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Who Will I Be, Lord?
     

Who Will I Be, Lord?

by Sean Qualls, Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
 

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A lyrical story about how looking back is helpful when you start looking forward. . . .

A young girl thoughtfully considers her family tree and the vibrant ancestors who populate it. As each family member’s story is revealed, her quiet meditation—about what kind of person she’ll be when she grows up—transforms into a testament to the

Overview

A lyrical story about how looking back is helpful when you start looking forward. . . .

A young girl thoughtfully considers her family tree and the vibrant ancestors who populate it. As each family member’s story is revealed, her quiet meditation—about what kind of person she’ll be when she grows up—transforms into a testament to the importance of sharing family stories.

The simple, elegant narrative combined with Sean Qualls’s evocative art makes for a wonderful read-aloud experience.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Mary Hynes-Berry
The young girl who is wondering who she will be clearly represents the author who remembers the ordinary but dynamic mailmen, musicians, preachers, teachers, mechanics and housewives who people her family tree. The movement from one generation to the next is punctuated by the refrain voiced by the young girl "What will I be, Lord? What will I be?" This structure gives the work the feel of a spiritual that adds force to the book's message that it takes talent for everyday lives as well as for those of the rich and famous. As the child's mother reminds her, it has most to do with working hard and using the seeds that God gives to sow. The answer to her repeated question comes as the child realizes that who she will be is: "I guess, like Mama says, it's up to me." Sean Qualls uses a muted palette, drawing in details over water color washes. The book could serve as an excellent introduction to a family history project. Reviewer: Mary Hynes-Berry
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2—A contemplation of the future through the lens of a family's past. An African-American girl looking to the future has a broad range of relatives to emulate—a banjo-playing mailman, a housewife who broke the color barrier, a pool shark, and a burger-flipping aspiring jazzman. Nelson's rhythmic and colloquial first-person narrative introduces the characters not only in terms of the jobs they hold, but also the kind of people they are; her Great-Grandpap believes, "Nothin's more important than family." For the jazzman, "what matters is the trying." Qualls's mixed-media illustrations combine muted and bright elements and feature full-spread renditions of each relative at home or work, followed by a page showing surreal floating heads of the girl and the featured role model as she repeats the title's query. Nelson shows respect for all the ways people live and work.—Lisa Egly Lehmuller, St. Patrick's Catholic School, Charlotte, NC
Kirkus Reviews
In this substantive yet never heavy offering, an African-American girl reflects on the people in her family, wondering, after lovingly considering each: "And what will I be, Lord? What will I be?" First she thinks of her great-grandfather, a mailman during the week and a banjo player on the weekends. Next she thinks of Great-Grandma, who made the "best cakes in the county" and who was white. Her family disowned her for marrying Great Grandpap. Grandpa is a preacher at Bethel A.M.E. Church. Grandma, a teacher, gets upset when the girl says she does not like school and "starts tellin' her old stories about slavery, when people were whipped or killed for learning to read." Uncle is a pool shark, cousin a jazzman, Papa a carman, and Mama "is a mama." Thanks to a strong sense of family and history, the girl comes to understand that what she is, who she is, is ultimately up to her. Quall's lovely, textured illustrations depict realistic figures against backgrounds suffused with blues and purples. (Picture book. 5-10)
Publishers Weekly
04/27/2015
Nelson's (Almost to Freedom) paean to family is narrated by a girl who repeatedly asks the title question as she retraces the occupations and personalities of her family role models. Great-Grandpap was a music-loving mailman who gave up his banjo gigs to spend time with his family. Great-Grandma was a housewife who defied her prejudiced white parents by marrying a black man ("Mama says Great-Grandma knew more about love than most folks"). Grampa is a preacher who lives by the Golden Rule, and Uncle is a pool shark who is true to himself. "Mama is a mama" who "was born with a talent for lookin' after folks" and who helps her daughter answer her lingering question: "She says God gives us each some seeds to sow. The rest is up to us." Though perhaps a bit static, Qualls's (Dizzy) spare, muted artwork has an understated quality (buildings defined by thin pencil lines give the barest suggestion of setting) that conjures the distance, yet importance, of the past and the strong connections that bind the narrator to her family. Ages 4—8. (Oct.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375943423
Publisher:
Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
10/27/2009
Series:
Picture Book Series
Pages:
40
Product dimensions:
9.20(w) x 9.90(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson wears multiple hats in the world of children’s books as an author and a youth services librarian at a public library in New Mexico. Her books have received numerous awards starting with her first book, Always Gramma, a CCBC Notable Children’s Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies. She lives in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.

Sean Qualls has created evocative, powerful art for magazines, newspapers, advertisements, and children’s books, including Dizzy, Powerful Words, Phillis’s Big Test, and Before John Was a Jazz Giant. He lives with his wife and their two children in Brooklyn, New York.

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