Hello, friends! Our book today is R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Frank Morrison, a gorgeous tribute to the iconic singer, songwriter, and activist.
This brief introduction to the life of the queen of soul begins with a young Aretha saying prayers at her bedside: “B-L-E-S-S-E-D” reads the header, the rhyming couplet that follows describing how she was raised in a home of faith and black pride. Each spread continues in a similar vein, using a one-word theme to describe the moment or period in Aretha’s life as she grows, develops her voice, stands up for equality, and becomes a L-E-G-E-N-D in her own time.
Beautiful. Aretha is certainly a luminary deserving of the picture book treatment, and while this is not a particularly comprehensive biography, it is a great way to introduce the Queen of Soul to young readers. Yet what it lacks in informational breadth, it more than makes up for in style; from a design standpoint, this title is a knockout. Morrison’s rich, vibrant illustrations are positively striking, each one a work of art in composition, light/shadow, and dynamics. The choices to spell out each spread’s header and end each line with an /ē/ sound (just like in the bridge of Franklin’s mega-hit “Respect), and even to make the book itself 12×12 inches (the standard size of an LP) are wonderful details that celebrate Aretha’s connection to and love of music. There is one spread that’s quite odd: one in which the break-up of Aretha’s parents is attributed to her father’s infidelity, accompanied by an illustration of Clarence Franklin smiling proudly over his children. The overall effect is rather strange and explaining the concept of being “faithful” might be an awkward conversation for young readers and their caregivers. But overall, this is a visually stunning ode to music royalty, and we both loved it. Baby Bookworm A-P-P-R-O-V-E-D!
(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)