addition to units on self-esteem.
Carol Ann Wilson, Westfield Memorial Library, NJ
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 3 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 540L (What's this?)
  • Series: Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Winner
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers; 1st edition (January 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689847319
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689847318
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 0.4 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #101,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on April 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The Reader from Texas could not be more wrong. This is so far from being a "racist" book that the criticism doesn't even make sense. This is an incredibly beautiful story that, emphatically, CANNOT be reduced to a "skin color" story --- it's a metaphor for any and every sort of difference, and how sharing what we have makes us all more beautiful. This is a very simple yet moving story, and to criticize it because the bird is "only admired for being black" is to miss the point. To quote C.S. Lewis in another context, someone so blind who could read this book as racist "could look all over the sky at high noon on a clear day and not see the sun." Ashley Bryan is a genius, a consummate story-teller --- I have seen him perform many, many times -- and I have never seen anyone better able to bring together, in complete joy, audiences of every color of the rainbow and every age. A beautiful, beautiful book!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Shared this story with 5th grade students before a visit from the author. Although I have 5th graders, they were engaged in the rhyming patterns and said Blackbird has "swag." I do not see this book as racist or exclusive, but rather promoting the black "race" and reminding everyone that black people have a lot to contribute. It also shows togetherness, yet being unique and believing in yourself. Would be a great story for Black History Month, or themes around differences and self-worth.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Students are constantly surrounded with hundereds of different kids each day. Every kid being unique in their own ways. I really liked Blackbird because the message she's trying to get across. Everyone is beautiful even if they're different. She uses the different color birds to describe individuality. Be prideful in who you are. Not only is her writing unique but also is her work. Ashley Bryan uses paper collage to give an unusual effect. Overall Blackbird is a fine book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ashley Bryan is a brilliant storyteller, a fantastic artist, a talented poet, and one of the kindest human beings on the planet - all of which comes through in this triumphant celebration of a book. With gorgeous cut-paper illustrations he turns a classic Zambian tale of understanding, acceptance, and self-worth into a lively, rhythmic story and superb read-aloud. Kids will eagerly chime in with the refrain, clamor to create their own cut-paper stories, and recognize that the true message of this book is to love and appreciate both ourselves and one another. "Color on the outside is not what's on the inside..... Whatever I do/ I'll be me and you'll be you."
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Love this artist and his gifted writing as well as his bold, beautiful, bright and brassy art work. My students will appreciate the Ashley Bryan books that I purchased...nearly all of them. I am a satisfied reader of Ashley Bryan's books and will pass them on to friends, colleagues and fellow educators.
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In his illustrations, Ashley Bryan has explored a wide range of media, and in Blackbird he uses paper collage to a magical effect that will no doubt inspire readers to many home craft projects. In addition to his prolific career as a children's book author and illustrator, Bryan is a long standing scholar of African American poetry and African folklore, an emeritus professor of Dartmouth College, and a well-regarded painter. He has also travelled the world as an oral storyteller, book in hand, introducing children world wide to a love for reading and the joy of hearing the story on the page. The message of Blackbird is that all living creatures are beautiful. Though different from one another, children (of all ages) should take pride in their individuality and unique beauty.
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Format: Hardcover
I don't get the low ratings for this book. I bought it for my 3.5 year old, and he loves the pictures. The story is great for him, and I wish there were more titles like this. Sure, the book will hit home best if you are an African American family, but all kids can learn from it.

Basically, if you're giving it a low rating, the book either 1.) just wasn't for you, 2.) went over your head, 3.) upset you because you don't agree with the message that "Black is beautiful."
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Format: Hardcover
Long ago, all the birds of Africa were one solid color, and Blackbird was the most beautiful of all. After being asked by the other birds, Blackbird generously paints each bird with a little bit of black, giving them his beauty and style.

This book is an obvious allegory for African pride, at least to adults, though children may not understand the allegory. At the very least, the book is about celebrating your individuality and individual beauty, and perhaps little ones will come to see the deeper meaning as they grow older. The poetry and rhythm will capture the attention of young readers, and could prove useful in teaching to read as they grow older.

My only complaint: the artist mentions that the scissors shown on the endpapers were the ones her mother used in sewing and embroidery, and which she used in cutting the paper for the artwork. The seamstress in me cringed so bad, poor scissors. :(
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