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Nina: A Story of Nina Simone

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This picture book biography tells the story of little Eunice who grew up to become the acclaimed singer Nina Simone and her bold, defiant, and exultant legacy.

Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in small town North Carolina, Nina Simone was a musical child. She sang before she talked and learned to play piano at a very young age. With the support of her family and community, she received music lessons that introduced her to classical composers like Bach who remained with her and influenced her music throughout her life. She loved the way his music began softly and then tumbled to thunder, like her mother's preaching, and in much the same way as her career. During her first performances under the name of Nina Simone her voice was rich and sweet but as the Civil Rights Movement gained steam, Nina's voice soon became a thunderous roar as she raised her voice in powerful protest in the fight against racial inequality and discrimination.

56 pages, Hardcover

First published September 14, 2021

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Traci N. Todd

17 books5 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 238 reviews
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.5k followers
March 6, 2022
“When I did, I’m gonna know that I left something that my people can build on. That is my reward”--Nina Simone, 1969

A picture book biography of singer Nina Simone, born Eunice Kathleen Wayo, written by Traci N. Todd and colorfully and invitingly illustrated by Christian Robinson. It’s about a singer born in 1933 who became a civil rights activist during the Civil Rights era in the sixties. I really liked the story of her life, though it is weird the author essentially repeats the story in an afterword, and there is no list of her best songs. And I’d say it is maybe a little wordy for a children’s picture book, but that is in this case a kind of nit, since I liked it quite a bit.

Listen to Nina!

Feeling Good:


Mississippi Goddamn, after the murder there of Medgar Evers:

Profile Image for Rod Brown.
5,535 reviews197 followers
February 15, 2022
This does exactly what I want a children's biography to do: tell me why the person was important, and do it in a way that makes me want to learn more about them. I now know my music mix is woefully lacking in Nina Simone, and I'm working to rectify that ASAP.

It was a little odd that the end matter just retold the story of the picture book in five pages of text with fewer pictures and slightly more facts and names. I would have liked to seen the space used to offer a discography, recommended playlist (or Spotify QR code), and actual pictures of Nina Simone.

(Another project! I'm reading all the picture books and graphic novels from NPR's Books We Love 2021: Kids’ Books list.)
Profile Image for Becket.
1,023 reviews37 followers
August 10, 2021
Obviously, I adore Christian Robinson's art in all contexts, but the juxtaposition between art and text in this biography deepens the impact of the story in a profound way.

Pair this one with Josephine and Harlem's Little Blackbird for a Robinson-illustrated trilogy featuring brilliant Black women performers.
Profile Image for Erica.
1,339 reviews442 followers
March 8, 2022
I am so glad this exists.
It's a kid-friendly but honest exploration of Eunice Waymon's rise from music-loving toddler to beloved singer Nina Simone to activist to, what? Powerhouse storyteller?

The illustrations start fun and turn serious. It's folk-artsy and simple yet emotional. I particularly like the cover; I didn't even have to see the title to know who the book was about. It's perfect.

I'm not sure how many kids know who Nina Simone was; this is a wonderful introduction to an important woman in recent American history. Hopefully, young readers not familiar with her music will learn about the power of Simone's actual voice in conjunction with this book.
"Alexa, play Nina Simone."
Profile Image for Lynn.
3,220 reviews57 followers
December 5, 2021
Moving Picture Book

Touching Picture Book about Nina Simone’s life. The illustrations are beautiful. She was raised by a minister mother and jazz musician father. Gifted in classical piano she went to Juilliard but was rejected by another school. She eventually went into jazz music and joined the civil rights movement.
Profile Image for Kirsti.
2,563 reviews101 followers
January 25, 2022
"For the first time, Eunice wondered if being Black meant an end to all of her dreams."

