By Publishers Weekly

Rhythmic words render a rich snapshot of Maya Angelou’s remarkable rise from a little girl riding a train to an uncertain destiny in Stamps, Ark., to a revered poet invoking words to welcome a new president in Washington, D.C. Her multifaceted life and emotions are sensitively portrayed, with the joys of discovering words and performance and professional success depicted alongside the deep sorrow of childhood trauma—“One day, Maya, left alone with Mr. Freeman, is anything but free”—and her anguish following the assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. This tapestry of the highs and lows of lived experience ultimately coalesces in her enduringly popular poetic works: “Her words/ her words/ still rise. They will always/ rise/ rise/ rise.” In Engel’s colorful paintings, strong women are rooted like trees, injustices are weighed in scales, and words soar and fly, representing the magical realities, emotional expressiveness, and deep resonance of Angelou’s poetic vision.