The Undefeated

Written by: Kwame Alexander

Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson

For ages: 7 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Black Identity & Culture, Resilience, Trailblazers, History, Oppression, Enslavement. 


Honestly, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to review The Undefeated.  It’s beautiful and powerful and required reading.  For #sweetsandsocialjustice this week I’ve paired some baked donuts and the oh-so-trendy whipped coffee (seriously it is delicious) with this book.

Told as a letter to Black America, this story wends and weaves throughout history to the present and reminding those today to persevere and continue to create good.  The book is a call to action and an ode to history, not shying away from the atrocities both from history and current day.  Humanity is unstoppable, but moreso is Black America.  The systemic oppression that has been baked into the country from day one is hellbent on the failure of so many marginalized folks (read: non-white, not heterosexual, transgender, etc.), and this book calls out the great trailblazing voices of Black America.  These verses are both powerful and difficult, filled with emotion and hope.  It is packed with historical figures and additional information in the back with every person mentioned in the book.  The Undefeated is a wealth of information and feeling, and my words cannot do it justice.  It can be read again and again and readers will every time gain new appreciate for the lilting words by Kwame Alexander and stunning artwork by Kadir Nelson.  Please, if you haven’t done so, do yourself a favor and find a copy of this book.

About the Author & the Illustrator:


Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and the New York Times Bestselling author of 32 books, including THE UNDEFEATED, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, HOW TO READ A BOOK, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, SWING, REBOUND, which was shortlisted for prestigious Carnegie Medal, and, his NEWBERY medal-winning middle grade novel, THE CROSSOVER. Some of his other works include BOOKED, a NATIONAL BOOK AWARD Nominee, THE PLAYBOOK: 52 RULES TO HELP YOU AIM, SHOOT, AND SCORE IN THIS GAME OF LIFE, and the picture books SURF’S UP, and OUT OF WONDER, which won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award.

A regular contributor to NPR’s Morning Edition, Kwame is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including The Coretta Scott King Author Honor, The Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Prize, Three NAACP Image Award Nominations, the 2017 Inaugural Pat Conroy Legacy Award, The Dominion Energy Strong Men and Women of Virginia, and The 2018 NEA Read Across America Ambassador. Kwame’s belief in the power of poetry and literature to inspire, engage, and empower young people is the guiding force behind the #AllBooksForAllKids initiative he created in partnership with Follett. Kwame is the Founding Editor of VERSIFY, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers whose mission to Change the World One Word at a Time. He’s led cultural exchange delegations to Brazil, Italy, Singapore, and Ghana, where he built the Barbara E. Alexander Memorial Library and Health Clinic, as a part of LEAP for Ghana, an international literacy program he co-founded.


Kadir Nelson (b. 1974) is an American artist who currently exhibits his artwork in galleries and museums nationwide and abroad. His paintings are in the private and public permanent collections of several notable institutions including the Muskegon Museum of Art, The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, the International Olympic Committee, and the US House of Representatives. Nelson has also authored and illustrated several award-winning NYT Best-Selling picture books including, “WE ARE THE SHIP: The Story of Negro League Baseball” and “Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans.” Nelson states, “I feel that art’s highest function is that of a mirror, reflecting the innermost beauty and divinity of the human spirit; and is most effective when it calls the viewer to remember one’s highest self. I choose subject matter that has emotional and spiritual resonance and focuses on the journey of the hero as it relates to the personal and collective stories of people.“

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