VOYA, June 2014 (Vol. 37, No. 2)
- KaaVonia Hinton
When a series is titled African-American Icons, many parents, teachers, and librarians might hope it is filled with volumes about doctors, lawyers, teachers, or scientists. This one is not. Instead, each book is devoted to an entertainer (i.e., Beyonce, Jay-Z, Sean Combs, Chris Rock, Tyler Perry, and Jennifer Hudson). Like celebrities who came before them, most of these performers report a moment during childhood when a particular talent surfaced and surprised family members, whether it was a comedic flare for describing ordinary events (Chris Rock) or being one of the youngest members in a choir given a solo (Jennifer Hudson). Each icon used natural talent, hard work, and big breaks to climb to the top. The books do not focus solely on triumphs; they are also filled with details about trials, including Jennifer Hudson’s family tragedy and Sean Combs’ close contact with the law. Adding photos and more attention to making sure all of the quotes are properly credited could have strengthened the series. The writing is rich and engaging. Just the right quotes from Chris Rock’s stand-up routines and interviews forced this reader to laugh aloud while the opening chapter of the Hudson book teased before revealing her experiences on American Idol. Readers interested in popular culture are sure to be inspired by the impressive lives of these celebrities who happen to come from humble means. (African-American Icons) Reviewer: KaaVonia Hinton; Ages 11 to 18.