A word too long missing from our daily practices is now coming forward to be heard. How timely that a book for young people bears the title and brings forth a story that illustrates it.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Frank Morrison, Atheneum BFYR, 2020
This is a biography in verse about the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. Award winning author Carole Boston Weatherford follows this musical prodigy from her birth to gospel singing parents in Memphis, TN to her young days singing in the church her father pastored in Detroit to singing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” at the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama.
Aretha Franklin recorded her first album at age 14 and went on to win 18 Grammy Awards, the National Medal of Arts, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. “Respect” is one of her many rhythm and blues hits.
It will be tempting for the lucky adult who reads this to a young listener to get lost in the opening scene of children playing. Hide and seek? It’s reminiscent of a peaceful worry-free time in childhood. Why turn the page just yet? Your young listener will wake you from your reverie with a gentle tug and sweet command, “Read!”
Words spelled out in the text headings of R-E-S-P-E-C-T, like B-L-E-S-S-E-D, G-I-F-T-E-D, G-R-O-O-V-E, R-I-G-H-T, P-R-O-U-D, and H-U-M-B-L-E- lead readers to meet the beloved “Ree Ree”, the person behind the legend.
This skilled blend of art and words comes from an award winning pair.
Illustrator Frank Morrison is a children’s book illustrator and fine artist who has won Coretta Scott King Illustrator honors and the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent.
Author Carole Boston Weatherford’s lengthy list of books has received 3 Caldecott honors, 2 NAACP Image awards, the Golden Kite, and a Coretta Scott King author honor.
A college professor, Weatherford also loves to interact with her readers K-12. Before the pandemic, she traveled a lot. Through E-mail she nurtures other writers, no matter their ages. And in spite of Covid, she has been able to write.
In the challenging year of 2020, this is how the author is coping.
“Work is my refuge and has been for many years. If I can write, the world is not totally on its head.”
A self-described “foodie”, she finds joy in gardening and eating what she grows. “I honor my emotions and feelings in small things.” Even in small things, she stays “in the now."
“If the spirit moves us, we have to pray, believe in something greater than ourselves. What is important is that we survive.”
She encourages others to, “Engage in self-care and keep things in perspective.” In her own life, she has come up with a new day: Tomorrow’sday. “We don’t have to do some things today. Save it for Tomorrow’sday.”
Happily for us, Tomorrow'sday will also bring us more books from her busy pen.