Review: Change Sings

 Change Sings: A Children's Anthem

by Amanda Gorman, illustrated by Loren Long

Viking Books for Young Readers (imprint of Penguin Random House)

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Heidi Rabinowitz

Amanda Gorman, National Youth Poet Laureate, is the young activist poet who won accolades for her inspiring reading of "The Hill We Climb" at the presidential inauguration in 2021. Her first picture book is Change Sings: A Children's Anthem, and it carries the same strong message of empowerment. 

The nameless young narrator tells us "There is hope where my change sings" and evokes the many ways we can all work together to make the world a better place. While the lyrical text may be a bit obscure for younger readers, the realistic illustrations by Loren Long make it clear that the lovely black girl with her oversize guitar is encouraging everyone to join her in acts of tikkun olam. She hands out instruments to diverse kids to form a band, feeds the hungry, assists the disabled, reaches out to and changes the attitude of a hater, beautifies her neighborhood, and finally looks the reader directly in the eyes and invites us "Won't you sing along?" 

A remarkable thing about Loren Long's illustrations, mentioned in some mainstream reviews (Publishers Weekly) but not in others (SLJ, Kirkus), is that nearly every spread includes a young Jewish boy in a kippah, the protagonist's first recruit to her movement for change. We see a white boy in casual clothing (shorts and a baseball shirt), with the kippah on his head as the only marker of Judaism. It's not entirely uncommon to see a boy in a  kippah included in a crowd scene in modern picture books (think All Are Welcome Here or We Don't Eat Our Classmates), but this book is groundbreaking in that it is a secular book that features a Jewish child not just incidentally but front and center on nearly every page. While the content of this story may not be "Jewish enough" to qualify it for a Sydney Taylor Book Award, this level of Jewish inclusion in a book celebrating general diversity is unprecedented and very, very welcome.
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Reviewer Heidi Rabinowitz is one of the co-admins of The Sydney Taylor Shmooze, along with Susan Kusel and Chava Pinchuck. She hosts The Book of Life Podcast: A Show About Jewish Kidlit (Mostly) at Heidi is Past President of the Association of Jewish Libraries, and Library Director at Congregation B'nai Israel of Boca Raton, Florida.