- Lift as You Climb: The Story of Ella Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell
Powell, Patricia Hruby Lift as You Climb: The Story of Ella Baker; illus. by R. Gregory Christie. McElderry, 2020 [48p] Trade ed. ISBN 9781534406230 $17.99 E-book ed. ISBN 9781534406247 $10.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 2-4
Ella Baker doesn't receive the same attention as other key workers in the civil rights movement, and Powell (author of Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker, BCCB 1/14) redresses that lack in this picture book biography. The granddaughter of formerly enslaved people, Baker was a whip-smart student who moved to New York after graduating from college and quickly got involved in activism there. Her real watershed moment was getting a job with the NAACP, where Baker notably differed from leadership in her focus on grassroots action and listening to the constituency rather than charismatic command, and in her concerns about the sexism of the movement. Powell's spare lines of ragged right prose keep a tight thematic focus on Baker's commitment, with useful repetition of the title concept and of Baker's guiding question, "What do you hope to accomplish?" Baker was a widely connected figure so her life provides a quick microcosm of much of the civil rights movement, but the book also notes the importance of her challenging some of the movement's aspects. Christie's paintings evince his familiar strong, vividly modeled [End Page 492] faces; Baker ("always the poised lady") is notable for her erect carriage, trim presentation, and unmistakable dignity. An author's note gives more information about Baker's life and the organizations she worked with; also included are a timeline, a bibliography, and a list of interviews and oral histories.