Posted in Preschool Reads

Mahalia Jackson: Walking with Kings and Queens is a beautiful biography for young readers

mahaliaMahalia Jackson: Walking with Kings and Queens, by Nina Nolan/illus. by John Holyfield (2015, Amistad/HarperCollins),$17.99, ISBN: 978-0-06-087944-0

Recommended for ages 6-10

Mahalia Jackson had a voice that could make the world stop. I’m only familiar with her through my mom’s records and Ms. Jackson’s enduring performance as a choir soloist in the movie Imitation of Life, but once you’ve heard her sing, her voice is with you forever.

Walking with Kings and Queens is Mahalia’s story, from her New Orleans childhood to her performance at the March on Washington. It’s a story of determination and endurance, of her faith, and her talent. Orphaned at a young age, she lived with her aunts, forced to drop in and out of school as other duties made themselves known. She always had her singing, though. As a child, it made her feel like a peacock, spreading his feathers, and as she grew, it was a source of strength and comfort to her. She drove to churches that would pay her to sing, and was finally noticed by someone from Decca Records. From there, her gospel was heard far and wide. Her aunt once told her she would “walk with kings and queens” one day, but she never counted on being a queen herself – the queen of gospel.

This book is gorgeous, with beautiful acrylic paintings bringing out the true joy that singing brought Mahalia Jackson. Her face is always tilted upward, illustrating her relationship with God and her music, a beatific smile lighting up her face. The story emphasizes Mahalia’s determination not only to keep singing, but her determination to continue her education. There are positive messages to be found through this whole story, and I’m hoping it finds a place on library and classroom shelves to introduce a new generation of listeners to Mahalia Jackson and her amazing voice.



I'm a mom, a children's librarian, bibliophile, and obsessive knitter. I'm a pop culture junkie and a proud nerd, and favorite reads usually fall into Sci-Fi/Fantasy. I review comics and graphic novels at WhatchaReading ( I'm also the co-founder of On Wednesdays We Wear Capes (, where I discuss pop culture and geek fandom from a female point of view.

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