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Give Me Wings

How a Choir of Slaves Took on the World

Interest Age: 11–14
Grade: 6–9
Reading Level: Common Core Correlations
CCSS.ELA-Literacy Strand-Reading literature: SL.7.1,1a,1b,1c,1d,2,3,4,5,6

Reading Level: Lexile 1020L
Hardcover : 9781554517473, 148 pages, August 2015 , 9.5" x 6.75"
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554517480, August 2015


Changing minds one song at a time.

The 1800s were a dangerous time to be a black girl in the United States, especially if you were born a slave. Ella Sheppard was such a girl, but her family bought their freedom and moved to Ohio where slavery was illegal; they even scraped enough money together to send Ella to school and buy her a piano. In 1871, when her school ran out of money and was on the brink of closure, Ella became a founding member of a traveling choir, the Jubilee Singers, to help raise funds for the Fisk Free Colored School, later known as Fisk University.

The Jubilee Singers traveled from Cincinnati to New York, following the Underground Railroad. With every performance they endangered their lives and those of the people helping them, but they also broke down barriers between blacks and whites, lifted spirits, and even helped influence modern American music: the Jubilees were the first to introduce spirituals outside their black communities, thrilling white audiences who were used to more sedate European songs.

Framed within Ella’s inspiring story, Give Me Wings! is narrative nonfiction at its finest, taking readers through one of history’s most tumultuous and dramatic times, touching on the Civil War, Emancipation, and the Reconstruction Era.

Click here to listen to the Publishers Weekly KidsCast: A Conversation with Kathy Lowinger.


  • Best Books for Kids & Teens, *starred selection, Canadian Children’s Book Centre 2016
  • Nominated, Golden Oak Award nomination, Ontario Library Association 2016
  • Joint winner, Skipping Stones Honor Book 2016
  • Winner, Gelett Burgess Award 2016
  • Short-listed, Montaigne Medal finalist, Eric Hoffer Award 2016
  • Joint winner, Independent Publishers Book Award 2017
  • Joint winner, Nautilus Book Award 2017
  • Short-listed, Red Cedar Award finalist, B.C.’s Young Readers’ Choice Awards 2016
  • Short-listed, Indiefab Book of the Year Awards finalist, Foreword Reviews 2016


“A story of triumph.”

- The Pirate Tree, 08/04/15

“Recommended for all libraries, this excellent title will be especially useful in collaboration with school curricula.”

- School Library Journal, *starred review, 08/15

“Beautiful, informative, and inspiring.”

- The Literate Quilter, 08/16/15

“Well-written . . . lavishly illustrated . . . a treasure-trove of potential primary sources which intermediate and high school aged students can anaylze.” 

- Canadian Teacher, 02/01/17