Book of the Week: Harlem’s Little Blackbird

September 3, 2013

Harlem's Little Blackbird by Renee Watson and Christian Robinson

Images and text by Carter.

Have you heard of Florence Mills? I hadn’t, until the pages of this book introduced me to her. Harlem’s Little Blackbird, by Renée Watson and Christian Robinson, is a song with a sweet refrain. Florence lived in a teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy house in Washington, D.C., at the turn of the twentieth century. When it stormed, she sang the spirituals from her family’s slavery roots to calm the thunder and herself. That unwavering voice chased the storms away, and Florence fell in love with the music.

During the heartache of the civil rights movement, Florence sang for what was right. She sang for all people. The Harlem Renaissance provided the perfect place for her creative spirit to mesmerize crowds. And though Florence encountered anger and hate, she gave and danced and sang until the very end. Renée Watson’s prose is as lyrical as the blackbird’s tune, and Christian Robinson’s paper cut pictures give Florence’s story texture and depth. This book is a true joy.

Harlem's Little Blackbird by Renee Watson and Christian Robinson

P.S. — Christian Robinson is also an animator, and I think you will love his short film, What is Music? This is absolutely worth a watch, and a nice accompaniment to the musicality of Harlem’s Little Blackbird. And if you’re still smitten, this is a lovely interview with Christian about his process. I spy an adorable elephant!

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Crystal September 3, 2013 at 12:25 am

Looks like an adorable book – with an important story to share also. I love sharing stories with my daughter of inspiring women.


2 Moitreyee September 3, 2013 at 1:06 am

Dear Gabriel,
I wanted to let you know about this very important publisher in India.
They are working with Indigenous Artists of India, and translating their art into picture books for kids. The stories are amazing, but so is the artwork.



3 Joanna September 3, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Totally new to me, and what a precious find, Carter! Love the name! Thanks for the super short film, too!


4 danielle September 3, 2013 at 2:51 pm

That cover is so striking. Gorgeous.


5 Julie September 3, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Sooooo in love with that video, thanks for making my day with that, Carter! I may be a new Robinson fan, but a big one already. Thanks for introducing the book, lurv the colors of the second spread here!


6 Jennifer September 4, 2013 at 8:11 pm

I was just in Harlem a few months ago, such a wonderful place. This looks like an absolute gem of a story, thanks for sharing!


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