Booklist Reviews

Gr. 2-5. The references in the title Billie Holiday song have been interpreted in different ways. Here, Pinkney gives the words strength and a sense of possibility as one black family takes part in the great migration, moving from the cotton fields of the South to bustling Chicago. "Them that's got shall get, / Them that's not shall lose . . . " begins the song, and the opening spread shows a family that doesn't have much in the way of material goods. Yet the following pictures show joy in togetherness, even as grown-ups and children alike spend hours in backbreaking work. Then, in something of an abrupt transition, the family is packed and ready to move north. The next two spreads are brilliantly conceived. In the first, the old wooden house stands empty, just a rusty red wagon and a rubber tire swinging from a tree to show children once lived there. Turn the page to find Chicago--the El riding the tracks, skirting a city that is all buildings and busy people. Life is still difficult for the family, but hope for the future is evident in the last picture: a boy in school. In a note, Pinkney discusses the migration, the music, and the dreams of education. An accompanying CD brings words, music, and art together. ((Reviewed February 15, 2004)) Copyright 2004 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews

Pinkney attempts to have Billie Holiday's famous song serve as an anthem for the Great Migration. The paintings of black folk packing up the sharecropped farm and moving north to the opportunities offered in the city have emblematic power, but they are incidental to the song lyrics that serve as the only text. More gift book than picture book, the package includes a CD of Holiday's 1941 recording. Copyright 2004 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews

With Holiday's music and Pinkney's art, this package sets expectations high—and doesn't disappoint. The simple words are mournful, yet matter-of-fact; the refrain "But God bless the child / That's got his own!" keeps the focus on the young audience. Pinkney's inspired decision to illustrate this hymn-like lament with images of the Great Migration of African-Americans from the Deep South to the industrial north truly brings the words to life. He signifies the historical setting first in the endpapers: those at the beginning show a pattern of wood boards evocative of the walls of a sharecropper's cabin; and those at the end show what looks like flowered wallpaper. Images of dignified figures first picking cotton, then packing the car, then sewing in a factory, eventually buying ice cream from a truck, and, finally, gathered around a piano and making music together, alternate with landscape scenes of a field of workers, an abandoned cabin, and the elevated train tracks in Chicago. The evocative recording on the CD ends too quickly;there is much to pore over and discuss here, and this remarkable work is worth picking up (and listening to) more than once. (Picture book. 4-8) Copyright Kirkus 2004 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Diverse selections of poetry celebrate culture and history. In the latest addition to a series of books based on song lyrics, God Bless the Child, the words of the song co-written by Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog Jr. and made famous by Lady Day give rise to breathtaking watercolor scenes, many of them wordless spreads, by Jerry Pinkney. In a dedication he credits Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series as his inspiration for a visual narrative about a family's move North in the 1930s; Pinkney begins with a family gathered around the Bible at a time when education for African-Americans was not encouraged ("Them that's got shall get,/ Them that's not shall lose,/ So the Bible said,/ And it still is news"). The children find joy in a dousing at the water pump or chasing a butterfly ("God bless the child/ That's got his own"). Poignant consecutive wordless spreads show the home the family has left behind, then Chicago's elevated train stretching to the horizon; here "Mama may have,/ Papa may have" takes on another dimension, as the parents work in factories with a promise of hope. A final image shows their son at school-a dream fulfilled. Repeated viewings reveal an extraordinary level of detail and a visual and narrative movement that echoes the family's journey. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal Reviews

K-Gr 5-A moving visual interpretation of Holiday and Herzog's swing spiritual based on the proverb, "God blessed the child that's got his own." The song serves as the inspiration for Pinkney's depiction of the Great Migration of the 1930s. Through evocative images, the artist tells the story of one family's move north. The warm and sweeping illustrations are masterful, completely filling each spread. Although the pages are rich in detail, the well-composed paintings never seem cluttered or overwhelming. There is something new to attract readers, even after several readings. The sense of the family members as a unit, as well as their emotions of hope, anxiety, and relief, are all beautifully conveyed. A CD of Holiday performing the song is included, and while the book can be enjoyed without it, listening to the nostalgic and somewhat bittersweet music does elicit an emotional response. While a fine choice for independent reading, this title is particularly poignant when shared with a group, turning the pages in conjunction with the CD. An author's note provides background about Pinkney's inspirations and research. This offering makes an excellent tie-in to units on African-American history.-Mary N. Oluonye, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.