The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander. unpgd. Versify/ Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2, 2019. 9781328780966. (Review of finished purchased copy.)
Two of my absolute children's literature favorite talents got together and produced a masterpiece. This! This, folks needs to be read and shared. The words alone, originally performed for ESPN, are incredibly powerful. Combined with Kadir Nelson's portraits of African Americans famous and unknown, along with a stunning and moving use of white space, the poem's emotional impact increases exponentially.
I was privileged to hear it performed by the poet at Words last week, and to hear the artist state that while he has taken to only illustrating his own work, he made an exception for this poem.
I teared up several times during Alexander's reading. I do so every time I reread it. I shared it with one of my classes and they all leaned in to listen. We took some time to identify some of the people in the portraits. Detailed backmatter will help with some less familiar faces and an author's note rounds out what should be a first-purchase for all libraries.
The Undefeated is already on the NYT bestseller list. It's getting starred reviews all over the place. It doesn't need my stinky little blog review. But, man, how I loved this book. I purchased it with the intention of donating it to my school's library, but am keeping it for my own library.