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Harlem's Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills
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Harlem's Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills

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4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  390 Ratings  ·  90 Reviews
From acclaimed author Renee Watson and Caldecott Honor winner Christian Robinson comes the true story of Florence Mills. Born to parents who were former-slaves Florence knew early on that she loved to sing. And that people really responded to her sweet, bird-like voice. Her dancing and singing catapulted her all the way to the stages of 1920s Broadway where she inspired ...more
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published October 23rd 2012 by Random House Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2012)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Ann
Jan 07, 2013 Ann rated it it was amazing
A perfect marriage of words and mixed media illustrations. Harlem's Little Blackbird sings! Picture book biographies are fast becoming one of my favorite genres due to books like this.
Lela
Apr 24, 2015 Lela rated it really liked it
Text to Self: Florence Mills grew up in a “teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy house” in Washington, D.C. Her mother sang spirituals to calm her fears during thunder storms. Part of a famous spiritual was quoted in the book. This is Horatio Spafford’s song titled It is Well with My Soul:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

I grew up in a “teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy house” in Upland, Californi
...more
Grace Laperuto
Jun 07, 2016 Grace Laperuto rated it it was amazing
Shelves: info-bios
I chose this book because I love Christian Robinson's illustration and early jazz singers and music. I had never heard of Harlem's Little Blackbird Florence Mills until I read Renee Watson's story book! Such an interesting and inspiring story of a little girl from harlem who loved to sing and her journey to the stages of Broadway. This story is a wonderful read-a-loud for both girls and boys alike and celebrates African American history and culture.

As always, Caldecott honor winner Christian Rob
...more
Julie
Christian Robinson is quickly becoming one of my favorite illustrators. I sought this book out because I love music and I loved the book he illustrated about Josephine Baker. Like that book (by Patricia Hruby Powell), this one highlights not just the career but the benevolence and generosity of a beloved singer and performer. The author's note indicates that Florence Mills was never recorded and no films of her performances exist, so this warm tribute will help her legacy of philanthropy and ...more
Angela
Apr 26, 2012 Angela rated it liked it
A picture book biography recommended for introducing the Harlem Renaissance. This is the story of Florence Mills, a courageous and talented woman singing out for equal rights.

Don't skip the Author's Note. It's quite insightful on how the author gathered information in order to compose a biography of a performer whose voice and talents were never recorded.
Sharon Lawler
Although she possessed an unusual birdlike voice, it was never recorded for posterity, which may be a factor in her lack of notoriety. Many thanks to author Renee Watson and illustrator Christian Robinson for presenting her life through this picture book!
Michele Knott
Story about Florence Mills, famous performer who performed at the start of the 1900s. She was well known for her singing and dancing ability.
Edward Sullivan
Lovely, affectionate portrait of Harlem Renaissance singer Florence Mills.
Kristen
Jan 03, 2013 Kristen rated it really liked it
Beautiful, sad story of a person I had never heard of. My favorite kind of biography.
Natalie Lacich
Harlem's Little Blackbird tells the true story of Florence Mills. Since she was a child people were mesmerized by her voice. However, Florence was discriminated against due to her being African-American. She used her fame to help discrimination and help others in need. She did this by giving her time and money once she was famous. She also fought to abolish segregation at her performances.
Carmen
Mar 23, 2016 Carmen rated it it was amazing
Harlem's Little Blackbird by Renee Watson (a 2013 Carter G. Woodson Honor Award book)
Copyright: 2012
Genre: Biography; this is the real story of Florence Mills written by another person, Renee Watson.
Target Audience: Primary

Florence Mills was a superstar during the Harlem Renaissance, a time when "all kinds of creative minds contributed to Harlem's cultural movement" of art, music, and literature. "Whenever music would play," Florence's hands got to waving, her hips got to shaking, and her feet
...more
Emma
Harlem's Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills by Renée Watson is such a wonderful story about the dream of a little girl named Florence who was born at the turn of the twentieth century in Washington D.C. who had a beautiful singing voice and a wonderful dancing talent. She was no stranger to racism, and when she moved to New York City the stages became bigger and the offers of making her an international star were greater. But Florence would turn it down to perform in other shows that ...more
Elizabeth
You can be forgiven for not knowing Florence Mills. No recordings or film of her performances exist. And according to the author’s note at the end of the story, what we know about her singing is through what other sources report about her. It brings to mind the lighthouse of Alexandria.

