The People Remember

The People Remember
Age Range
Release Date
September 28, 2021
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From award-winning, New York Times bestselling author Ibi Zoboi comes her debut picture book—a tour de force that uses the principles of Kwanzaa to talk about the history of African Americans. This lyrical, powerful tribute is sumptuously illustrated by New Yorker artist and rising star Loveis Wise. A beautiful gift for readers of all ages and for fans of Kadir Nelson’s Heart and Soul. A Coretta Scott King Honor Book!

The People Remember tells the journey of African descendants in America by connecting their history to the seven principles of Kwanzaa. It begins in Africa, where people were taken from their homes and families. They spoke different languages and had different customs.

Yet they were bound and chained together and forced onto ships sailing into an unknown future. Ultimately, all these people had to learn one common language and create a culture that combined their memories of home with new traditions that enabled them to thrive in this new land.

Sumptuously illustrated, this is an important book to read as a family—a story young readers can visit over and over again to deepen their understanding of African American history in relation to their own lives and current social justice movements. By turns powerful and revealing, this is a lyrical narrative that tells the story of survival, as well as the many moments of joy, celebration, and innovation of Black people in America.

Editor review

1 review
Great Read Aloud for Kwaanza
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Learning Value
In this lyrical book of poems, a comprehensive overview of African American history is presented and tied to the principals of Kwaanza. Starting with some of the African kingdoms like the Empires of Mali and Songhai, we are taken on a journey in bondage to the United States, and hear about the horrific conditions under which enslaved peoples were taken from their countries. Slavery is explained in terms that don't hide the savage circumstances of children taken from their mothers and families torn apart, but the book also mentions how communities came together, and how the history is filled with the various principles of Kwaanza, such as Ujima, or collective work and responsibility. The Great Migration, Black towns like Greenwood, the Civil RIghts Movement, and even more recent events, singers, and artists get brief coverage.
Good Points
The book has the feel of a song that would be sung to remember history; a litany of names, places and events that are evocative of various points in history. This would be a fantastic book to read for Kwaanza celebrations in the way that The Night Before Christmas (whoever the author might really be!) is read around that holiday. Notes at the end explain a bit about Kwaanza celebrations, and give more discussion about the seven tenets. There's also a good glossary and a list of further reading.

The illustrations are very vibrant, and the color pallette reflects the mood, with many of the darker times in history rendered in somber dark blues or maroons, and the happier times filled with sunshine drenched yellows. The larger size of the book will lend itself well to story times.

This had a bit of the same vibe as Ringgold's We Came to America or Tar Beach, or Williams' Your Legacy, but I haven't seen any other picture books for younger children that go back so far into African History. Pair this with Baptiste's African Icons and Atinuke's Africa, Amazing Africa. Country by Country for the history, and Medearis' Seven Days Of Kwanzaa and Washington's The Story of Kwaanza for information about this holiday, which was started in the 1960s.
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