Review: Loretta Little Looks Back: Three Voices Go Tell It

Title: Loretta Little Looks Back: Three Voices Go Tell It
Author: Andrea Davis Pinkney, Brian Pinkney (illustrator)
Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: September 29, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★


Goodreads Synopsis:

From bestselling and award-winning husband and wife team Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney, comes an innovative, beautifully illustrated novel that delivers a front-row seat to the dramatic events that led to African Americans earning the right to vote.

“Right here, I’m sharing the honest-to-goodness.” -Loretta

“I’m gon’ reach back, and tell how it all went. I’m gon’ speak on it. My way.” -Roly

“I got more nerve than a bad tooth. But there’s nothing bad about being bold.” -Aggie B.

Loretta, Roly, and Aggie B., members of the Little family, each present the vivid story of their young lives, spanning three generations. Their separate stories – beginning in a cotton field in 1927 and ending at the presidential election of 1968 — come together to create one unforgettable journey. 

Through an evocative mix of fictional first-person narratives, spoken-word poems, folk myths, gospel rhythms and blues influences, Loretta Little Looks Back weaves an immersive tapestry that illuminates the dignity of sharecroppers in the rural South. Inspired by storytelling’s oral tradition, stirring vignettes are presented in a series of theatrical monologues that paint a gripping, multidimensional portrait of America’s struggle for civil rights as seen through the eyes of the children who lived it. The novel’s unique format invites us to walk in their shoes. Each encounters an unexpected mystical gift, passed down from one family member to the next, that ignites their experience what it means to reach for freedom.


Loretta, Roly, and Aggie were three generations of a Black family who lived in the American south in the early 20th century. They each had different perspectives on their lives, which they tell in their monologues in each part of this book. Loretta lived with her father and two sisters, on a farm where they picked cotton. They weren’t officially slaves, but they were often treated as if they were. One day, Loretta and her sisters found a baby in a field, who became their brother Roly. During Roly’s childhood, they were able to buy their own piece of land. When Roly got older, he married and had a daughter named Aggie. His wife left when Aggie was a newborn, leaving Aggie in the care of Roly and Loretta. Aggie grew up in the 1960s, so she had a completely different perspective on the world than her older relatives.

Most of the stories that I’ve read about slaves or their ancestors have been for adults, so I loved that this one was for children. There were some tough scenes, such as when Loretta’s father was insulted by his boss or when their farm was attacked just because they were Black. These are important parts of history that need to be taught to everyone.

Even though these three storytellers were from the same family, they had different perspectives on the world. Loretta had seen her father suffer, and she had suffered herself while picking cotton. Roly was just a few years younger than her but he had a different upbringing. He had a more comfortable life, looking after the animals on their farm, and he wasn’t interested in moving higher in the world. Loretta was inspired by the civil rights movement of the 60s and wanted to make a change in the world. Though they were from the same family and lived in the same place, the time period that they were living in changed the way they viewed the world.

This is a beautiful and important children’s book.

Thank you Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and Wunderkind PR for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Brian Pinkney (illustrator)

Have you read Loretta Little Looks Back: Three Voices Go Tell It? What did you think of it?

Author: jilljemmett

Jill lives in Toronto, Canada. She has studied English, Creative Writing, and Publishing. Jill is the creator and content producer of Jill’s Book Blog, where she has published a blog post every day for the last four years, including 5-7 book reviews a week. She can usually be found with her nose in a book.

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