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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

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  703 ratings  ·  137 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 so ...more
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published October 23rd 2012 by Random House Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2012)
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Average rating 4.23  · 
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 ·  703 ratings  ·  137 reviews

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Latanya (Crafty Scribbles)
Mar 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Schools, Diverse Readers
Florence Mills, born in an itsy-bitsy, teeny-whiny house, grew up with a big voice compared to thunder and rain. A voice that would bring shivers to the spines of those fortunate to hear her powerful voice.

This biography, written and drawn for children, shares and illustrates how Miss Mills chose to use her angelic voice to help others, while fighting for desegregated audiences and singing opportunities.

Any child would enjoy these story, particularly those in need of seeing their fa
Jan 06, 2013 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.
Apr 24, 2015 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-bit
Tibby (she/her)
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
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 per ...more
Grace Laperuto
May 31, 2016 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 C
Apr 26, 2012 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.
I was not familiar with Florence Mills, a contemporary of Josephine Baker, so this was a simple introduction. The narrative could have used a bit more detail. But, Christian Robinson's mixed media collages on each page make this a masterpiece that I recommend.
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!
Oct 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Beautiful, sad story of a person I had never heard of. My favorite kind of biography.
Edward Sullivan
Lovely, affectionate portrait of Harlem Renaissance singer Florence Mills.
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.
Josie Stewart
Feb 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: diversity
Inspirational in many ways. Strong message.
Feb 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I am grateful for books like Harlem's Little Blackbird. Until I read this lovely mixed-media picture book, I had never heard of Florence Mills even though she was born right here in Washington, DC.
Mary Lee
Jun 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Florence Mills was a famous singer and dancer in the early 1900's. She was a part of the Harlem Renaissance. No one has ever heard a recording of her voice. Everything we know about her singing is second hand. As amazing as her voice was the way she used her fame and fortune to lift others up.
Shannon Ginley
Oct 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: life-story
“Harlem's Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills” by Renée Watson & Christian Robinson; published by Random House Books for Young Readers; New York; copyright 2012
1. Awards this book received: This book had been a finalist for the NAACP Image Awards and won the Marion Vanett Ridgeway Honor in 2013 and the 2013 Carter G. Woodson Honor Award book.
2. Appropriate grade level(s): This book is appropriate for children in kindergarten to third grade.
3. Summary: This book
Mar 21, 2016 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 shak
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 would ...more
Hannah Klumb
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: animals, diversity
Musically gifted children will enjoy this story and the beautiful illustrations are done by the amazing Christian Robinson.
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 Blackbird is slightly more wordy than I ...more
Ellarie Anderson
Mar 29, 2017 rated it liked it
"Harlem's Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills" is a fictionalized biography about Florence Mills, an African-American woman who pursued her dream of "cakewalking" and singing despite racial and socio-economic barriers that prevented so many artists like her. The book is a great example of a fictionalized biography because it captures Florence's character and the key aspects to her life and her successes without giving too much information or being dry. The book includes quotes and lyri ...more
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
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
Jun 20, 2012 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
Margaret Boling
1/8/2017 ** A picture book biography of Harlem Renaissance singer Florence Mills. Readable for younger children; a good discussion springboard for older students.

When I requested the book, I'd failed to notice that the illustrations are by Christian Robinson (who I first "met" through Last Stop on Market Street and I've read in at least one other book in the past few weeks. I think it's interesting the way that one book can bring an author or illustrator into focus for a reader, even if th
May 27, 2013 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
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 co
Sep 27, 2013 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
Feb 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: srps-books
Harlem's Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills earns the Self-Rescuing Princess Society seal of approval for telling the story of a brave woman who was determined to improve the lives of others. Her courage and certainty that she was on the right side of the issue is an inspiration to us all. This book is a great early reader with clear language and colorful illustrations that perfectly capture each part of the story. It touches on issues around racism and shows how Florence fought against th ...more
Britney Forbes
This story is telling the life of Florence Mills. following her story from her early years and dealing with the struggles of being a child of a former slave and living in the tiniest of places to her life and the road to fame. It really is a wonderful portrayal of her journey from a family of former slaves to her life as a singer and performer who was loved by all people. Christian Robinson uses a pallet of wild and vibrant colors to portray the environment of Harlem in the time frame. there are ...more
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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,