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Rio Cortez

Author of The ABCs of Black History

5+ Works 306 Members 6 Reviews

Works by Rio Cortez

Associated Works

The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 2: Black Girl Magic (2016) — Contributor — 97 copies
Soul Sister Revue : A Poetry Compilation (2019) — Contributor — 6 copies, 1 review


Common Knowledge




The author's note at the beginning of this book made me very hopeful for this collection-- she explain's her freed family's traveling from Louisiana and ending up in Utah, with her 3ggrandfather being the first black police detective in Utah, where she grew up. What an amazing and interesting history.

And the collection starts out that way. It then moves into New York and pop culture references that I only half understood before reading the notes at the end. I wish poetry publishers would put the relevant note at the bottom of the poem itself--it is so disconcerting to go flipping through and looking for something (that might not actually be there) so necessary to understand a poem.… (more)
Dreesie | Jan 15, 2023 |
Note: I accessed a digital review copy of this book through Edelweiss.
fernandie | 4 other reviews | Sep 15, 2022 |
Includes "Terms and Figures" and "More to Explore". Many letters are for multiple terms and people, for example "I is for Imagine, invent, innovative! For all the ways we are creative", and has the names and illustrations for Alvin Ailey, Madam C.J. Walker, George dWashington Carver, Gwendolyn Brooks, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and DJ Kool Herc. Includes: D is for Diaspora, Q is for Queens, T is for Tuskegee,
VillageProject | 4 other reviews | Apr 13, 2022 |
Poet Rio Cortez makes learning seem more like a treat than a task. In this alphabet book for ages 6 and up, each letter is expanded upon by alliterative rhyming text and bright colorful illustrations by Lauren Semmer that offer lessons in Black history.

The lessons are couched in a positive light. Take, for example, the letter M:

M is for march, for lifting our feet,
taking the movement, the cause to the street.
Black lives matter. Every breath, every dream -
Every thought, each idea, each impossible scheme.
The might of our message is easy to hear:
The drumbeat of hope is louder than fear.”

Similarly, for S, the author doesn’t focus on slavery, but rather on more positive words starting with s: Black scientists, and Black soul artists.

He doesn’t avoid the topic of slavery however; on the U page he writes:

U is for United States - this story is tough.
The birth of a nation was deadly for us.
We the people? In the land of the free?
No one who was enslaved would agree.”

But again, he doesn’t end on a negative note, but a positive one:

"U is for unbroken, unshaken, unbound,
like Harriet Tubman, who went underground,
took back her freedom and freed hundreds more,
then was a spy in the great
Civil War.

But when the states
were united again,
the fight for our freedom
and lives didn’t end.
So U is for unfinished, this American tale.
With courage and strength, we will prevail!”

Front and back matter includes details to flesh out each entry, and lists directing readers to relevant books, websites, museums, and poetry.

Semmer’s vivid pleasing digital illustrations have a collage/folk art feel. She saturates each double-page spread with color and shows a variety of Black characters from different historical periods with different dress, hairstyles, and skin tones.

Evaluation: The message is that Black lives matter and have always been significant, whether in contributions to society or to family, as expressed on the page for L:

"L is for love. L is for love. L is always for love.”

This book would make a wonderful addition to any library or personal collection.

Note: Workman Publishing, always a source of outstanding works, has provided an excellent Educator Guide to accompany the book, online here.
… (more)
nbmars | 4 other reviews | May 13, 2021 |



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