The book is a little text heavy, but is really captivating. I read the story to my test subject (my four-year-old daughter) and she asked to re-read it several times. Mills was a woman of principle and she used he
...more
Jessica
I was deciding between The Little Piano Girl: The Story of Mary Lou Williams, Jazz Legend and Harlem's Little Blackbird for my jazz-themed Black History Month storytime, and I'm glad that I chose Harlem's Little Blackbird, because it's a little shorter, and I had kids younger than what I normally get at storytime, which some VERY short attention spans. It was kind of painful reading to them, actually, because of that, but that really has nothing to do with the book. Anyway, Harlem's Little Black ...more
Tiffanie-ann Bucheit
This book is a biography of Florence Mills and African American singer born in 1896. The book tells the story of how Mills started singing with her mother who was a former slave. The story starts with Florence breaking into the musical world and singing for white crowds. Mills spent most of her adult life trying to change the perceptions of African Americans by only performing in shows that gave unknown black singers and actors a change to perform on stage.

Text to text: This book reminds me of
...more
Tasha
Dec 19, 2012 Tasha rated it really liked it
This is a picture book biography of Florence Mills, a singer well-known during the Harlem Renaissance. It follows her from her childhood as the daughter of former slaves in a tiny house in Washington, DC. where she was always singing and dancing. She became known as a small girl with a big voice, but often faced racism and segregation when she was performing. She quickly learned to use her voice for activism as well as song. Florence became known not only across the nation but around the world ...more
Christine Turner
Dec 29, 2012 Christine Turner rated it really liked it
Zora and Langston. Billie and Bessie. Eubie and Duke. If the Harlem Renaissance had a court, they were its kings and queens. But there were other, lesser known individuals whose contributions were just as impactful, such as Florence Mills. Born to parents who were former-slaves Florence knew early on that she loved to sing. And that people really responded to her sweet, bird-like voice. Her dancing and singing catapulted her all the way to the stages of 1920s Broadway where she inspired songs ...more
Jennifer Bane
Text to self: In this story there is a girl named Florence and she loves to sing and dance and I also love to sing and dance. I may not sing and dance as much as her or be as good as she is but the love of singing and dancing is there for both of us.
Text to text: This book has a few similarities to Laundry Day because in Laundry day there is a boy that finds a scarf and then climbs a building asking everyone if it is theirs or not. He tries very hard to return the scarf to its owner and tries to
...more
Gabriela Amador
Text to Self: This book had many themes, but one that I found that stood out to me the most was that you should stand up and do what you want to do. I felt I have been in certain situations like Florence Mills where I was told or frown upon to do something because of my race or gender.

Text to Text: I saw it interesting how I had learned about this ear in where Florence Mills was part of. I can remember in high school, we would read about different situations in which segregation was a part. For
...more
SJ
It's hard to find picture book biographies that do a good job balancing facts/history with kid-friendliness, and THIS is an excellent one!

