The Undefeated
The Undefeated

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Annotation: This poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights theunspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world's greatest heroes.
Genre: Poetry
Catalog Number: #182784
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Special Formats: Hot Title Hot Title
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Copyright Date: 2018
Edition Date: 2019
Illustrator: Nelson, Kadir,
Pages: 40
Availability: Available
New Title: Yes
ISBN: Publisher: 1-328-78096-1 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-4723-9
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-328-78096-6 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-4723-3
Dewey: 811
LCCN: 2018035030
Dimensions: 27 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
Publishers Weekly
Performed first on the ESPN show of the same name, this magnificent anthem to the courage and genius of black Americans has been turned into a picture book with stunning portraits by Nelson (Blue Sky, White Stars). -This is for the unforgettable,- Alexander (Out of Wonder) opens, -The swift and sweet ones/ who hurdled history/ and opened a world/ of possible.- Jesse Owens flies across the page, every limb outstretched, every muscle taut. Alexander-s praise is not just for well-known figures, though; he also writes about nameless heroes (-the ones who survived/ America/ by any means necessary-) and unsung martyrs (-the ones who didn-t-). And he acknowledges the deepest wounds, repeating the phrase -This is for the unspeakable- over successive portraits of infamous atrocities committed against Americans of African descent. He writes of artistry, -the We Real Cool ones,- above the smiling, lit-up faces of vocal and instrumental artists who make up a celestial chorus: Monk and Fitzgerald, Vaughan and Davis. Nelson paints historical figures and contemporary heroes with equal ease and grace; in a final spread, the faces of young black girls and boys look ahead, beaming and determined: -This is for us.- Throughout, incantatory usage of -un- words (-unbelievable... unbending... underdogs... uncertain...-) rings with force. Alexander remembers peaceful Civil Rights activists, -the righteous marching ones who sang we shall not be moved because black lives matter,- communicating clearly that when black lives matter, America is stronger. Historical notes for each figure conclude this powerful work. Ages 4-7. Author-s agent: Arielle Eckstut, Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary Agency. Illustrator-s agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Apr.)

School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 3 Up This inaugural title from Newbery Medalist Alexander's new imprint is a poignant and powerful ode to the resilience and strength of black life and history in America. Originally performed for ESPN's The Undefeated in 2016, the poem adopts a picture book format with a new title, accompanied by stunning oil paintings in Nelson's trademark photorealistic style. The evocative illustrations stand out against stark white backgrounds and vary in their composition. On some spreads, the focus is on a single expressive portrait; others feature collages of African American icons from various disciplines, or refer to significant historical moments. The art functions in perfect harmony with the poet's spare, striking verse to electrify the Black American experience, and to celebrate black athletes, writers, musicians, activists, and heroes. From the unspeakable trauma of American slavery and the transatlantic slave trade to the brave service of black troops during the Civil War, from the fierce and unwavering fight for civil rights to the Black Lives Matter movement, from Selma to Birmingham to Harlem, this book is both a soaring tribute to the enduring perseverance and achievements of the past and a stirring call to action to "the dreamers and the doers" of the present and the future. Back matter includes an afterword from the author as well as additional information about the historical figures and events featured in the book. VERDICT Alexander and Nelson present an exceptionally moving and triumphant work. This book is an essential first purchase for all libraries. -Lauren Strohecker, McKinley Elementary School, Elkins Park, PA
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
Past and present are quilted together in this innovative overview of black Americans' triumphs and challenges in the United States.Alexander's poetry possesses a straightforward, sophisticated, steady rhythm that, paired with Nelson's detail-oriented oil paintings, carries readers through generations chronicling "the unforgettable," "the undeniable," "the unflappable," and "the righteous marching ones," alongside "the unspeakable" events that shape the history of black Americans. The illustrator layers images of black creators, martyrs, athletes, and neighbors onto blank white pages, patterns pages with the bodies of slaves stolen and traded, and extends a memorial to victims of police brutality like Sandra Bland and Michael Brown past the very edges of a double-page spread. Each movement of Alexander's poem is a tribute to the ingenuity and resilience of black people in the U.S., with textual references to the writings of Gwendolyn Brooks, Martin Luther King Jr., Langston Hughes, and Malcolm X dotting stanzas in explicit recognition and grateful admiration. The book ends with a glossary of the figures acknowledged in the book and an afterword by the author that imprints the refrain "Black. Lives. Matter" into the collective soul of readers, encouraging them, like the cranes present throughout the book, to "keep rising."An incredible connector text for young readers eager to graduate to weighty conversations about our yesterday, our now, and our tomorrow. (Picture book/poetry. 6-12)
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* Alexander and Nelson combine their considerable talents in this ode to inspiring African American heroes in the fields of sport, the arts, and political activism, as well as everyday champions whose very survival exemplifies success. In elegiac-style verse, Alexander celebrates "the swift and sweet ones / who hurdled history . . . / the ones who survived / America / by any means necessary," and those "who shine / their light for the world to see / and don't stop / til the break of dawn." Nelson's photo-realistic illustrations, rendered in oil, include action shots (Jesse Owens, mid hurdle), portraits (Martin Luther King Jr. and an African American Union soldier), composites (of jazz and sports greats), and iconographic compositions that depict the unspeakable (bodies lined up representing abducted Africans en route to America, part of the Middle Passage). Designed for reading aloud, the text also makes use of several typographic cues that signal meaning: emphasized words appear in larger font, while references to the words of others ("we shall not be moved") appear in italics. And, while the content references several tragic events (slavery and police brutality, among others), the poem closes with a hopeful nod to the rising generation. Appended with notes on the historical figures cited, this is a beautiful volume that encourages multiple viewings and further research. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: With a lengthy roster of accolades and best-seller credits between them, this untouchable duo's book will fly off the shelf.
Reading Level: 2.0
Interest Level: K-3

The Newbery Award-winning author of THE CROSSOVER pens an ode to black American triumph and tribulation, with art from a two-time Caldecott Honoree. Originally performed for ESPN's The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world's greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present. Robust back matter at the end provides valuable historical context and additional detail for those wishing to learn more.


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