Module 5: Let It Shine

Book Summary:

This is an illustrated rendering of three Spirituals: “This Little Light of Mine,” “Oh, When the Saints Go Marching In,” and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”  Ashley Bryan uses intricately cut construction paper in bright colors to build worlds based on these well-known songs.  Mr. Bryan is a well-respected illustrator having been a Coretta Scott King Award winner, as well as a Hans Christian Anderson Award nominee.

Bryan, A. (2007).  Let It Shine.New York, NY: Atheneum Books.


If you love art, color, and flawless technique then this is a book you will want to buy for your personal collection.  Mr. Bryan puts a new colorful spin on the art of paper cutting and a fresh perspective on these revered songs.  By using construction paper as his medium, Mr. Bryan seems to be reminding the reader that like construction paper these songs are familiar childhood standards; and yet beautiful and inspiring as well.

Each page turned opens a new vista to explore and wonder over.  My favorites are his exquisite flowers.  He layers color upon color; each curve of each petal and leaf delicately shaped.  In another scene we see the rainbow of the world’s existence captured within the colorful expanse of God’s hands.  Honestly, I have not been so moved by art in a long, long time.  You can feel the love of the music, the words, and the worlds Mr. Bryan has created in every detail of the art.

Professional Review:

Starred Review. PreSchool-Grade 5—Bryan’s vibrant illustrations interpret and energize three beloved songs: “This Little Light of Mine,” “Oh, When the Saints Go Marching In,” and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” Although the artistic style is similar to that in All Night, All Day (Atheneum, 1991), here Bryan uses intricate cut-paper collages to accompany the lines of text at the bottom of the pages. Energy and movement course through many of the full-bleed illustrations, as when children-depicted in rainbow-colored silhouettes-use a boat, an airplane, a bicycle, and other means to carry their lights “Ev’ry where I go.” At other times, the images offer comfort and security, as large multicolored hands embrace the world’s wonders and “the little bitty baby” is cradled in an adult’s protective arms. Simple melody lines and an explanation of the origin and importance of spirituals are appended. Yet, Bryan’s illustrations demonstrate more than words the dynamic inspiration that these songs still provide. Readers will find themselves humming as they turn the pages.—Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University, Mankato

Piehl, K. (2007).  Let it shine: three favorite spirituals[Review of the book Let it shine: Three favorite spirituals, by A. Bryan]. School Library Journal, 53(1), 113.  Retrieved from

Library Use:

This would be the time to break out the music!  A whole program could be built around books which celebrate song visually.  With older students in a school setting, the librarian and students could discuss how the art adds to the music and how the music inspires the artist.  With versions of the songs playing in the background, construction paper could be provided for the students and they could work on their own illustrations for one or more of the songs.

This book could also be used as a way to discuss slavery, the history behind slavery in this country and the legacy of Spirituals in today’s society.  I think this use would be good in a classroom setting maybe in Junior year in Texas when American history is studied.

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Filed under 5420 Literature for Youth

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