Nina: A Story of Nina Simone

If ever there was a worthy subject for a picture book biography, it's African American musician and civil rights activist Nina Simone (1933-2003). Nina: A Story of Nina Simone by debut author Traci N. Todd and veteran illustrator Christian Robinson makes a compelling and eloquent case that it was only by becoming an activist that the singer found her true voice.

Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in North Carolina, Simone learned the jazz basics from her musician father on the family's upright piano. She eventually attended the Juilliard School of Music in New York City, where she later triumphed at Carnegie Hall. Todd includes examples of Simone's personal experience with racism beginning when she was a child, when a white woman suddenly stopped letting her son play with young Nina. But the author makes clear that the singer didn't join the chorus of voices for racial justice until 1963, following the murder of Black civil rights leader Medgar Evers and the bombing of a Black church in Birmingham that killed four girls. Simone's newfound outspokenness earned her some opprobrium--"The white backlash... was swift and fierce"--so "Nina sang louder...[and] sang the whole story of Black America for everyone to hear."

Amplifying Nina's humanity is Robinson's signature acrylic paint and collage art (Last Stop on Market Street; Milo Imagines the World), which always hums and thrums with life. In one spread, an open yellow umbrella conjures an outsize flower; in another spread, yellow, orange and red shapes on gray paint create a thunderous backdrop against which Simone and her band play "a raging storm of song." --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

Powered by: Xtenit