I didn't think a picture book could be such a compelling biography. The end note provides extra context and more details about her life. The collage illustrations are complex and fantastical.
Profile Image for Hilary.
2,250 reviews50 followers
November 9, 2021
Tracie Todd's lyrical text is enhanced by Caldecott/Coretta Scott King Honors illustrator, Christian Robinson's collage/digital artwork. Does not shy away from describing racial discrimination Simone experienced growing up -- even at a public library at the first concert she gave, where her parents were asked to give up their seats to a white couple. While the brief bio is ostensibly about how Eunice Wayman became Nina Simone, it is equally about the birth and rise of the civil rights movement.
Profile Image for Paulette.
435 reviews2 followers
January 26, 2022
Sometimes...you do judge a book by its cover. This was a cute and beautifully, beautifully drawn mini biography of the legendary Nina Simone, and I'm so glad I finally read it!
Profile Image for E.A..
103 reviews
January 10, 2023
A really interesting story and easy enough to read, but not told in a particularly interesting way. The amount of text per page is sometimes relatively much for a picture book.
Profile Image for Trevor  Klundert.
125 reviews
March 25, 2023
3.5 Stars. An NPR best book suggestion for the year. I love the idea of bringing Nina Simone's story to children, especially how she grew into using her voice to sing for change as a Black American. What I loved most were the illustrations. Many times, the illustrator would draw an entire world inside Nina Simone's piano as she played, whether it was riots in the 1960s or the funeral of MLK. It was poetic and beautiful the way he drew it.
Profile Image for Allie.
1,404 reviews38 followers
December 4, 2021
INCREDIBLE. I love Nina Simone's music but know very little of her life. Although this is a bit text-heavy, it didn't feel overburdened and explained some incredibly difficult concepts very clearly. As always, Christian Robinson's illustrations are excellent, beautifully accentuating and enhancing the story.

The last line of the story is particularly wonderful:
And when she sang of Black children—you lovely,
precious dreams—her voice sounded like hope.
Profile Image for Pam  Page.
1,196 reviews
September 29, 2021
A stunning book (just look at that cover!) with an incredible and inspirational story. I did not know of Nina Simone and was amazed at what a strong and talented woman she was! A must have for biographies for classroom libraries and homes!
Profile Image for Zuri Scrivens.
61 reviews1 follower
November 28, 2021
This beautifully-written and illustrated picture book is more than a luscious ode to Nina Simone. It is a story that, with its cleverly-paced rhythm mirroring the drumbeat of the protestor's heart, brings renewed hope and fervour to the anti-racist movement of today.
Profile Image for Shari (Shira).
2,163 reviews
March 28, 2022
Gorgeous picture book biography of Nina Simone! I was not aware of her involved in the civil rights movement. Christian Robinson got a well deserved Coretta Scott King award for his illustrations. When is he going to get a Caldecott?
Profile Image for Kate.
989 reviews1 follower
December 4, 2021
I’ve heard Nina Simone’s music, seen concert and interview footage and learned more about her in this book. The subtitle is “a story of…” which you need to remember as the book basically ends with 1968 but Nina Simone lived and performed for another 35 years. I wanted more so the ending felt slight abrupt but this captured Simone’s first 30+ years well.

The art is stunning from the cover to sun shine on the piano as she sits on her daddy’s lap to the licks of flame behind Nina and the band. A few images of her grand piano are used to tell more as inside and atop the piano show scenes far from where she is. The spread with the four little girls in their white socks, black dress shoes, and colorful dresses as Nina plays and a burning church sits on the piano tugs at your heart, just as the text tells you how events are tugging at Nina. Torn paper flames here and elsewhere have rougher edges than most of the images and help convey the rawness and pain of events.

The pink of the cover is carried through the book with Nina often wearing it. The pink helps you spot her walking in Harlem. I like the child with her hair in pink bandana watching Simone on tv.

The author’s note provides more information. It’s interesting that the illustration is Nina as a child having her hair done, turn the page it’s adult Nina with another hairstyle, turn the next couple pages for more of her evolving style. Under the jacket is another stunning image with pink background, Nina Simone in a white dress and colorful headwear playing a white piano.

