[Book Review] The 1619 Project: Born on the Water

Book Cover of BORN ON THE WATER

Title: The 1619 Project: Born on the Water
Author: Nikole Hannah-Jones & Renée Watson
Illustrator: Nikkolas Smith
Genre: children’s picture book; poetry; history; social justice
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) The 1619 Project’s lyrical picture book in verse chronicles the consequences of slavery and the history of Black resistance in the United States, thoughtfully rendered by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and Newbery honor-winning author Renée Watson.

A young student receives a family tree assignment in school, but she can only trace back three generations. Grandma gathers the whole family, and the student learns that 400 years ago, in 1619, their ancestors were stolen and brought to America by white slave traders. But before that, they had a home, a land, a language. She learns how the people said to be born on the water survived. 

Review: 5/5 stars

Hannah-Jones and Watson craft a beautiful and poetic historical narrative that allows young children to recognize and learn about a horrific practice in a way that helps them process and learn from a place of power instead of trauma. The authors, as well as illustrator Smith, craft this beautiful, powerful, honest story about the United States that forces everyone who reads it to pause and take a second look at their own histories.

I remember those family tree assignments well. I hated them, but for a very different reason. For this narrative to be crafted around that assignment is a testament to power in and of itself. For the families of the enslaved, their histories in this country are only traceable for so far back, if at all. The way the grandmother tells this story of a proud legacy of survival and resistance.

I really appreciated the differentiation of the “immigration story.” It was so well stated, beautiful and poignant, but also easy to grasp for kids.

This is one of those essential children’s books.

Author: chelsea usher

Reader. Writer. Book Reviewer. Teacher. Traveler

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