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Featured books by Kadir Nelson

Kadir Nelson's illustrations enlarge poems, tall tales, biographies, and more. His work is not only artistically accomplished, but varied. Get to know 12 brothers who dance the night away, much to the chagrin of their father who buys their shoes. Meet a woman who spoke to God as she helped people find freedom. See the greats of the Negro League in original text and luminous illustration. Savor the work of award-winning author and illustrator Kadir Nelson.

Ellington Was Not a Street

By: Ntozake Shange, Kadir Nelson
Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Handsome illustrations of Shange's evocative poem, "Mood Indigo," pay homage to the many African American icons and visionaries who came to the author's house when she was a child. From W.E.B. DuBois to Duke Ellington, the people we now know as luminaries are seen from the perspective of a young girl. This book is sure to generate discussion.

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands

By: Kadir Nelson
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

The familiar spiritual is reinvigorated by the child-like perspective of Nelson's illustrations. Luminous scenes show a child's view of the world and how one handsome boy can literally hold it in his hands.

Heart & Soul: The Story of America and African Americans

By: Kadir Nelson
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

This survey of transformative events in American and African American history is presented in an informal text and striking illustrations in an oversized format.

Just the Two of Us

By: Will Smith, Kadir Nelson
Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Jubilant illustrations show how a father supports his son as he grows into a man and eventually becomes a father himself. The text is from Will Smith's popular song of the same name, and is distinguished by luminous, full-color paintings that make the words sing.

Nelson Mandela

By: Kadir Nelson
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

"This picture-book biography matches Mandela's outsize achievements with large, powerful images, resulting in a presentation that will seize and hold readers' attention…Nelson's paintings range from poignant, when Mandela's mother tells him good-bye as he leaves home for more education at the age of nine, to exuberant, when Mandela and 100 men arrested for protesting apartheid respond by dancing and singing, to inspiring, when people organize rallies demanding his release. When freedom finally comes, 'a colorful sea of people' celebrate." — School Library Journal

We Are the Ship: The Story of the Negro League Baseball

By: Kadir Nelson
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

An introduction by baseball great Hank Aaron opens this riveting look at the history of the Negro League. A large format supports revealing portraits of League players and an absorbing narration revealed in nine innings. Endnotes and further readings conclude this memorable and accessible history.

Books illustrated by Kadir Nelson

A Nation's Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis

By: Matt de la Peña
Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Joe Louis' boxing match against Max Schmeling in 1938 reverberated in the U.S. and through the world. Its drama is presented in rhythmic text and stunning illustrations.

A Strong Right Arm: The Story of Mamie "Peanut" Johnson

By: Michelle Green
Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

At just over 5 feet tall, no one thought Mamie Johnson, also known as "Peanut" because of her size, would become a baseball star. But she sure could pitch! The author collaborated with the actual Mamie Johnson to tell the riveting — and real — story of how Peanut Johnson became one of three women to play professionally in the Negro Baseball League.

Abe's Honest Words

By: Doreen Rappaport
Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

A straightforward overview of Lincoln's life is punctuated by Lincoln's words and commanding images. Additional resources for further reading and research are included as are sources used in this unforgettable book.

Brothers of the Knight

By: Debbie Allen
Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

In a little "village called Harlem" a Preacher Knight tries to solve the mystery of worn out sneakers – only to discover that his sons are as fond of dancing as is (surprise!) their father. This parody of the Grimm folktale is recast in a fresh, funny, contemporary, and very hip setting – in both word and image.

Coretta Scott

By: Ntozake Shange
Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

"Unflinching verse and elegant imagery combine in a powerful, evocative, picture-book portrait of Coretta Scott King. As stated on the cover, Shange uses poetry to recount Coretta Scott’s life, from her childhood to her marriage with Martin Luther King, Jr. On the final page, the author offers a linear, prose biography, adding context to her more abstract references in the poetry." — Booklist

Crazy Horse's Vision

By: Joseph Bruchac
Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Product Description: Joseph Bruchac tells the compelling story of how a young boy named Curly seeks a vision in the hope of saving his people — and grows into the brave and fierce warrior Crazy Horse. Sioux artist S. D. Nelson's paintings, in the traditional ledger style of the Plains Indians, evokes the drama and the tragedy of this important American figure.

