God Bless the Child
By Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog Jr.; illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
Oooh ... tingles. Pair a classic song by legendary Billie Holiday with the illustrator's fascination with the Great Migration, and you've got one powerful depiction of an amazing era in African American history.
Pinkney's watercolors capture every detail in a subdued palette that brims with diffused light. You can make out the grains on wood and the hope on faces as sharecropping families leave the South behind and eke out a better existence in northern cities.
That things didn't work out so well for so many isn't dealt with here, where we're still on the cusp of something new and great. The full-bleed illustrations dwell on intimate family scenes or the sweep of cityscapes, with the storytelling left to the readers. Holiday and Herzog's lyrics suggest the fickleness of fortune; Pinkney's art picks up on its more redemptive notes.
Money, you got lots o' friends,
Crowdin' round the door,
When you're gone and spendin' ends,
They don't come no more.
Rich relations give,
Crust of bread and such,
You can help yourself,
But don't take too much!
Mama may have,
Papa may have,
But God bless the child
That's got his own!
That's got his own.
Here she is with Count Bassie. Enjoy!