Michele Wood - The Official Site

Like A Bird: The Art of the American Slave Song / Signed Copy

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Enslaved African Americans longed for freedom, and that longing took many forms including music. Drawing on biblical imagery, slave songs both expressed the sorrow of life in bondage and offered a rallying cry for the spirit. 

Like a Bird brings together text, music, and illustrations by Coretta Scott King Award-winning illustrator Michele Wood to convey the rich meaning behind thirteen of these powerful songs.

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 4 Up—"Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart." These words by Frederick Douglass are offered in an endnote to provide context for the 13 spirituals included in this volume. Readers will learn how the book began, with Wood's acrylic paintings inspired by the songs; the author then studied the paintings and researched the songs before writing the text. Each spread features a painting on the recto and one or two paragraphs of text along with the music and verses on the verso. There is also a full-spread painting of a group of slaves riding a metaphorical railroad conducted by Harriet Tubman preceding the spread for the song "Get on Board—the Gospel Train," which also includes an archival photo of Tubman. Some of the songs will be familiar, such as "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore" and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," while others, like "Ain't Gonna Study War No More," "Go Down, Moses," and "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen," will resonate with older readers. The vibrant paintings often incorporate quilting motifs and historical events. Original lyrics are featured in the back matter. An archival photo of the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University in Nashville, TN, who popularized the spiritual as a musical form in the 1870s, appears in the introduction. VERDICT This is an excellent resource for music and art teachers as well as for social studies and U.S. history lessons.—Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools