Praise Song for the Day


Praise Song for the Day was commissioned for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. These inspiring words by award-winning poet Elizabeth Alexander celebrate all that has made America what it is today and challenge us—as individuals, as communities, as a nation—to continue working toward the dream of a better world for all.

Together with spectacular illustrations by Caldecott Award–winning illustrator David Diaz, Praise Song for the Day reminds us that we are an ...

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Praise Song for the Day was commissioned for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. These inspiring words by award-winning poet Elizabeth Alexander celebrate all that has made America what it is today and challenge us—as individuals, as communities, as a nation—to continue working toward the dream of a better world for all.

Together with spectacular illustrations by Caldecott Award–winning illustrator David Diaz, Praise Song for the Day reminds us that we are an ever-evolving nation fueled by hope, freedom, perseverance, and love.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Caldecott Medalist Diaz (Before You Came) teams up with poet and writer Alexander (American Sublime) to create a stunning visual representation of Alexander’s poem, which was commissioned for President Obama’s inauguration. Two characters—a mother in long blue dress and her son in purple—wend through unfolding landscapes that offer abstract representations of ancestors, manual laborers, music makers, farm workers, railroad builders, and more, against full-bleed backdrops of bright orange and soft greens and blues. Paintings depict children and adults in geometric, masklike profile; pointed facial features contrast with full limbs in the foreground, while background patterns suggesting collage and paper-cuttings portray snowflakes, cornstalks, and oval-shaped trees. Reading as though narrated by mother to son, Alexander’s verse speaks of oppression, struggle, courage, and hope. One illustration shows the pair walking through tree brambles toward a distant, glowing city: “We need to find a place where we are safe./ We walk into that which we cannot yet see.” The imagery’s angularity becomes increasingly circular and rounded, culminating in a fiery sun surrounding by uplifted, dancing people. A moving pictorial elegy. Ages 6–10. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Jean Boreen
The poem that creates the narrative for this beautiful picture book was commissioned for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. The essence of the poem is that too often, we take little time to celebrate the concept of love and what our world might be like if we spent more time focused on our appreciation of our ancestors, our families, our friends, and those we come into contact with on a daily basis. The poet begins by noting that on most days, people stream past other people in a noisy mix that leads all of us to various jobs, activities, interactions, and hopes. Taking the time to understand what we accomplish each day and what our ancestors accomplished before us may help all of us move towards a better tomorrow for all of us. The illustrator does a phenomenal job capturing the language of the poem with his use of bright colors, slightly abstracted character types, and recognizable shapes and patterns that create their own energy page by page. This would be a lovely addition to any collection of picture books. Reviewer: Jean Boreen, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 3–5—Much has been written, both good and bad, about the poem Alexander wrote for the inauguration of President Barack Obama, but since this is a book designed for children, it is worth another look. Based on the form of African praise songs, the poem is made up of short descriptive sentences that are at once simple and evocative. From an acknowledgment of our shared American experience ("A woman and her son wait for the bus./A farmer considers the changing sky./A teacher says, Take out your pencil. Begin"), to a remembrance of the social struggle that led up to the election ("Say it plain: that many have died for this day"), this is a poem whose accessibility is its strength. Ending with a recognition of the hope felt by much of the nation ("On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,/praise song for walking forward in that light"), this book gives readers the opportunity to revisit the importance of the day when Barack Obama became our 44th president. The glowing, computer-generated art utilizes Diaz's signature cut-paper look. Central to these illustrations are a mother and son who travel through the text as though memorializing the president and his own mother. With the 2012 presidential election coming up, it is good to look back and recall the historical significance of the 2008 vote that resulted in the election of our first African American president. This is a book that can and should make that happen.—Teri Markson, Los Angeles Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
A moving poem broadens its potential impact with evocative, dreamlike illustrations from Caldecott Medalist Diaz. Written for Barack Obama's inauguration, Alexander's poem uses sophisticated language and images both abstract and concrete to celebrate the diversity of the world we live in, the history that brought us to the day our first African-American president was sworn in and the hope that event inspired. The rhythmic language begins in the present, describing everyday activities. From there Alexander takes us to "dirt roads and highways" that lead both back in time to show the work and struggle that went into creating our world and forward into the hopeful future. Diaz finds ways to both reflect and explicate the complexity of Alexander's work. His illustrations, focused primarily on a mother and child, create a sense of connection and should help to make the poem accessible to young listeners. By contrast, several double-page montages allow him to include multiple characters and situations in a single composition. Jewel-like colors, intricate patterns and the shifting intensity of light and dark combine beautifully to bring depth and texture to simple silhouettes of people, places and things. Even listeners who aren't quite sure what some of the words mean will enjoy listening to their soothing, sonorous flow and poring over the pictures to find vivid glimpses of their own and others' lives and dreams. (Picture book. 6 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061926631
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/21/2012
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 1,386,994
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Alexander is a poet, essayist, playwright, and teacher born in New York City and raised in Washington, DC. She has published numerous books of poems, including American Sublime (2005), which was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize; a young adult collection (coauthored with Marilyn Nelson), Miss Crandall's School for Young Ladies & Little Misses of Color, which won a 2008 Connecticut Book Award; and, most recently, Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010. She teaches at Yale University, and this is her first picture book.

David Diaz has illustrated numerous award-winning books for children, including smoky night by Eve Bunting, for which he was awarded the Caldecott Medal; The Wanderer by Sharon Creech, which received a Newbery Honor; and Me, Frida by Amy Novesky, a Pura Belpré Honor Award winner. Mr. Diaz lives in Southern California.

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