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Bridges Instead of Walls: The Story of Mavis Staples
Mavis Staples and Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrations by Steffi Walthall


Legendary singer and Civil Rights activist Mavis Staples has teamed with an award-winning children’s poet to share her rousing life story in this spectacular picture book.

At 85, Mavis Staples is still singing in front of large audiences and sharing her message of love, faith, and justice. She’s been performing since age eight as part of her family’s gospel group The Staple Singers, and has become one of America’s most admired musicians, with multiple Grammys, a Kennedy Center Honor, and a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But Mavis has been more than a thrilling singer; she has also stood alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., at numerous Civil Rights protests where her voice was a rallying cry to the country. Now she and acclaimed author Carole Boston Weatherford bring her story and her inspiring message to young people in this poetic, illuminating book, beautifully illustrated by Steffi Walthall.


Mavis Staples is an American gospel and soul singer who was an integral part of the Staple Singers as well as a successful solo artist. At age 11, Staples joined the Staple Singers, a family gospel-singing group led by her father, Roebuck (“Pops”) Staples. As a high school graduate in 1957, she had aspirations of becoming a nurse, but her father persuaded her to stay with the group, which recorded several gospel hits by the early 1960s. The Staple Singers’ transition to soul and rhythm and blues began in the late 1960s, when they signed with Stax Records—the same label on which Staples recorded her solo debut, Mavis Staples, in 1969. Her second solo effort, Only for the Lonely (1970), included the hit “I Have Learned to Do Without You,” but it was the Staple Singers’ string of Top 40 hits in the 1970s that made Staples and her family true pop stars. Her solo albums of the late 1970s and ’80s did not fare well as she experimented unsuccessfully with disco and electro-pop. Time Waits for No One (1989) and The Voice (1993), despite critics’ praise, also failed to prosper, and Staples’s struggle to find a suitable outlet for her music continued. In 1996 she recorded Spirituals and Gospel: Dedicated to Mahalia Jackson in honor of Jackson, a close friend and role model. Staples curtailed her musical activity as her father’s health declined in the late 1990s. Her first recordings after his death in December 2000 were collaborations with other artists, including Bob Dylan and Los Lobos. Her duet with Dylan, “Gonna Change My Way of Thinking” (2003), was nominated for a Grammy Award.

Carole Boston Weatherford is an American author and critic. She has published over 50 children's books, primarily non-fiction and poetry. The music of poetry has fascinated Weatherford and motivated her literary career. 

Steffi Walthall is a Virginia-based illustrator, a sometimes comic artist and all times storyteller that celebrates diversity in all forms. She loves working on character-centric stories whether they are fictional or historical. She is the illustrator of Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round by Kathlyn Kirkwood and You Should Meet John Lewis by Denise Lewis Patrick


“A resonant profile of the great singer and Civil Rights activist. A moving look back at a long and storied career.” -- Kirkus Review

★ “This engaging picture-book biography offers especially rich insights into Mavis Staples of the legendary Staple Singers gospel group. The lyrical text includes lines from gospel classics and flows freely; the vivid illustrations aptly capture the closeness and passion of the Staples family. A fitting tribute to an inspiring legend.”  -- Booklist, starred review

“Staples’s love for herhometown Chicago and gospel music and dedication to civil rights recur throughout the book, while Walthall’s illustrations, employing portraiture and era-specific images, complement the direct narrative.” -- Publishers Weekly

[H]  Rocky Pond Books  /  July 09, 2024

0.6" H x 9.7" L x 10.8" W (1.05 lbs) 48 pages

For ages 6 to 9