The Undefeated

By: Kwame Alexander

Illustrator: Kadir Nelson

Originally performed for ESPN's The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world's greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present.

Author’s note. Further information on people and events in book. Full-color illustrations.

ISBN: 9781328780966

JLG Release: Jul 2019


Sensitive Areas: Discrimination: Racial Insensitivity/Racism, Violence: Mild Violence
Topics: African Americans , Children’s poetry , Courage , Persistence , Bravery , US history

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Awards & Honors

2019 Kirkus Prize Finalist
2019 National Book Award Longlist
Kirkus Best Books - 2019
Publishers Weekly Best Books - 2019
SLJ Best Books - 2019
Horn Book Fanfare - 2019
NPR’s Book Concierge - 2019
CPL Best Books - 2019
CSMCL Best Books - 2019
2020 Newbery Honor Book
2020 Caldecott Medal Winner
2020 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Book Award Winner

Praise & Reviews

Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:

The Horn Book Magazine*, Kirkus Reviews*, Publishers Weekly*, Booklist*

Horn Book

Alexander and Nelson honor the achievements, courage, and perseverance of ordinary black people as well as prominent black artists, athletes, and activists. The free-verse poem begins: “This is for the unforgettable. / The swift and sweet ones / who hurdled history / and opened a world / of possible. The ones who survived / America / by any me Alexander and Nelson honor the achievements, courage, and perseverance of ordinary black people as well as prominent black artists, athletes, and activists. The free-verse poem begins: “This is for the unforgettable. / The swift and sweet ones / who hurdled history / and opened a world / of possible. The ones who survived / America / by any means necessary. / And the ones who didn’t.” While some events (e.g., the transatlantic slave trade) are “unspeakable,” Alexander’s words convey a sense of pride at what his “unflappable” and “unafraid” ancestors have accomplished and continue to do despite racial oppression. He incorporates the words of black icons (such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) and movements (Black Lives Matter), creating a through-line from past to present. Nelson’s paintings effectively use white space to extend the text and amplify its meaning. For example, the image of enslaved people on ships shows the figures in cramped quarters—a double-page spread compact with black bodies; while what accompanies the text for “the ones who didn’t [survive]” is simply two blank pages. The realistic oil paintings convey racial oppression in the past (black-and-white images of the four little girls who were killed during the church bombing in Birmingham) and present (full-color paintings of African American boys killed recently by police)— demonstrating that racism remains deeply entrenched in America today. Nelson depicts numerous famous people whom adults and children may recognize, from Billie Holiday to LeBron James, as well as others (Sarah Vaughan, Romare Bearden) whose faces and stories they may not know. The book concludes with an afterword by Alexander and an annotated list of historical figures and events featured in The Undefeated.

Book Details

ISBN

9781328780966

First Release

July 2019

Genre

Fic

Dewey Classification

811.6

Trim Size

10 1/2" x 11"

Page Count

40

Accelerated Reader

Level 2.6; Points: 0.5;

Scholastic Reading Counts

N/A

Lexile

N/A

Format

Print Book

Edition

Hardcover edition

Publisher

Versify

Potentially Sensitive Areas

Discrimination: Racial Insensitivity/Racism, Violence: Mild Violence

Topics

African Americans, Children’s poetry, Courage, Persistence, Bravery, US history,

Standard MARC Record

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Cover Art

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