Author: Debbie Levy
Illustrator: Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Publisher: Disney – Jump At The Sun (December 17, 2013)
Audience: Ages 6-8, Grades 1-3
Summary: This is the story of a song, but not just any song. It is a song of hope that has been sung through the ages by a host of people as a source of inspiration through turbulent times. The book begins the story in the 1800’s when African Americans, enslaved and free, sang spirituals in the fields to help them endure the harsh treatment of their masters. Tracing the lineage of this well-known spiritual, Debbie Levy recounts a part of American history that is bitter to remember but too important to forget. From the 1800’s to 2008, this story tells of the fight for fairness and justice, not only for African Americans, but for all people around the world who are living with hatred, prejudice, and are under the oppression of others.
Literary elements at work in the story: Lyrically written by Debbie Levy and creatively paired with a mixture of collage style art by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, this book uses the words of the song in big font to show the how the song has served as inspiration and hope throughout the past 200+ years. A shortened version of the time line (from 1800’s-2008) is found in the back pages of the book as a recap of the history of the Civil Rights Movement with the final page dedicated to sources, recording links, and further reading suggestions.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? Written as a historical re-telling of the Civil Rights Movement in the US, the text and illustrations allow children to see the inequality in a way that humanizes the history without being disturbing for young viewers. There are no public hangings or beatings portrayed, only faces of people (black and white) singing in hope for the justice that is to come. Levy is fair in her interpretation of the facts of history and is careful to include white Americans, such as Lyndon B. Johnson, who joined their African American friends in standing up for equality and justice. One key factor in the story is the continuation of this song of hope for both the US and for other countries in the world where people are working for a better life. By including faces from South Africa and India, Levy keeps the song and story alive and moving forward for the next generation who will stand up for equality and justice for all.
Theological Conversation Partners: In Deuteronomy 7:9, Moses reminded the people of where their hope and trust should lay, saying, “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who maintains covenant loyalty with those who love God and keep Gods commandments, to a thousand generations…” Throughout history, people living under oppression have clung to this trust in the faithful God who would not desert them. This is the trust and faith that gave voice to the songs of hope that have inspired people to preserve in the most turbulent of times.
“In Christ there is no east or west, in him no south or north, but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth.” This contemporary hymn found in many hymnbooks today speaks to Paul’s words in Galatians 3: 28-29, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are on in Christ Jesus and if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” When Christians believe these words and take them to heart, they are able to stand with and for those who still suffer oppression in the form of inequality, prejudice, and hatred today. For children, the lessons of the past become strength for the future as they stand up against playground bullying and work to accept others as God has accepted them.
This book would be a great pairing for Let There Be Peace on Earth by Jill Jackson & Sy Miller (ISBN 978582462851), a book and song that reminds us that we each have a vital role to play in making the world a more peaceful place free of hatred and injustice.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Have you ever experienced being bullied or looked down upon because of your age, size, color of your skin, or ability? How did you feel? Who did you turn to for help?
- How can you be a friend to someone who is feeling bullied or put down?
- How can this song serve as inspiration for you to help others feel loved and welcomed by God?
- What things are happening in our world today where this song could bring a word of hope?
This review was written by regular contributor Krista Lovell. As we approach the Sunday before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and are aware of the painful discussions around race in our country now, Storypath will offer a bibliography on Wednesday, January 7, that may be helpful to you if you are planning on talking with children about issues of injustice towards all of God’s children.