By Amanda Gorman, illustrated by Loren Long. Viking, 2021. 32 pages. $18.99/hardcover; $10.99/eBook. (Spanish version to be published in September). Recommended for ages 4–8.
Think back to January 20, 2021. It seems like forever ago, I know—a special date on the calendar, a different kind of day. We’d had 58 inaugural ceremonies up to that point. Number 59 would be different—a different kind of inauguration for a changed country, a day of light after so much darkness.
On that day, most of the country was introduced to Amanda Gorman. Already a published poet (and the first National Youth Poet Laureate in the United States) but still widely unknown, she would grab our collective national attention with her inspiring and gripping poem, “The Hill We Climb.” And just like that we all knew who Amanda Gorman was. Later in 2021, Gorman published a collection of poetry, Call Us What We Carry, and this wonderful book for children. Change Sings is a single, simple poem, beautifully enhanced by Loren Long’s gorgeous, detailed illustrations. And the artwork here doesn’t simply show us what the poem is telling us: it’s the art itself that tells the story.
Gorman’s poem carries a message that we all desperately need to hear right now in these cynical and seemingly hopeless times: that change is possible and that that’s because change is in every one of us. If you watched her read her poem at the inauguration, you can clearly hear Gorman’s voice here, mixing current events (“I hum with a hundred hearts, / Each of us lifting a hand. / I use my strengths and my smarts, / Take a knee to make a stand.”) and history with her message.
Those words carry the message, and Loring’s illustrations present the simple story. A young girl ventures out into her community carrying her guitar. Along the way, she meets friends and neighbors of all ages and backgrounds, each bringing another instrument to the “song.” She walks past murals, through playgrounds, past porches, all the while encouraging us to find our voice and to join in, to be the change we all seek, and to do that together.
This is a wonderful book to read at bedtime, to read aloud to your class, or share with any child you know: a wonderful book for anyone who needs a little dose of hope.
David Austin serves as clerk of Haddonfield (N.J.) Meeting. He is a retired teacher. His middle-grade novel in verse recounting the true story of a Holocaust survivor, Small Miracle, is available from Fernwood Press. He is busy working on his next project, a novel about Quaker conscientious objectors during the Second World War.