Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans
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Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  1,963 ratings  ·  416 reviews
Kadir Nelson's Heart and Soul is the winner of numerous awards, including the 2012 Coretta Scott King Author Award and Illustrator Honor, and the recipient of five starred reviews.

The story of America and African Americans is a story of hope and inspiration and unwavering courage. This is the story of the men, women, and children who toiled in the hot sun picking cotton fo...more
Hardcover, 108 pages
Published September 27th 2011 by Balzer + Bray
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Newbery 2012
39th out of 167 books — 675 voters
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2012 Mock Caldecott
20th out of 83 books — 179 voters

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Community Reviews

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Humans tend to be a highly visual species. When folks tell you not to judge a book by its cover, that's an optimistic sentiment rather than a rule. People like to judge by covers. Often we haven't time to inspect the contents of all the books we see, so the jackets bear the brunt of our inherent skepticism. With this in mind, Kadir Nelson has always had an edge on the competition. If the man wants to get you to pick up a book, he will get you to pick up a book. You often get a feeling that while...more
Destinee Sutton
Five stars for art, no doubt. Kadir Nelson is really a genius illustrator, particularly his portraits, which are captivating and have this epic quality. How can an illustration just seem important in and of itself? I don't know, but these illustrations do. They're powerful.

Now on to the text: I love that Nelson took over 400 years of history and told the story in under 100 pages. To sit and read this book in one go feels like the entire history of this country is flashing before your eyes. The...more
It is a little hard to evaluate the text of this book independently from the images, just because the paintings are *so* arresting. I have to say, and maybe I'm the only one, but I was quite taken with the writing and voice as well. I think Nelson accomplished something that looks simple but actually must have been quite difficult, which is condensing really significant African-American historical events into just enough detail that they are understood from that culture's perspective. The famili...more
Amber Murphy
1.) A fiction “twin text” title, author and copyright date:
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis (February 1, 2009)

2.) Rationale for the twin text selection and how it extends and/or enhances the non-fiction book:
Our social studies standards focuses heavily on students analyzing different situations during history and explaining the impact on peoples lives. For one assessment, students will need to write letters or create a journal from the viewpoint of someone living in the late 1800’s. I...more
Wonderful, wonderful book. I must own it for my personal library. The art is exceptional and the synopsis of each snippet of history gives just enough info to whet the appetite of young minds regarding America and African American history.
CH13_Meghan Schultz
As the winner of the 2012 Coretta Scott King Award, this fictional picture book, told through the eyes of an elderly African American woman, represents the story of America particularly in regards to several inspirational stories of African Americans. This story is written as an intimate narrative thus making this story very accessible for middle school readers. This book details such events as life on plantations, Harriet Tubman, Lincoln and the Civil War, Reconstruction and the Ku Klux Klan,...more
As posted on Outside of a Dog:

It's a rare conundrum when I find myself wondering, which award should this book win? Newbery or Caldecott? The question came up with Brian Selznick's visionary The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which eventually went on to win a Caldecott medal. I asked it again with Selznick's latest, Wonderstruck (though I don't think Caldecott lightning will strike twice. Hugo's medal was a departure for the award, a statement, and I don't see it happening again). And then I come to...more
Casey Strauss
Heart and Soul, The Story of America and African Americans is a beautifully illustration picture book by Kadir Nelson. In the prologue, the narrator tells the reader that “most folks my age and complexion don’t speak much about the past. Sometimes it’s just too hard to talk about…” In the pages that follow, told in a conversational tone, is the history of the African American experience in America; beginning in colonial times and ending with the Civil Rights era. The story gives information on i...more
If this book doesn't win multiple honors when it's time for those to be doled out, I'll be surprised and disappointed. In this introduction to the history of African Americans, Nelson cleverly relies on the voice of a female narrator, a sort of Everywoman who describes for her descendant(s)how her ancestors came to this country on slave ships, and then how the parts they played in history, all the way through the civil rights movement and the 2008 election. This narrative device is just as effec...more
In my opinion, if there is one aspect of American history that is ignored and shoved under the rug, it's African American history. That's why a book like Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans is so essential and invaluable.
The author, Kadir Nelson, creates a fictional female narrator, a grandmother type, who tells not only her ancestors experience but also her own story throughout American history. The recounting includes large historic events, like the Emancipation Procla...more
Mrs. Van
In Heart and Soul, Kadir Nelson not only shares over 400 years of American and African American history, but also captures many of those moments in detail-rich oil paintings. From the arrival of the first Africans in 1565 to the election of an African American president, Nelson’s text bares witness to the cycle of struggles and triumphs experienced. While our country was founded on the principal that “all men are created equal”, Nelson’s work makes it clear that it took hundreds of years to real...more
Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans
By Kadir Nelson

