Grammy Award winner Rhiannon Giddens celebrates Black history and culture in her unflinching, uplifting, and gorgeously illustrated picture book debut.
I learned your words and wrote my song. I put my story down.
As an acclaimed musician, singer, songwriter, and cofounder of the traditional African American string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Rhiannon Giddens has long used her art to mine America’s musical past and manifest its future, passionately recovering lost voices and reconstructing a nation’s musical heritage. Written as a song to commemorate the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth—which was originally performed with famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma—and paired here with bold illustrations by painter Monica Mikai, Build a House tells the moving story of a people who would not be moved and the music that sustained them. Steeped in sorrow and joy, resilience and resolve, turmoil and transcendence, this dramatic debut offers a proud view of history and a vital message for readers of all ages: honor your heritage, express your truth, and let your voice soar, even—or perhaps especially—when your heart is heaviest.
About the Author
Rhiannon Giddens is a musician, singer, songwriter, author, MacArthur Fellow, Pulitzer Prize winner, founding member of the traditional African American string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops, and the artistic director at Silkroad. She has won two Grammy Awards and has been nominated for an additional six for her work as both a soloist and a collaborator. Her lifelong mission is to uplift people, particularly Black Americans, whose contributions to American musical history previously have been ignored or erased, and to work toward a more accurate understanding of the country’s musical origins. The author of Build a House, illustrated by Monica Mikai, and We Could Fly, illustrated by Briana Mukodiri Uchendu, Rhiannon Giddens lives in Limerick, Ireland.
Monica Mikai studied painting and earned an MFA at the New York Studio School. She is the illustrator of The Proudest Color by Sheila Modir and Jeffrey Kashou and My Mother’s Wildest Dreams by John A. Light. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
This deeply moving portrait of the push and pull of history is made concrete through Mikai’s art. . . Giddens’ powerful, spare poetry, spanning centuries of American history, is breathtaking. Readers who discover her music through this book and the online recording (included as a QR code) will be forever glad they picked up this book. . . . A stunning, honest, yet age-appropriate depiction of historical injustice.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
In near-singable text, musician Giddens (co-founder of the Carolina Chocolate Drops) brings to life a lyrical tale of Black trials, triumphs, determination, and home. . . . Mikai’s warm-toned digital illustrations, awash in blues, greens, and browns, portray the family’s closeness to the land and its steadfast commitment to land ownership.
—The Horn Book
Start this book at the back, where there's a QR code to scan. As you listen to the powerful, plaintive strains of Giddens' voice, accompanied by Yo-Yo Ma on the cello as they perform Build a House, turn the pages and follow the story in the illustrations. . . Build a House is brimming with energy, simultaneously placid and raging.
In a few short stanzas, this story-song encapsulates and sets to haunting, minor-key music the African American experience of being taken as slaves and forced to work, then emancipated only to continue to face endless racism. . . the historical Black experience in America gains an excellent conversation starter here.
—School Library Journal
Through the rhythm of words, the lyricism of images, and the power of song, Rhiannon Giddens makes storytelling come alive. Build a House is a story to tell and to remember.