Cover image for Our children can soar : a celebration of Rosa, Barack, and the pioneers of change
Our children can soar : a celebration of Rosa, Barack, and the pioneers of change
1st U.S. ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Bloomsbury, 2009.
Physical Description:
1 v. (unpaged) : col. ill. ; 29 cm.
Reading Level:
260 L Lexile
Added Author:
Part historical, part poetry, and entirely inspirational, this unique picture book takes the reader through the cumulative story of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, expanding the popular slogan beyond Matin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and Barack Obama to include more key players in the struggle for equality.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book J 920 COO 1 1
Book J 920 COO 1 1
Book E 920 COO 1 1

On Order



Rosa sat so
Martin could march.
Martin marched so
Barack could run.
Barack ran so
Our children can soar.

This is the seed of a unique and inspirational picture book text, that is part historical, part poetry, and entirely inspirational. It symbolically takes the reader through the cumulative story of the US Civil Rights Movement, showing how select pioneers' achievements led up to this landmark moment, when we have elected our first black President.

Each historical figure is rendered by a different award-winning African-American children's book illustrator, representing the singular and vibrant contribution that each figure made.

Lending historical substance, the back matter includes brief biographies of: George Washington Carver, Jesse Owens, Hattie McDaniel, Ella Fitzgerald, Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama.

Author Notes

Foreword author not yet confirmed.

Michelle Cook is the pseudonym of a book editor/author who was thrilled to collaborate with Bloomsbury Children's Books to develop this unique text.

Illustrators and awards:
Cozbi Cabrera
R. Gregory Christie (3 time Coretta Scott King Honor, 2008 Geisel Honor)
Bryan Collier (2 Caldecott Honors, 2 CSK Awards, 3 CSK Honors)
Pat Cummings (1 CSK Award, 3 CSK Honors)
Diane and Leo Dillon (2 Caldecott Medals, 5 CSK Honors)
A.G. Ford (NY Times bestselling illustrator of Barack)
E.B. Lewis (1 Caldecott Honor, 1 CSK Award, 3 CSK Honors)
Frank Morrison (John Steptoe Award for New Talent)
James Ransome (1 CSK Award, 1 CSK Honor)
Charlotte Riley-Webb
Shadra Strickland
Eric Velasquez (John Steptoe Award)

Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 6-Similar in approach to Ntozake Shange's Ellington Was Not a Street (S & S, 2004), this book spotlights a historical African-American figure on each spread. Cook's brief words introduce 11 key individuals, beginning with "Our ancestors fought.../so George [Washington Carver] could invent./George Jesse [Owens] could sprint./Jesse sprinted...." Each stunning spread features full-bleed artwork done by a different children's book illustrator, such as James Ransome, Leo and Diane Dillon, Pat Cummings, E. B. Lewis, and Bryan Collier. Sports greats Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson verily leap from the pages. Ruby Bridges steps innocently into her school building, guarded by two federal marshals. An unknown Civil War soldier reminds readers of nameless heroes who struggled for freedom. These images will motivate students to seek further information about the people depicted here. Paragraph-length profiles of these "pioneers of change" are appended as are the artists' biographies, which will lead students to discover a rich body of work by contemporary illustrators. A perfect read-aloud to introduce a lesson on biographies or African-American studies.-Catherine Trinkle, Hickory Elementary, Avon, IN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Showcasing the art of 13 artists, this resonant book was inspired by a simple yet searing phrase that celebrates the achievements of African-Americans, which was featured, in various versions, online and at rallies during the 2008 presidential campaign. Cook's adaptation pays tribute to 10 individuals, including George Washington Carver, Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson. These figures' triumphs are shown as part of a seamless continuum: "Martin marched... so Thurgood could rule. Thurgood ruled... so Barack could run. Barack ran... so our children can soar!" The spreads understandably represent an array of artistic styles and media, yet they form a cohesive and affecting collective portrait: a musical staff swathes Pat Cummings's Ella Fitzgerald like a boa, while Shadra Strickland's Ruby Bridges is a small yet determined figure, marching up the schoolhouse steps against a backdrop of protestors. Additional images from Leo and Diane Dillon, James Ransome, E.B. Lewis, Eric Velasquez and others, corroborate Children's Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman's assertion, in the book's foreword, that African-American history is "the story of hope." Ages 4-8. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

Our ancestors George could invent. George Jesse could sprint." Lyrical prose briefly introduces young readers to African American trailblazers whose deeds opened doors through which others, including the book's intended audience, could pass. Each double-page spread is illustrated by a different artist (e.g., Bryan Collier, the Dillons, E. B. Lewis), all presenting dramatic interpretations of the text. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Celebration, inspiration, and connection are the themes that drive this big, handsome picture book with art by 13 leading artists. There is the celebration of the historic 2008 presidential election, its connection with the African American trailblazers and leaders that made it possible, and inspiration for young people today. Based on phrases that appeared at rallies, on blogs, and in text messages during the election, the spare words focus on the exciting biography and history: Ella sang . . . so Jackie could score. Jackie scored . . . so Rosa could sit. In their signature styles, many great artists are at their best here, including E. B. Lewis, Bryan Collier, Leo and Diane Dillon, and AG Ford. James Ransome's beautiful opening painting, accompanying the words our ancestors fought, shows runaway slaves, a Civil War soldier, and a story quilt. The climactic spread is Eric Velasquez's portrait of Obama as a new president before a cheering crowd. Of course there will be controversy about who is missing (no Malcolm X or W.E.B. DuBois?). And why include the actress who played the stereotyped Mammy in Gone with the Wind? But, as Marion Wright Edelman says in her foreword, the book's message of hope will inspire parents and grandparents to share their memories and talk with children about the future.--Rochman, Hazel Copyright 2009 Booklist