Amyra Leόn, Freedom, We Sing, illustrated by Molly Mendoza

Flying Eye Books, 2020, ISBN 978-1-912497-32-4

Freedom, We Sing is a powerful exploration of freedom in picture book form, endorsed by Amnesty International for 'reminding us we are all born free and equal'. The verse narrative is a conversation between a mother and child about huge issues, not just freedom, also love, life, safety, humanity. The discussion starts at home, in a room that both honours their forebears with family pictures and that looks out to the wider world and beyond, with a telescope pointing skywards. The mother tells her child that people may have different skin colours, hair, languages and interests, but all 'Learn to walk and talk/And dance and Scream/Just like me/Or anybody.' She explains that some mothers have to run from war, doing everything they can to protect their children. 'I wonder then/What freedom is/Is it a place?/Is it a thought?/Can it be stolen/Can it be taught?', the child ponders. Mother and child regularly breathe deeply in and out as they contemplate life and their dreams. 'Breath is what makes us alive/It is a chance to swallow the sky/Breath is a reminder that history is everywhere/We are the answer to our ancestors' prayers.' The compelling text is beautifully complemented with joyful and exuberant illustrations, including a huge spread to open out.

Although some of the topics here are complex and challenging, the tone throughout is upbeat and hopeful. Amyra Leόn is a musician, poet and activist. Molly Mendoza is an illustrator and comic artist. Together they have created a true celebration of freedom and of wonder and curiosity.