Renée Watson and Christian Robinson have done a great job telling the story of Florence Mills, a mostly-forgotten performer who used her talent and big heart to promote other African-American performers and the Civil Rights movement. The text emphasizes the ways that Florence Mills used her voice for good, and provides historical context of her actions. The i
...more
Maureen
Dec 13, 2012 Maureen rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book, but something about it didn't quite flow right. I think the listing of accomplishments didn't include enough details. No matter what, it seems like Florence Mills did a lot for the African American community during her time and I'm glad this book was written to chronicle her contributions. The collage pictures were very detailed and enhanced the story line on each page. Ultimately this is the story of a girl who, with hard work and dedication, achieved her singing and ...more
Zendora
Sep 27, 2013 Zendora rated it it was ok
The thing that stands out in this book are the illustrations. They are simple collage, that I like on their own but for the telling of this story I didn't really like. Sorry Christian Robinson. There are so many unsung individuals in history and Florence Mills was one. Think of her as today's Beyoncé, in a pre civil rights world, with only other's memories praising her greatness, since there are no recordings of her work. I enjoyed learning about her, however I felt the book just didn't hit it's ...more
Nancy
May 27, 2013 Nancy rated it really liked it
Way back about 100 years ago, a little girl name Florence Mills was learning to sing. Her mother used to sing around the house and Florence loved to join in. It is said that she had an amazing voice. So amazing, that she was asked to sing professionally when she was only a teenager. But things were different back then. You see, Florence was black and only whites were allowed in the theater. That didn’t change Florence’s mind about wanting to be a famous singer. She traveled around Europe and did ...more
Alex Ferron
Apr 24, 2015 Alex Ferron rated it really liked it
Florence Mills was a daughter of former slaves, she loved to sing from a young age. Florence became famous for her sweet, bird-like voice. This book touches on the highs and lows of Florence's career. It is a great read and is aimed at key stage 2.

This is an excellent book that can be used for black history month, children can build a fact file on florence, looking at the key stages in her life, they can also do a diary entry as her or one of her fans. Role play can also be used to act out some
...more
Roxanne Garcia
Genre: Traditional Literature

Target Audience: 3rd-4th grade

Bloom's Taxonomy:
Remembering: When did Florence first performed on stage?

Understanding: Describe what happened Florence first performed on stage?

Applying: What questions would you ask if you could meet Florence's Mom who sang the son originally?

Analyzing: What evidence can you find that supports that Florence was passionate about this song?

Evaluating: Would it have been better that Florence continue singing and dancing rather than hid
...more
Abby Brithinee
This wonderful little book does an excellent job of turning an extraordinary woman's life into a great story. Enough positive adjectives in one sentence for you? Obviously, I loved this book.

Although there are no recordings of Florence Mills, by all accounts, she was one of the best singer/dancer/actresses of her time. She was especially amazing because she used her fame to stand up against bigotry. This short picture book, with very few words and a lot of colorful illustrations, brings the stor
...more
Elizabeth
I like the recurrent theme of Florence wondering, "If my voice can [X], what else can it do?"

The narrative feels at times a little overly simplistic, and at other times it feels like it assumes too much (like when it just names shows, or when I would have liked a little more explanation of why she turned down the lead in the Ziegfield Follies), but on the whole I think it's done well.

I don't love the cut-paper illustration style, but it's basically fine -- and there are some nice subtle touches
...more
Linda
Born to former slaves, Florence Mills was one of the successful and famous entertainers before and during the Harlem Renaissance. She began being popular as a very young girl, from her singing and her kindnesses and sticking up both for her rights, and for others who needed support. Some of her experiences will be good entries into talk about courage and doing the right thing! The book adds another inspiring biography about someone we have previously known little. The illustrations by Christian ...more
Samantha
A picture book biography of Florence Mills, a Harlem Renaissance era singer and dancer. Though she was never recorded, Florence had a huge impact on well known performers ranging from Duke Ellington to Lena Horne.

This book covers her upbringing, rise to fame, and the many challenges she faced as a person of color trying to share her gifts with the world.

Love the artwork (cut paper collage) that really shines a spotlight on its subject and makes it sparkle. Recommended for grades 2-4+.
Sam
Dec 31, 2015 Sam rated it really liked it
Shelves: kid-bio
Florence Mills story of overcoming racism to be a much beloved performer has wonderful cut-paper illustrations. If you know an aspiring young artist who has been asking themselves the question, "what else can I do?" this book is a great read.

Feels like a story for fiction-lovers doing biography reports but the author makes sure to included the dates and even a little end note about why she's so important.
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Goodreads Librari...: Combine. 41 113 Feb 01, 2013 10:46AM  
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Renée Watson is the author of the children’s picture book, A Place Where Hurricanes Happen (Random House, June 2010), which was featured on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. Her middle grade novel, What Momma Left Me debuted as the New Voice for 2010 in middle grade fiction by The Independent Children's Booksellers Association.

Renée’s one woman show, Roses are Red, Women are Blue, debuted at N
...more
More about Renée Watson...

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