Dovey Johnson Roundtree was a civil rights activist, attorney, minister and one of the first women to be commissioned as an army officer. Before her death in 2018, Roundtree teamed with Katie McCabe (Mighty Justice) to write We Wait for the Sun, a picture book about an ordinary outing made extraordinary. The result is a resplendent piece of art about the grace and strength young Roundtree perceived in her maternal family's matriarch.
Dovey "believed that a better day was coming for African American people, because that was what she had been taught by her bold and brave grandmother, Rachel Bryant Graham." As We Wait for the Sun depicts, "Dovey loved to tell stories about her Grandma Rachel." Here, we have the tale of an early-morning berry-picking expedition. Doting yet stoic Grandma Rachel helps Dovey deal with her fear of the dark as they travel through the pre-dawn forest. While every moment of the trip is etched in adult Dovey's memory, it is the sunrise that leaves the biggest impression: "When I think of Grandma, I see her... face upturned to meet the dawn. Always, I see her waiting for the sun."
The prose is descriptive and sparse, leaving plenty of space for Raissa Figueroa's illustrations to command the page, her digital backdrops transitioning from deep plum and blue tones to a more radiant, flaxen palette with the sun's rise. Figueroa (Oona) shows her immense talent by using the ever-changing light to highlight the features of her characters, build dramatic backgrounds and develop moods that enhance the text. Readers receive further insight into both protagonists through substantial backmatter, which details Roundtree's coming of age during the Jim Crow era, a biographical statement and a timeline. --Rachel Werner, Hugo House and the Loft Literary Center faculty