Cover image for Shining
Lester, Julius.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
San Diego : Silver Whistle, 2003.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 28 cm
A young girl who has not uttered a sound since birth is shunned by the people in her village, until they realize how special she is.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 4.0 0.5 72200.
Geographic Term:
Added Author:
Electronic Access:
Publisher description
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Frank E. Merriweather Library PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books

On Order



In a small mountain village, a young girl named Shining is born. As she grows, Shining runs, plays, and smiles like other children, but she does so silently. The villagers fear and shun her, but Shining remains silent and waits for the right moment, and for the right sound, to come--a sound so true, it will win the hearts of her people . . . and win Shining her rightful place as their leader.
Newbery Honor author Julius Lester has created a powerful tale about the importance of remaining true to one's self and finding one's voice. John Clapp's luminous paintings add a breathtaking dimension to Shining, a character as distinct and enchanting as the world she inhabits.
Notes by the author and the illustrator supplement the text.

Author Notes

Julius Bernard Lester was born in St. Louis, Missouri on January 27, 1939. He received a bachelor's degree in English from Fisk University in 1960. He moved to New York to become a folk singer. He performed on the coffeehouse circuit as a singer and guitarist. He released two albums entitled Julius Lester in 1965 and Departures in 1967. His first published book, The Folksinger's Guide to the 12-String Guitar as Played by Leadbelly written with Pete Seeger, was published in 1965.

In the 1960s, Lester was closely involved as a writer and photographer with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He traveled to the South to document the civil rights movement and to North Vietnam to photograph the effects of American bombardment. He also hosted radio and television talk shows in New York City.

He wrote more than four dozen nonfiction and fiction books for adults and children. His books for adults included Look Out, Whitey!: Black Power's Gon' Get Your Mama, Revolutionary Notes, All Is Well, Lovesong: Becoming a Jew, and The Autobiography of God. His children's books included To Be a Slave, Sam and the Tigers, and Day of Tears: A Novel in Dialogue, which won the American Library Association's Coretta Scott King Award in 2006. He also wrote reviews and essays for numerous publications including The New York Times Book Review, The Boston Globe, The Village Voice, Dissent, The New Republic, and the Los Angeles Times Book Review.

After teaching for two years at the New School for Social Research in New York, Lester joined the faculty of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1971. He originally taught in the Afro-American studies department, but transferred to the Judaic and Near Eastern studies department when Lester criticized the novelist James Baldwin for what he felt were anti-Semitic remarks. He died from complications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on January 18, 2018 at the age of 78.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

As he writes in an introductory note, Lester (To Be a Slave) explains that just as a composer creates variations around a musical theme, this story is "a set of variations around the theme of the color black," and that he has aimed to create figures of speech that associate black with "goodness and beauty." In this goal he succeeds; however, his story feels more cryptic than intriguing. In a mountain village, a baby is born who is "black as wisdom." Since "she is so black her skin shines bright like the sun," she is called Shining. But the baby makes no sounds at all and remains silent as she grows older. Fearing that "an evil spirit has taken her voice," Shining's mother carries her into the forest to find "The One." The latter whispers to Shining that she will meet her "on the other side of Silence." Much later, after the village has punished the mute girl, The One anoints Shining as her successor, whereupon the girl utters a "wordless song as soft as blackness." Making striking use of light, shadow and splashes of vivid color, Clapp (The Prince of Butterflies) mixes abstract and realistic styles to capture the tale's mystery and emotion. Some of Clapp's work demonstrates extraordinary proficiency, e.g., a portrait of tiny Shining held by her mother as they make their way through an almost pitch-black forest. But there is little in either the art or the text to welcome a child's imagination. Ages 6-9. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 3-5-This is the tale of a girl "as black and silent as wonder" who is born in a nameless, timeless village "far, far away." The preternaturally quiet baby, named Shining because her skin is so black that it "shines bright like the sun," grows into an elective mute, able but not willing to speak. Her silence elicits fear and worry in her parents, who take her to see the mystical "One," who guards the souls of the living and the dead. The One says that, for Shining, the failure to talk, cry, and laugh is normal, and she vows to meet the girl "on the other side of Silence." Years pass, and on the day 12-year-old Shining is to begin preparing for the ceremonial training that will teach her the ways of women, the townspeople tell her that she can no longer live among them. Shining slumps to the ground "as if killed by a knife as sharp as a lie." A year goes by, and when she finally awakens, she is greeted by The One, who announces that the girl is "The One who will be." The illustrations, done in graphite, charcoal, chalk, pastels, and various types of paint, are dark and haunting. The book is filled with Lester's striking similes and use of language, but its somber, moody appearance and puzzling and sober text make for a work that does not have great child appeal.-Anna DeWind Walls, Milwaukee Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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