Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson are an author/illustrator team made in heaven. They are legendary on their own, but together they pack an extraordinary punch. It only makes sense that they worked together on The Undefeated, which is a picture book that belongs in every school be it elementary or high. It is a testament to the strength of black America.
As with all of Kwame Alexander’s poetry, every word is chosen carefully and speaks volumes. Certain words are bold or bigger than others to emphasize their importance. Many of the words that are highlighted in this way are positive and empowering such as unforgettable, audacious, and righteous. A few are reminders of the incredible violence and costs of racism such as chains and unspeakable.
The language in this book is equally matched by the illustrations. Kadir Nelson has the ability to capture images with his paintbrush that rival photographs with their intensity and accuracy. His paintings communicate strength and vision on every page. There is also a helpful reference at the end of the book to the historical figures and events featured within the text.
Our nation claims to have “liberty and justice for all.” It doesn’t. This book doesn’t attempt to cover that up. Instead, it is a celebration of those who have fought and continue to fight to break down barriers for themselves and for others. Not all of these battles were successful and some had the greatest of costs. However, Alexander and Nelson remind us that black Americans have never given up and that there is no reason to give up now. This is a message of hope.
Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards:
Justice 14: I know that life is easier for some people and harder for others based on who they are and where they were born.
Justice 15: I know about the actions of people and groups who have worked throughout history to bring more justice and fairness to the world.
RL.2- Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.
RL.4- Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative language such as metaphors and similes.
RL.7- Analyze how visual and multimedia elements contribute to the meaning, tone, or beauty of a text.