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.
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!