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On Her Wings

The Story of Toni Morrison

Illustrated by James E. Ransome



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About The Book

Discover the early life and legacy of groundbreaking American writer Toni Morrison in this beautifully illustrated and “awe-inspiring” (School Library Journal, starred review) nonfiction picture book biography.

Born Chloe Ardelia Wofford in Ohio, Toni Morrison grew up listening to her family tell myths, legends, and stories from the Bible. She loved hearing the music and power of the words. Toni also heard new stories from the students from other countries who went to her school. After an early childhood of soaking up tales from those around her, it was no surprise Toni grew into a voracious reader.

She worked at her town library as a teenager and was an editor for a New York publisher as an adult. When it came time for her to write her own stories, she knew she wanted to write about her people—Black people. Early in the morning and late at night after her children were asleep, Toni began work on what would become an acclaimed and trailblazing body of work.

This luminous picture book has back matter with further reading on Toni Morrison’s life and work.

About The Author

Photo by Nancy Kavanagh O'Neill

Jerdine Nolen is the beloved author of many award-winning books, including Big JabeThunder Rose, a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book; and Hewitt Anderson’s Great Big Life, a Bank Street Best Book of the Year, all illustrated by Kadir Nelson. She is also the author of Eliza’s Freedom Road, illustrated by Shadra Strickland, which was an ALA/YALSA Best Fiction Nominee for Young Adults; Raising Dragons, illustrated by Elise Primavera, which received the Christopher Award; and Harvey Potter’s Balloon Farm, illustrated by Mark Buehner, which was made into a movie by the same name. Her other books include Calico Girl, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year, and Irene’s Wish, illustrated by A.G. Ford, which Kirkus Reviews called “delightful and memorable” in a starred review. Ms. Nolen is an educator and lives in Ellicott City, Maryland.

About The Illustrator

Photo by John Halpern

James E. Ransome’s highly acclaimed illustrations for Before She Was Harriet received the 2018 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor. His other award-winning titles include the Coretta Scott King winner The Creation; Coretta Scott King Honor Book Uncle Jed’s BarbershopSweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt; and Let My People Go, winner of the NAACP Image Award. James is also a recipient of the ALA Children’s Literature Legacy Award. He frequently collaborates with his wife, author Lesa Cline-Ransome, and their books include Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams and Fighting with Love: The Legacy of John Lewis. James is a professor and coordinator of the MFA Illustration Graduate Program at Syracuse University. He lives in New York’s Hudson River Valley region with his family. Visit James at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books (September 27, 2022)
  • Length: 48 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781534478527
  • Grades: P - 3
  • Ages: 4 - 8
  • Lexile ® AD790L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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Raves and Reviews

Gr 2-5–Toni Morrison was born Chloe Ardelia Wofford. At an early age she fell in love with words, melodies, stories, and the rhythm and rhyme of music. She went on to Howard University, where she changed her name to Toni because it was easier to pronounce. She eventually taught at Cornell and at her alma mater. There she met and married her husband. Soon after the birth of her second son, Morrison’s marriage failed, and she moved to New York City for a fresh start as an editor. During the day she edited others’ work; at night, after her children went to bed, she would write her own. At age 39, she published her first novel. Though the world knew her as Toni Morrison, she insisted that Chloe Wofford was the one who won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the first Black woman to do so. Her books often focused on Black history and motherhood, race, and skin color, and she sought to empower her people. Her stories inspired others to do the same. This lyrical biography about Morrison’s accomplishments and legacy has a reverential tone, putting the groundbreaking author on a well-deserved pedestal. This title honors her memory and the sheer enormity of her life’s work. A perfect complement, Ransome’s painterly illustrations—done in watercolor and collage—shine with a beatific light. Remarks about her books and Morrison herself float in the background. Back matter includes an author’s note, further reading, and a selected list of her awards and books published.

VERDICT An awe-inspiring picture book biography about an outstanding storyteller.

– School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW, 12/23/2022

Awards and Honors

  • ALA Children’s Literature Legacy Award

Resources and Downloads

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More books from this author: Jerdine Nolen

More books from this illustrator: James E. Ransome