Cover image for A band of angels : a story inspired by the Jubilee Singers
A band of angels : a story inspired by the Jubilee Singers
Hopkinson, Deborah.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, [1999]

Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 28 cm
The daughter of a slave forms a gospel singing group and goes on tour to raise money to save Fisk University.
General Note:
"An Anne Schwartz Book."
Reading Level:
590 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 4.4 0.5 26995.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 3.6 3 Quiz: 21992 Guided reading level: N.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PIC. BK Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The story of the Jubilee Singers after the Civil War--how they saved Fisk School (now Fisk University), and preserved such treasures as "Go Down Moses" and "Many Thousand Gone". Full color.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 2^-4, younger for reading aloud. Family history being told to young Beth by her aunt is the framework for this inspiring story of the Fisk University Jubilee Singers. Beth's great-great-grandmother Ella, who was born into slavery, and who struggled to save enough money to go to Fisk, is based on the real-life Ella Sheppard. Ella didn't save nearly enough, but she went to school anyway, and while there joined the chorus, which went on the road to raise money to repair Fisk's dilapidated buildings. Featuring classical pieces and other songs of white culture, the chorus' concerts drew poorly, but when Ella led the chorus members to sing their own people's spirituals, audiences flocked to hear them. The richly and dramatically told story is well matched by Colon's inspiring artwork. From the cover piece, which features Ella, her eyes closed as she sings, to the final picture, showing Beth and the spirit of Ella behind her, the art, done in Colon's signature scratchboard style infused with gold, has the harmony of the music and the spirit of the Jubilee songs. The book is cataloged as fiction, and the author's note says the story is fiction but based on real events. From the note it appears that most of the events, if not the dialogue and the introduction of the child Beth and her aunt, are factual. An unusual topic translated into a pleasing book. --Ilene Cooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

A groundbreaking African-American chorus founded in 1871 inspires this warm and moving picture book. "Grandma Ella was born into slavery... but no one could chain her voice," begins Aunt Beth in response to the girl narrator's request for her favorite story. After the Civil War, Ella becomes one of the first students to attend the Fisk School, a newly formed institution for freed slaves in Nashville. She has been at her studies only a short time when the school's run-down buildings and dire financial situation puts Fisk on the verge of closing. But Professor White, who teaches music, recruits Ella and fellow members of the school chorus to tour the northern states and raise money for Fisk. In the North, the singing group meets with harsh discrimination that moves them to perform not the slotted popular tunes of the day but the "powerful songs of courage" known as spirituals‘a program change that earns them both money and accolades. Hopkinson's (Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt) lilting text interweaves subtle details about racial tensions after the Civil War while emphasizing the importance of education and of being true to oneself. Colón's (My Mama Had a Dancing Heart) watercolor and colored-pencil compositions are awash in soft, golden light. His characteristic cross-hatching technique adds texture and depth to each painting, and scenes of the chorus lost in song‘voices raised, eyes closed‘reveal the courage and heart of these trailblazing singers. Ages 5-8. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 1-5‘This picture book is both touching and inspirational. The narrative is written from the point of view of the great-great-granddaughter of Ella Sheppard, one of the original Jubilee Singers from the Fisk School in Nashville, TN, the first school for freed slaves. As Aunt Beth tells about the struggles of Ella and the rest of the chorus to raise money to save their school, the girl imagines what her great-great-grandmother might have thought or felt. The singers traveled throughout the North after the Civil War performing popular music. However, it was only when they began to perform the "jubilee" or spiritual songs such as "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" that they gained popularity. Later, they sang for Queen Victoria and President Grant and the funds they raised helped to build Jubilee Hall and establish Fisk University. Hopkinson's poignant prose sets the tone for this glimpse into a little-known bit of black history. Using the device of a family storyteller and a child narrator brings immediacy to the tale and a personal connection to the events. Colón's soft watercolor and colored-pencil illustrations are full of gentle greens and browns. The sepia tones add an antique look to the book. This heartwarming presentation is not a historical account, but rather a human look at recorded facts. A fine read-aloud with a good story, uplifting pictures, and fascinating information.‘Beth Tegart, Oneida City Schools, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.