What began as a spiritual has developed into one of America’s best-known songs, and now for the first time it appears as a picture book, masterfully created by award-winning artist Kadir Nelson.Through sublime landscapes and warm images of a boy and his family, Kadir has created a dazzling, intimate interpretation, one that rejoices in the connectedness of people and nature.
Inspired by the song’s simple message, Kadir sought to capture the joy of living in and engaging with the world. Most importantly, he wished to portray the world as a child might see it—vast and beautiful.
About the Author
Kadir Nelson's award-winning books include Ellington Was Not a Street by Ntozake Shange, which won the Coretta Scott King Award and was an ALA Notable Children's Book; and Just the Two of Us by Will Smith, which received an NAACP Image Award. Mr. Nelson lives in San Diego, California, with his wife and two daughters.
"Nelson uses the old spiritual—offered here, astonishingly, in its first singleton, illustrated edition,though it’s available in many collections—as a springboard to celebrate family togetherness. Each line of a four-verse version of the lyric captions an intimate scene of an African-American lad, three sibs (one, lighter-skinned, perhaps adopted) and two parents in various combinations, posing together in both city (San Francisco) and country settings, sharing "the moon and the stars," "the wind and the clouds," "the oceans and the seas," and so on. Sandwiched between views of, more or less, the whole world, Nelson alternates finished paintings in his characteristic strong, bold style with authentically childlike crayon drawings done with his left hand—demonstrating a superb ability to evoke both grand and naïve effects. Moving, reverent, spiritual indeed."
-Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Nelson’s vibrant signature illustrations rendered in pencil, oil, and watercolor breathe new meaning and life into this favorite Sunday school spiritual in which families, communities, and forces of nature are celebrated with lively images and inspiring scenes. The cover painting of an African-American boy against a colorful landscape beckons readers inside to discover the wonders of creation. With each page turn and line of verse, Nelson gives fresh, thought-provoking interpretations to the lyrics that will stir the imagination and spark discussion. For example, “He’s got my brothers and my sisters in His hands” depicts the boy, present throughout the book, holding a childlike drawing of people of different races and skin tones, suggesting the notion that all humanity should be viewed as “brothers and sisters.” The simple, repetitious flow of the words and the refrain make this an excellent read-aloud choice as well as a sing-along favorite. A moving, artistic celebration of our world and the people who share in its splendors."
-School Library Journal, starred review