Friday, January 26, 2018

Nina Simone #readyourworld

Multicultural Children’s Book Day (1/27/18) is in its 5th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

As part of the celebration, interested teachers, bloggers, and parents can receive a multicultural book to review and share. Check back on Jan. 27th for the giant linkup of all these fabulous book reviews!

Book Review: Nina

I was delighted to receive a copy of Nina: jazz legend and civil-rights activist Nina Simone by Alice Brière-Haquet and illustrated by Bruno Liance. (A review copy of the book was provided by the publisher, Charlesbridge. All thoughts are my own.) My husband, an ethnomusicologist and jazz historian, actually snatched the book away from me as soon as the box was opened.

What This Book Is

The book is a lyrical look at a life, told from the perspective of a grown Nina reflecting on her own experiences and sharing it as a bedtime lullaby. The illustrations have a luminous glow to them that fits well with the dreamy telling. This is a great book to get a child interested in Nina Simone, her music, and her story, as well as to inspire conversations about racism and discrimination.

What This Book Is Not

Readers who are expecting a picture book biography of Nina Simone may be disappointed. The focus of the story is on her childhood with some links to her connections to the Civil Rights Movement. The lyrical lullaby of a text is beautiful and evocative, but it is a bit slight on many of the facts and events of Nina's life and career. Additionally, the book lacks effective nonfiction back matter with no author's note, no bibliography, and no further reading recommendations. For someone who already knows something about Nina Simone and wants to learn more, this is not that book. But for someone who wants to spark an interest or connection, it's a lovely place to start.

Extension Activities

Reading a book about an incredible and talented musician like Nina Simone is incomplete without a chance to listen and experience her music for yourself. Here are a few to get your started:

For older readers, consider also listening to Mississippi Goddam, which is one of her most important pieces. This is a powerful song for talking about the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement that still (sadly) ring true today.

Want to learn more about other amazing female musicians? Check out these additional diverse books!

Melba Doretta Liston, trombone player

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone (2014) by Katheryn Russell-Brown and illustrated by Frank Morrison. Melba fell in love with the trombone at the age of 7, eventually joining a touring band and playing with and for many other famous jazz musicians. This picture book does a great job of laying out her childhood and inspirations with engaging illustrations.

Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, drummer

Drum Dream Girl: how one girl's courage changed music (2015) by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael López. This powerful true story tells about the early life of Chinese-African-Cuban Millo Castro Zaldarriaga. Millo broke the Cuban taboo against female drummers and performed with her sisters as part of Cuba's first "all-girl dance band" in the 1930s. This story inspired some powerful conversations with my students about rules, especially ones about things boys or girls are told they cannot do.

Josephine Baker, actress/singer

Josephine: the dazzling life of Josephine Baker (2014) by Patricia Hruby Powell and illustrated by Christian Robinson [a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Book Award winner and a Siebert Honor book]. Perhaps an unusual choice for a children's picture book, this book celebrates the life and advocacy of Josephine Baker, and the book does a good job of presenting the context of the racism and civil rights challenges she faced during her career. Extensively researched with detailed backmatter.

Multicultural Children's Book Day Sponsors

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2018 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board.

2018 MCBD Medallion Sponsors

2018 Author Sponsors

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.
TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Scholastic Book Clubs: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/27/18 at 9:00pm.
Join the conversation and win one of 12-5 book bundles and one Grand Prize Book Bundle (12 books) that will be given away at the party!
Free Multicultural Books for Teachers:
Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators:
Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.


  1. Thank you for sharing with us this beautiful book about Nina Simone. Thanks for celebrating Multicultural Children's Book Day with us.

  2. This sounds like an intriguing book, though I do normally get a bit uncomfortable with nonfiction titles that don't include a bibliography or author's note!

  3. I don't know much about Nina Simone. I agree that having an author's note, bibliography, and further reading recommendations would make the book more complete.

  4. I love Nina Simone! Pity that they didn't include more background info in this book. Thanks for sharing though! #ReadYourWorld

  5. Interesting. Thanks for sharing.


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