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The Undefeated

4.78  ·  Rating details ·  1,190 ratings  ·  338 reviews
The Newbery Award-winning author of THE CROSSOVER pens an ode to black American triumph and tribulation, with art from a two-time Caldecott Honoree.
Originally performed for ESPN's The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion,
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published April 2nd 2019 by Versify
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Stunning and unforgettable. Kwame Alexander’s poem accompanied by Kadir Nelson’s illustrations is a magical combination of thoughtful art. You can download a free audio version of his poem at, access code UNDEFEATED

Enjoy it yourself. Donate copies to schools. Ask your library to buy it. Read it to your kids’ classrooms. Whatever you do, revel in it, ponder it and then share it. And keep on sharing it.
Kids learn American history through a process of osmosis, long before they’re taught the basics in elementary school. They pick up bits and pieces of it in a million different places, but never in any kind of a linear fashion. Thanks goodness WWI and WWII were consecutive, since otherwise my children would have no idea which happened when. Of course, when it comes to the history of race in America, the disjointed nature of what children learn is complicated incredibly by any number of factors. I ...more
Whispering Stories
Oct 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Book Reviewed on

The Undefeated is a poetry picture book featuring the words of Kwame Alexander together with the watercolour illustrations of Kadir Nelson.

The poem was initially written by Kwame for his new daughter back in 2008 and for Ex-President Obama too. The words are powerful and are made more poignant by the beautiful illustrations that adorn nearly every page. As daft as it might sound the one page that didn’t have any illustrations felt the most powerful out of al
Rich oil portraits by Kadir Nelson illustrate this ode to African Americans past, present and future by poet Kwame Alexander. A minimal approach to page design -- lots of white space, as Alexander puts it -- emphasizes the power, beauty, and sometimes, the terrible impact, of each painting with only a few words or lines of poetry.

This is for the unafraid.
The audacious ones
who carried the red, white, and Weary Blues
on the battlefield
to save an imperfect Union.

The book just came out, Spring 2019, but Alexande
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, childrens
This book is an illustrated poem, written by poet/author Kwame Alexander and illustrated by the talented Kadir Nelson. It is an ode to black Americans through history: both the "dreamers" and the "doers," who have made a difference, despite the many injustices endured and challenges faced. I was disappointed in myself for not recognizing more of these important contributors to social change and justice, and would have liked the people identified on each page (since the book was oversized anyway. ...more
If Kwame Alexander’s thought provoking prose doesn’t get you, Kadir Nelson’s illustrations will. Tears on this one. Couldn’t hold them back. No words, just read this please.
Oct 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The poem is dedicated to the African Americans who were undefeated, unforgettable, survived, died, undenied, unflappable, shined, and marched. It reminds us of the unspeakable acts committed against blacks and the talent, dreams, and bravery from the slaves to the celebrated. Black lives matter to all of us. Let us celebrate their rich heritage and endurance through this prose of the past and the future.

For a free audio version of the poem, go to and enter UNDEFEATED as the access c
Jon(athan) Nakapalau
Powerful and poetic look at black Americans who always remained undefeated in their hearts.
Apr 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Kadir Nelson Fans / Readers Looking for Picture-Books About the African-American Experience
Celebrated poet and author Kwame Alexander, whose children's novel in verse, The Crossover , was awarded the Newbery Medal in 2015, presents a "love letter to black America" in this new picture-book, published as part of his new "Versify" imprint with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. His poem, which highlights many heroic and noteworthy people of African-American descent - people from many different professions, who lived in different times - is an ode to "the dreamers and doers" that have left the community undefe ...more
Cheryl Gladfelter
This book. Kwame's amazing poetry with Kadir's stirring illustrations will leave you with a lot of feelings. I can't describe how powerful this book is, other than to say you must read it and feel it.
Outstanding and brilliant.
Two artists create a masterpiece.

The first few times I held this book and opened to a random page, I knew it and I needed a bit of solitude to become acquainted. Too easily distracted in a crowd, I didn't want my attention divided from the experience. A poem of American history, illustrated to ring its message.
Dec 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Powerful and important, this book is a must read. Kadir Nelson's illustrations reinforce the impact of Kwame Alexander's words. An amazing collaboration and a necessary purchase for all homes and libraries. Highly recommended for grades 3 & up.

F&G provided by author.
Edward Sullivan
A stunning celebration of black pride and history through Alexander's verse and Kadir Nelson's detailed, oil painting illustrations.
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lovelovelove, 2019
I cried in the middle of the library while reading this book.
Kris Patrick
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’m not one to make Caldecott predictions but I will make a Caldecott prediction. Undefeated!!!
Apr 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the best picture books I have read in a long time. Kwame Alexander's Afterword and the historical figures and events listed in order of their reference in the poem offers people the opportunity to dive further into the important and sometimes untold history of America.
So much passion, sadness, and hope in these words and illustrations. This book is one to pair with some historical fiction and biographical texts to help students see how authors can bring out the theme of perseverance in many powerful ways.
Julie Kirchner
Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
Each time I look at this I love it more. Kwame + Kadir = perfection.
This beautiful book moved me so deeply. The rhythm and cadence of the poem are expertly paired with the page turns and illustrations, and in one case, an incredibly moving and jarring lack of illustrations. I hope the Caldecott AND Newbery committees will be talking abut this one.
Mrs. Krajewski
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Just, wow. Unforgettable.
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fb-group-books
This book is wonderful and very powerful. I had chill by the third spread. Well worth the time.
Ami Pendley
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The poem is perfect. The illustrations are stunning. A powerful tribute to black genius, strength, and resilience without shying away from the truth of our history and our present. A must have for every library.
Mar 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really beautiful. Breathtaking, honestly. I got literal chills reading this. I'm a fan of both artists individually, but there is something extra special about their pairing here. Alexander's powerful and pointed words, that do so much with a pregnant pause, truly come alive when accompanied by Nelson's characteristically gorgeous portraiture that, as always, shines its sublime light on Black folks both famous and not.
Christie Angleton
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was privileged to hear Kwame Alexander read this to a group of teachers, librarians, and kids at a recent conference - and it was EVERYTHING.
Sofiya Pasternack
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone!
Powerful, stunning, and beautifully illustrated. So many of these pages will force you to stop and take a breath before you go on.
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing

Loved it! You know someone is talented when they can say so much in so few words. I wish they had added more to descriptions of the leading African American trailblazers at the end of the book.

"This is for the unafraid.
The audacious ones
who carried the red, white and Weary Blues
on the battlefield
to save an imperfect Union."
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Words by Kwame Alexander and pictures by Kadir Nelson combine to form a perfect tribute to the struggles, the efforts, the loss of life and property of black Americans through time for justice, for equality, for a good life.

I want to take this book and read it aloud and share it. (Troy Johnson)
Jul 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“If you have been searching for a book that will fill a child with the greatest sense of self-worth just for being who they are, then look no further. Talented author, Kwame Alexander has placed the representation bar higher than the stratosphere in his book, The Undefeated. His poetic writing style fuses seamlessly with the bold illustrations of Kadir Nelson.” Read the entire review at
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Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and New York Times Bestselling author of 21 books, including THE CROSSOVER, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American literature for Children, the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, The NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and the Passaic Poetry Prize. Kwame writes for children ...more
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