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Lift as you climb : the story of Ella Baker
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Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Born in 1903, Ella Baker grew up on her grandparents' North Carolina farm, where they'd once labored as slaves. There she learned to listen to others, to help people in need, and to "lift as you climb." From her grandfather's church pulpit, she heard the resounding question, "What do you hope to accomplish?" After college, Baker worked for the NAACP and SCLC. She gradually became a significant figure in the civil rights movement, challenging its leaders on occasion, speaking up for women within the movement, focusing on issues such as voting rights, and always listening at the grassroots level. She helped plan the Freedom Rides, and she advised and befriended many young activists throughout her career. In the striking gouache paintings, Christie uses strong lines and vibrant colors to recreate scenes from Baker's life and times, while expressing the leader's dignity, empathy, and determination. Repeatedly referencing Baker's childhood lessons, Powell's free-verse text conveys the importance of Ella Baker as a strong-minded woman working purposefully outside the limelight and making a significant difference within the civil rights movement. The question "What do you hope to accomplish?" tolls like a bell through the narrative, underscoring Baker's driving sense of purpose. As the book's closing line, the question challenges readers as well. Grades 3-6. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 4–7—Ella Baker (1903–86) was raised by the children of parents who were previously enslaved. From an early age, her parents told her she had the potential to change the world. She learned to listen to others and use what she heard for good. Throughout her life, she committed herself to standing up for human rights, always asking herself and others, "What do I hope to accomplish?" No matter the persecution or struggles she faced, Baker always rose above, lifting others with her as she climbed. This lyrical biography provides insight into the life of a member of the civil rights movement, creating connections between her work and modern times. Fears and obstacles are honestly depicted, as are injustice and violence. Christie's detailed illustrations are visceral. The artwork shows a Black man being beaten by two white police officers, Black youth imprisoned for peaceful protests, and buses burning after being firebombed. Some prior knowledge of Black American history is required to fully appreciate this book; terms such as emancipation and Negroes are used without explanation or context. Supplemental information detailing the purposes of different organizations Baker was affiliated with, as well as a time line of her life, provides clarity. The messages encouraging all people of color to vote and take their places in the government come through strong and clear. VERDICT A highly informative picture book biography that captures the determination and strength of an influential civil rights leader and adds to students' understanding of the civil rights movement.—Emily Beasley, Omaha Public Sch., NE

Copyright 2020 School Library Journal.

Author Biography

Patricia Hruby Powell is the author of Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker, which earned five starred reviews and won a Robert F. Sibert Nonfiction Honor, Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor, Boston Globe&;Horn Book Nonfiction Honor, and Parent&;s Choice Gold for Poetry. She is also the author of the YA documentary novel Loving Vs. Virginia, which was an Indie Next Pick; Struttin&; With Some Barbecue, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book; and Lift as You Climb, a picture book biography of Ella Baker. Visit her at

R. Gregory Christie received a Caldecott Honor for his illustrations in Freedom in Congo Square, written by Carole Boston Weatherford. He is a three-time recipient of The New York Times&;s 10 Best Illustrated Children&;s Books of the Year Award, a six-time recipient of the Coretta Scott King Honor Award in Illustration, and a winner of the Boston Globe­&;Horn Book Award, the NAACP&;s Image Award, and the Once Upon a World Children&;s Book Award from the Museum of Tolerance. Visit Mr. Christie&;s website at - (Simon and Schuster)


A picture-book portrait of the history-shaping civil rights activist by the author of the Coretta Scott King Award-winning Josephine and the Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator of Freedom in Congo Square also shares insight into Baker’s lifelong commitment to grassroots community mentoring. 25,000 first printing. Simultaneous eBook. Illustrations. - (Baker & Taylor)

"A picture book about the life of civil rights activist Ella Baker"--Provided by publisher. - (Baker & Taylor)

Learn about the civil rights activist Ella Baker in this inspiring picture book from Sibert Honor winner Patricia Hruby Powell and Caldecott Honor winner R. Gregory Christie.

&;What do you hope to accomplish?&; asked Ella Baker&;s granddaddy when she was still a child.
Her mother provided the answer: &;Lift as you climb.&;

Long before the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, Ella Baker worked to lift others up by fighting racial injustice and empowering poor African Americans to stand up for their rights. Her dedication and grassroots work in many communities made her a valuable ally for leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and she has been ranked as one of the most influential women in the civil rights movement. In the 1960s she worked to register voters and organize sit-ins, and she became a teacher and mentor to many young activists.

Caldecott Honor winner R. Gregory Christie&;s powerful pictures pair with Patricia Hruby Powell&;s poignant words to paint a vivid portrait of the fight for the freedom of the human spirit. - (Simon and Schuster)

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