Standing in the Need of Prayer: A Modern Retelling of the Classic Spiritual

Standing in the Need of Prayer is a love letter to the Black community from Coretta Scott King Award-winners Carole Boston Weatherford (Unspeakable) and Frank Morrison (R-E-S-P-E-C-T). The dignified text and glorious oil and spray paint illustrations acknowledge key historic moments and figures in Black history.

Weatherford's reworking of the lyrics to this "African American spiritual" brings readers on a symbolic pilgrimage through Black history. Morrison's magnetic art first depicts slender, scarred Black bodies in bondage: "It's me, it's me, O Lord,/ Standing in the need of prayer." This is followed by Nat Turner's rebellion against enslavers--"It's a preacher with a scar like a lightning bolt,/ Standing in the need of prayer." Ruby Bridges holds school books while white people angrily protest ("It's the first Black students walking into/ all-white classes"); Martin Luther King Jr. gestures at a church podium, the audience lifting their hands in praise ("It's orators, whose daring words/ move the masses"). Each line and accompanying illustration build a picture of Black resilience.

Weatherford and Morrison's picture book makes it clear that the fight for justice for Black lives is not yet over. Morrison's final spread features two young people. One wears a hoodie stating "Justice," the other leans over a graffitied wall that includes "their names" and "BLM." The book ends with contemporary events of ever-expanding Black history: "It's me, it's me, O Lord,/ Standing in the need of prayer." The book is a lesson, a tribute and an inspiration that should work as both an excellent read-aloud and potential sing-along. --Kharissa Kenner, children's librarian, Bank Street School for Children

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