Lift as You Climb: The Story of Ella Baker

Written By: Patricia Hruby Powell

Illustrated by: R. Gregory Christie

For Ages: 8-12 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Black Culture & Identity, Activism, History, Historical Figures, Modern Black Freedom Struggle, Voting, Community Organizing, Women in Leadership, Civil Rights.


This week for #sweetsandsocialjustice I’m really excited to have a book aimed at older readers about prolific activist Ella Baker. She was integral to so many parts of the Modern Black Freedom Struggle/Civil Rights Movement, and was a mentor to young student activists as they worked for desegregation and voting rights throughout the country. For this week, I made my favorite almond cake recipe but experimented using flax meal instead of eggs. I put blackberry jam in between the layers, and put a salty chocolate buttercream on top.

The book itself is lyrical and reads like poetry, going over the early life and decades of public service that Ella put into her community. Ella was radical in the way she believed everyone should be involved in community organizing, not just the elite or highly educated. She was constantly asking everyone “what do you hope to accomplish?” and truly embodying her mothers advice to “lift as your climb”, helping everyone around her. I really enjoyed this book, and it is more abstract than picture books aimed for younger readers. There is also language typical to the time period, which may require explanation today. This book is fantastic for discussions about community organizing, voting rights, and the stark inequalities that can still be found in Black and other marginalized communities today. Ella Baker worked tirelessly with organizations like SCLC, SNCC, and the NAACP in a bottom up capacity, which was revolutionary at the time. I believe this book would be a wonderful addition to classrooms and home, with stunning illustrations and lengthy biographical pages, timeline, and lists of sources in the back.

This book was kindly sent by Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are my own.

Almond Cake: The following recipe makes one thin 8″ round cake layer. For the cake in the photos I put on Instagram, I made 2 separate layers!


2c almond meal

2/3c sugar

1/2t cinnamon

5 eggs

1t lemon juice

pinch of salt

If you want to use flax as a replacement for eggs: I mix 1T flax meal and 3 T water *per egg you are replacing* and let it sit for 15-30 minutes in the fridge.


Whisk together dry ingredients. Add in eggs/flax and lemon. The batter will be thick, and thicker if not using eggs. Put into prepared 8″ cake pan, I prefer to line mine on the bottom with parchment. Bake at 325 for 45 minutes to an hour. The cake is soft, but it does take longer than you think because its solely almond meal!

Patricia Hruby Powell

Patricia Hruby Powell was formerly a dancer, storyteller, and librarian. Her four latest books are Junior Library Guild Selections and have all won numerous awards. Forthcoming are Cave of the Heart: The Story of Martha Graham (Chronicle Books 2023) and a Women’s Suffrage project (Chronicle 202x). She has been a mentor for a WNDB and SCBWI-MI.

Patricia is married to Morgan Powell, composer and jazz trombonist. Together, they live with their Tree Walking Coonhound, Lil.

R. Gregory Christie

R. Gregory Christie is a multi-award-winning children’s book illustrator with more than 60 traditionally published books to his credit. He is also the owner of GAS-ART GIFTS (Gregarious Art Statements) an Atlanta based traveling children’s bookstore that provides art services to private and public groups. 

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