Reviewed by Rethinking Schools
Book Author: Rhiannon Giddens
Build a House is based on the moving song that Rhiannon Giddens wrote and performed with cellist Yo-Yo Ma on the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth in 2020. Giddens’ lovely, poignant new book illustrates the song, telling the story of enslavement and freedom: “You brought me here/ To build your house/ To build your house/ To build your house./ You brought me here/ To build your house/ And grow your garden/ Fine.”
As Giddens writes in an afterword, people enslaving other people is “one of the worst things about being human,” but, she notes, “this story also shows one of the best things about being human: how we keep finding ways to make our family and our home, no matter where we are.” Giddens is a renowned singer, songwriter, banjo player — see her extraordinary, student-friendly Songs of Our Native Daughters — and offers teachers another gift with this beautiful book.
Build a House by Rhiannon Giddens
Published by Candlewick Press on October 11, 2022
Genres: Music, Slavery
Reading Level: Grades 1-2, Grades 3-5
Review Source: Rethinking Schools
Publisher's Synopsis: Grammy Award winner Rhiannon Giddens celebrates Black history and culture in her unflinching, uplifting, and gorgeously illustrated picture book debut.
I learned your words and wrote my song. I put my story down.
As an acclaimed musician, singer, songwriter, and cofounder of the traditional African American string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Rhiannon Giddens has long used her art to mine America’s musical past and manifest its future, passionately recovering lost voices and reconstructing a nation’s musical heritage. Written as a song to commemorate the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth — which was originally performed with famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma — and paired here with bold illustrations by painter Monica Mikai, Build a House tells the moving story of a people who would not be moved and the music that sustained them. Steeped in sorrow and joy, resilience and resolve, turmoil and transcendence, this dramatic debut offers a proud view of history and a vital message for readers of all ages: honor your heritage, express your truth, and let your voice soar, even — or perhaps especially — when your heart is heaviest.
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