Awards: 2012 Coretta Scott King Author Award and Illustrator Honor
Audience: Intermediate; Grades 3-6
Genre: Non-Fiction; African American History; Tolerance and Acceptance

Questions for Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy:
Remembering: Who is speaking in the prologue, and who is the “honey” whom she is addressing?
Understanding: Explain why African Americans were not encouraged in the beginning of the Revolution to fight in the Continent...more
Penny Peck
An unnamed female narrator recounts the history of African-Americans as if she were speaking to her grandchildren, in this emotional narrative nonfiction book for a wide age range. The warm text is the “heart” of the book, and at times uses colloquial speech such as “When the slaves were set free, they didn’t have nothin’, and ol’ masters didn’t give ‘em nothin’.” The author is able to convey some harsh realities while still being general enough to be appropriate for younger children, beginning...more
I chose this book because it recently won the Coretta Scott King Award (both for Author as well as Illustrator). The oil paintings used by the author, Kadir Nelson, were absolutely stunning. I often found myself gazing at them for long lengths of time, unable to tear myself away.

This non-fiction book starts with a prologue about the African-American experience and how it is painful to tell their history to their family. It then starts at the Declaration of Independence, covers how children and...more
This is the story of the United States. It starts nearly at the beginning, with the arrival of African slaves in Spanish colonies, and finishes with the election of Barack Obama as president. It is the story of Kadir Nelson's family, told as a 1st-person account from a person who would be Nelson's grandmother, though of course, he has written the story. This book can't tell everything, can't tell every story, and so those most famous names, names like Booker T. Washington and Medgar Evers and Id...more
Nelson' Heart and Soul is an ambitious undertaking--distilling nearly 500 years of history into barely 100 pages of storytelling and illustrations for children. And, oh, what illustrations! Kadir's tableaus of everyday life for African Americans and portraits of African Americans both famous and unknown (or fictitious, in this case) are simply breathtaking. Each person's face tells a story in itself. You can actually feel the power of MLK's words in a two-page spread, his hand stretched out to t...more
Pam Moore
Audience: Intermediate

Genre: Non-fiction, History

Remembering: What is missing from the paintings in our nation's Capitol building in Washington, DC?

Understanding: Describe what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., meant when he said that some people "cannot disagree without being disagreeable."

Applying: What would have resulted if the plantation owners had paid the black people who worked for them, instead of making them slaves?

Analyzing: What do you think President Lincoln's motive was in promising fre...more
Erika Acuna

This book was incredible! When you pick the book up you can tell how much love and work went into this book, Kadir Nelson always does a great job of that. The portraits and beautiful pictures command your attention, every picture is such a work of art and with so much meaning and detail behind it. The book covers so much history and such a wide range of information in just one children's book, which to me is amazing. The chapters in the book I believe are a perfect length, so that you can read t...more
I loved this book!

Audience: I would say this book is good for 4th grade and up. Some of the material would be hard for younger students to understand. I think students can enjoy the book as well as adults. This is a great summary of the history of African Americans since coming to America. I think kids would be able to read this and get a general understanding of the history.

Appeal: This book could be used in a lot of ways. I would use the book to expand upon the history of African Americans....more
Audience: Intermediate ages 10 and up
Genre: Non-Fiction
Format: Chapter book with great pictures, all in color.

