Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

It Spoke Volumes For Her

One of many things history teaches us is the power of a single individual to make a significant impact.  This effect can ripple through a community, a state, a region, a country or the entire world.  It can be damaging or beneficial.  It can be temporary or lasting.  

Some names are more well-known than others; people like Elvis Presley, Pura Belpre, Stan Lee, John Lewis Zora Neale Hurston or Greta ThunbergEven if we think we know all we need to know about these individuals and their accomplishments, through the efforts of authors and illustrators collaborating on biographical picture books, we learn more.  The value of the work of these authors and illustrators cannot be stressed enough, especially when they introduce people who are unfamiliar to us.

For whatever reason these individuals are lesser known (to me), they did contribute to the betterment of life for residents on this planet.  How much did we know about Todd Bol, Ben Shahn, Teresa Carreno, Mary Walker, Helen Martini or Jadav Payeng before we read outstanding picture book biographies about them?  Their achievements are inspirational, far-reaching and enduring.  Love Is Loud: How Diane Nash Led the Civil Rights Movement (A Paula Wiseman Book, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, January 10, 2023) written by Sandra Neil Wallace with illustrations by Bryan Collier is a book vital to any discourse on the history of the Civil Rights Movement.  Although, Diane Nash was not given the same platform as her male counterparts at the same time, she was and is a woman powered by and empowered by love.

You arrive in the spring of 1938 on the South Side, when
Chicago's leaves unfurl, emerald green like your baby girl eyes.

CELEBRATION, JUBILATION. Your parents baptize beautiful, honey-brown you, Diane Judith Nash.

For the first four years of her life, she lives in a home her parents fill with love until World War II comes.  With her father in the army and her mother working all day, Grandmother Bolton comes from Tennessee to embrace this child in her special kind of affection.  When she attends high school, love sustains her as classmates from a variety of ethnic backgrounds sit around Diane.  It is not until she goes to Tennessee to stay with Grandmother Bolton to attend college that segregation is blatantly on display.

Signs in Nashville say WHITES ONLY and COLORED ONLY.  It is not right to not share a drinking fountain or a school or a lunch counter.  Diane Judith Nash, raised in love, knows something must be done but she refers to not get arrested. She and other students learn and practice peaceful persistence in church before classes.  

They calmly sit at lunch counters and their numbers grow through the winter months of February and March.  In April, Diane is ignited by an act of violence; she silently leads six thousand souls in a march to meet Mayor Ben West to desegregate the lunch counters in Nashville. Victory is theirs. The next focus for Diane is the Freedom Rides.  She is twenty-three years old.  

Pregnant with her first child, Diane Judith Nash faces time in a Mississippi jail for organizing student protests.  She does not post bail, but goes to jail for the sake of freedom and explains her actions in a letter to the world.  Her two year sentence lasts ten days, dismissed by the judge. Love wins.

Diane is not done.  She works tirelessly to make the Voting Rights Act a reality.  Wherever she can, whenever she can she believes in justice and peace forged from love.  She spreads her truth for fifty years.  On July 7, 2022 this remarkable woman is the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom given to her by President Joe Biden.  She is eighty-four years young.

When you read what author Sandra Neil Wallace has written in this title, page turn by page turn a cadence grows.  She includes specific facts and quotations in her narrative to build and define the distinguished and formidable Diane Judith Nash. Within each section at least two words are capitalized and bolded.

These particular words are like roots or foundations from which the other thoughts grow and form. There is a poetic, almost musical, quality to them through rhyme, repetition, and alliteration.  Toward the end of the book, three 

Love is . . .

statements are repeated to create a powerful and exhilarating meter.  Here is a passage.

Seeing twenty-one-year-old you sit down with your pearls and your books shakes
the cooks and the waitress.  She breaks plate after plate as you wait to be served.
Inside, you shake too.  HANDS SWEATING, NEVER FORGETTING the danger,
the fear of being arrested for ordering a sandwich.
Your family is also afraid.  Of what can happen to you over lunch.  They worry
you've gotten in with the wrong bunch.

The open and matching dust jacket and book case first reveal a vibrant persona on the right side, the front.  Diane Judith Nash is looking straight ahead, focused on her goal.  The colors radiating from her are warm tones, reds, oranges, and yellows.  These are reflective of her beliefs that love is the way to win.  Love Is is varnished as is Diane Judith Nash.  The ray from her mouth is a glazed white with a bright red varnish on Loud.

To the left of the spine, on the back, are three visuals taken from the interior of the book.  They are shown to us in three different rays divided by a wide yellow border.  They show a progression of Diane's life, birth, her lunch counter sit-in, and her speech to secure voting rights.  In each of these Diane presents calmness with intention.

A rich orange red covers the opening and closing endpapers.  Artist Bryan Collier continues his use of rays like a megaphone on the title, verso and dedication pages adding a bold sky blue hue to the red, yellow and white.  His images rendered

in watercolor and collage

span two and single pages.  They are historically accurate in their depiction of clothing, interior design, buildings, fair grounds, and signage in Chicago and the southern states.

Readers cannot fail to notice the outstanding portraits of Diane Judith Nash in every setting.  Underlying her facial features, regardless of her current mood, is love.  We see it in her eyes and in her stance.  It is her North Star.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  On the left, Diane appears straight and tall at a lunch counter sit-in.  She is wearing a yellow V-neck sweater rimmed in cream with a green blouse.  A strand of pearls rests around her neck.  She is looking to the right.  There we see a scene which might have been at that moment or one of other moments during the sit-ins.  A waitress holding coffee pots is flinging plates.  Some of the customers are displaying anger.  The participants are calm and well-dressed.

Through the stirring, informative words of Sandra Neil Wallace and the equally informative and expressive artwork of Bryan Collier, Love Is Loud: How Diane Nash Led the Civil Rights Movement is a superior nonfiction picture book.  At the close of the book is an author's note and an illustrator's note.  There is an extensive time line, several sources to learn about Diane Nash from video interviews and books for young readers.  There is a page of quote sources and a selected bibliography.  This is an essential title for all your collections.  

To discover more about Sandra Neil Wallace and Bryan Collier and their other work, please visit their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Sandra Neil Wallace has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Bryan Collier has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At both the publisher's website and the website of Sandra Neil Wallace, you can view the book trailer.  At Sandra Neil Wallace's site is a link to a six-page curriculum guide.  At the publisher's website, you can view interior images including the open dust jacket.

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