Ellington Was Not a Street

By: Ntozake Shange, Kadir Nelson
Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Handsome illustrations of Shange's evocative poem, "Mood Indigo," pay homage to the many African American icons and visionaries who came to the author's house when she was a child. From W.E.B. DuBois to Duke Ellington, the people we now know as luminaries are seen from the perspective of a young girl. This book is sure to generate discussion.

Henry's Freedom Box

By: Ellen Levine
Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

This riveting account is based on the true story of Henry Brown, a slave who literally mailed himself to freedom. Dramatic illustrations show what young Henry endured during his grueling trip to Pennsylvania.

Hewitt Anderson's Great Big Life

By: Jerdine Nolen
Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

A normal-sized boy may not be so normal when born into a family of giants. And, that's just what happens to Hewitt – and his story makes a rousing tale of colossal proportions, told in lively language and larger-than-life illustrations.

I Have a Dream

By: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Perhaps one of the best known speeches of the 20th century, Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" has been combined with lush paintings in a large format for a new generation. Included in this stunning book is a CD of Dr. King's original speech.

Just the Two of Us

By: Will Smith, Kadir Nelson
Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Jubilant illustrations show how a father supports his son as he grows into a man and eventually becomes a father himself. The text is from Will Smith's popular song of the same name, and is distinguished by luminous, full-color paintings that make the words sing.

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom

By: Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Dramatic full color illustrations (which won a Caldecott Honor) and splendid, poetic language depict the bravery of Harriet Tubman, who escaped slavery on a Maryland plantation only to return again and again to help other slaves escape. Deeply religious, Harriet became known as the Moses of her people and a conductor on the Underground Railroad.

Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream

By: Roslyn Jordan, Deloris Jordan
Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Michael Jordan was not always a superstar basketball player. In fact, he was a normal, awkward kid who puts salt in his shoe to help him grow. This inspirational story is told by those who have the inside scoop — Jordan's mother and sister, and illustrated by Nelson's signature paintings which emphasize the boy's gangly stature.

Testing the Ice

By: Sharon Robinson
Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Baseball great, Jackie Robinson, never joined his children at the lake near their Connecticut home until the winter he made sure its ice was safe for skating. His daughter recognizes that courage is shown in many ways — from testing ice to breaking the baseball color barrier. Rich illustrations extend this well-told family story.

The Village that Vanished

By: Ann Grifalconi
Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Abikanile and her mother help their Yao village in Africa avoid the slavers, which requires courage and standing together. This original story of resourcefulness and solidarity is told in the tradition of a folktale. Handsomely crafted illustrations echo its mystery and magic.

Thunder Rose

By: Jerdine Nolen
Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

"Thunder Rose is an African-American child born on a stormy night abuzz with booming thunder, flashing lightning, and hailing rain. Her parents are awestruck by her remarkable gifts, which include forming a ball out of lightning, speaking in full sentences minutes after her birth, and snoring through a booming, thunderous rumble… Nolen and Nelson offer up a wonderful tale of joy and love, as robust and vivid as the wide West. The oil, watercolor, and pencil artwork is outstanding. A splendid, colorful, and most welcome addition to the tall-tale genre." — School Library Journal

Under the Christmas Tree

By: Nikki Grimes
Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

The joy of Christmas is told from a child's point of view in a series of poems, illustrated with warm and gentle illustrations. The universal pleasure in the season is set in the cozy warmth of a loving family.

Interested in wonderful interviews with tween and teen authors? Hop on over to our sister site, AdLit.org, and browse the library.

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"Today a reader, tomorrow a leader." — Margaret Fuller