Discussion Questions

Remembering: State an event in Chapter 4: Lincoln's War that stands out to you. Give a brief explanation why it stands out to you.

Understanding: How would you compare Americans views of African American now (2013) vs. the mid 1700's. Give examples from the text.

Applying: What questions would you ask Rosa Parks if you were able to interview her?

Analyzing: What was the...more
Emily Sisco
Audience: Primary
Genre: Picture Book, Nonfiction, African American History
Text-to-World: This book can easily be related to the world because it is Nonfiction and talks about the events that have happened in America. It starts with when African slaves were brought to American going to Martin Luther King's time and including an epilogue about Barack Obama and life today. It is told through the narration of unnamed African American who's family has lived through all these troubling times. It depic...more
This is a wonderful book re the history of African Americans in America from the beginning in the late 1500's to now. It's told in the 1st person plural by an unnamed woman as she weaves African American history and stories from her own family around beautiful paintings illustrating her narrative. The 1st person plural makes for a curiously warm and intimate feel to the narrative although the story itself certainly includes very difficult times from beginning to the present.

It's hard to describ...more
Hayley Larson
This book would be a great alternative to a textbook to use in the classroom. By way of a narrator, "Heart and Soul" tells of African American history in an interesting and personal way. When reading it, you feel as if you are being told a story or having a conversation with the narrator on what happened at these points in history. It brought up information that people don't often talk about. Aside from the textual content, the illustrations were amazing. Nelson's oil paint artwork was beautiful...more
Really liked this book. Beautiful pictures and a concise historical picture of African Americans. I'll be recommending it to Mr. T when he's old enough to read.
Cathy Blackler
I feel fortunate to have witnessed Kadir Nelson speak of his craft on several occasions. His work is masterfully exquisite. His latest book, a true labor of love, tells the story of America from the important viewpoint of African Americans. Told through a fictional narrator, based on Nelson's own female ancestors, Heart and Soul is a painfully breathtaking account of the good and the bad of American History. "You gotta take the good with the bad, I guess. You have to know where you come from so...more
Ashlee Christians
This book is from the Coretta Scott King Award.

The audience for this book would most likely be older aged elementary readers to middle school aged children, due to the length. This book goes through the times of slavery, abolition, World War II, and many more. This story gives the reader a chance to see what it was like for African Americans during these rough times. I believe this book is very appealing to its audience because the pictures are so vivid. Even though the text is a little longer a...more
Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy)
This is an amazing book. A history of America through the eyes of an African American. I listened to this on audio while looking at the book. The audio is narrated by Debbie Allen and she brings Nelson's words to life. You get this sense that you are sitting in a living room with an elderly African American woman listening to all of these wonderful stories from history. I would strongly recommend listening in conjunction to looking at the absolutely fantastic illustrations. This will be one of m...more
For my intermediate, nonfiction chapter book I chose to read Heart And Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson. This would be a great book to read at any time of the year, but I'm thinking Black History Month is when I would use it. At this time of the school year fifth graders are starting chapters in their social studies book that cover topics like: the North and South growing apart, resisting slavery, Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, the end of slavery, etc. Textbooks...more
Kaitlyn Wacker
Text to self: I can relate to this book because I remember writing a book as if i was a slave during the time of the civil war. It was an english class in high school that this book reminds me of. It takes me back to putting myself in a slaves shoes and the feelings i felt as a black slave who lost her children and worked harder than ever thought possible. It gave me so many different perspectives of what they must have felt.
Text to world: I relate this book to the world because whether we want...more
Heart and Soul by Kadir Nelson was absolutely amazing- probably the best book I read all semester. Honestly, when I first started the book I thought it was pretty long, So i started just skimming the pages to get a feel for what it was about. By the time I got to WWI, I was reading every single page, I was THAT intrigued. This author did an amazing job presenting the complete history of African Americans from day 1 in this country to the time they got to vote. The story is long with a lot of det...more
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