The pink demands your attention which Simone did through her music, words and bearing. We see her strength in the illustrations, in her face, standing tall. We get a sense of her sadness of not being accepted to the music school when she is sitting on her bed, smaller, somewhat curled up.
Profile Image for Kristi Starr.
265 reviews11 followers
June 24, 2022
Beautifully illustrated, and I appreciate that given the challenges and discrimination she faced, Eunice's expressions are sometimes angry, sometimes serious, sometimes serene or joyful. A reader needs to spend time with the images; they're so layered.
An amazing story of Eunice's - Simone's - life experiences and musical development. Unfortunately, the story seems to assume a reader's familiarity with Nina Simone. Porgy and Bess provides a frame of reference, but I'd have appreciated lyrics included, or more song titles. The bibliography left me wanting more. Still, the book introduced me to an individual of whom I have little knowledge and would do better to learn more about, and it's set the stage for me to explore Nina Simone on my own.
Profile Image for Becky B.
7,729 reviews101 followers
November 10, 2022
A picture book biography of Nina Simone, a gifted pianist turned singer/songwriter/performer who eventually used her talents for the Civil Rights movement in the US.

I don't know if kids will get from this picture book how gifted a pianist Nina Simone must have been to make it into Juilliard or even try out for the Curtis Institute. Juilliard is like the MIT/Harvard of the music world and the Curtis Institute is a step above that. She must've been crazy good. (Note to self: go hunt around and see if there are recordings of her classical piano playing.) It is inspiring to hear of someone using their talents to bring awareness to injustices in the world. Music is a powerful tool. I can see why the artist won a Coretta Scott King Honor for this book, just based on the number of pages, a lot of work went into telling Nina's story.
360 reviews5 followers
January 24, 2023
Lyrical prose shares part of Nina Simone's life. She was a name that I was familiar with before reading this book, but I am very anxious now to listen to her music. One of the many things that struck me about this book is how sad it is that somebody needs to leave their country because of inequalities. There are many times that I read books that are marketed for children and tweens, and I feel like they really are written for adults. This one strikes me as tackling difficult subjects, but doing so in a way that is perfect for the age of the expected reader.
Profile Image for Caitlin.
1,147 reviews60 followers
April 7, 2022
I don't quite know how to review picture books but I think this one had great art and works as a very age appropriate biography. It's not going to be the rhyming bedtime story you read to your baby, but I think it would absolutely be a great way to have conversations about music, fame, racism, and the civil rights movement with perhaps a 5-7 year old???

ISK I don't interact with kids that often maybe I am wrong.
Profile Image for Ellon.
3,533 reviews
February 26, 2022
I know they are simplistic but I really love Robinson's illustration style. His illustrations were probably my favorite part of the book.
I was into the story in the beginning but then it began to drag a bit. There was a lot of information and a lot of pages for a picture book. Then it had the endpages that basically just recounted the same story with a few more details.
Profile Image for Mary.
856 reviews
April 2, 2022
Readers see how Simone pushed her hurt and anger deep inside until the Civil Rights Movement brought it out in song. Todd depicts Simone as an artist and activist. She doesn’t shy from the ugly truths that Simone witnessed and experienced. I think second graders and older would have the context and comprehension skills for this.

Christian Robinson’s illustrations are brilliant as always.
Profile Image for Melinda.
443 reviews1 follower
June 28, 2022
I read this book with Henry. This book is beautifully written and gorgeously illustrated in pure Christian Robinson style. The rhythm and build of the words as the story moved from Eunice’s young life to Nina’s life after becoming a star and into an activist really touched back to the build up in Eunice’s mother’s preaching and Bach’s music. Christian Robinson cleverly used the space inside concert pianos as dioramas for the growing unrest in the Civil Rights movement encapsulating Nina’s connection to music and community in each layered image.
Christian Robinson won the Coretta Scott King Award for his illustrations in this book!
Profile Image for Z.
315 reviews8 followers
February 22, 2022
Honestly, I'm just happy other people know who Nina Simone is, so I was pleased as punch to discover someone had written a kids' book about her. Those kids have got to learn, after all.

Also relevant, today would've been Nina Simone's 89th birthday!
Profile Image for Raeshonna.
130 reviews5 followers
December 27, 2022
This is a great short story that gives a brief overview of Nina Simone‘s life. I really enjoyed the audio version and how it told the story of Nina, and then also gave a short autobiography as well.
Highly recommend for children to learn about a significant person in black history.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 238 reviews

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