Kid’s Book Review: Musical Truth

Kid’s Book Review: Musical Truth

About the Book, Author and Illustrator

This non-fiction book is a celebration of musical culture for readers aged 12 years +

The book contains 28 chronological chapters, each focusing on a song and Jeffrey Boakye explains and describes the social and political context in which it was written. There are also illustrations from Ngadi Smart that add a visual dimension to this original book for music and cultural inquisitive teens.

Lord Kitchener, Neneh Cherry, Smiley Culture, Stormzy . . . Groundbreaking musicians whose songs have changed the world and were a response to the political climate in which they were written and first performed.

This book redefines British history, the Empire and postcolonialism, and will invite you to think again about the narratives and key moments in history that you have been taught up to now.

Musical Truth cover
Jeffrey and Ngadi

Jeffrey Boakye is an author, broadcaster, commentator, educator, journalist and teacher with a particular interest in issues surrounding education, race, masculinity and popular culture. Originally from Brixton in London, Jeffrey has taught English to 11- to 18-year-olds since 2007. Jeffrey is also the author of several books which you can read more about on his website.

Ngadi Smart is an award-winning Sierra Leonean visual artist based between London (UK) and Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire), who specialises in illustration and photography. She has illustrated for The Guardian and Eastpak and won the 2020 FAB Prize for illustration.

Book Review

I would thoroughly recommend for lovers of music and/or history, particularly political and cultural history

Engaging and inspiring, Jeffrey Boakye’s Musical Truth: A Musical History of Modern Black Britain in 28 Songs is an enjoyable and highly topical read. The book uses black British music to chart the course of black British history from 1948, and in so doing provides an insightful account of both.

Each chapter takes a step forward in time with a new song by a different artist, including Stormzy, Neneh Cherry and Ed Sheeran. This is accompanied by illustrations at the beginning of each chapter, drawn by the talented Ngadi Smart.

The book covers a range of issues associated with race and immigration in Britain across the decades, including racism in society, conflict between black people and the police, and the poverty faced by many black immigrants. As such, Musical Truth is thought-provoking and insightful, focussing on the issues that have been highlighted increasingly since the death of George Floyd. It also covers positive changes and reasons for optimism with regards to racism, which helps to give the full picture of what it is like to be black and British. The use of songs to mark the chronology adds to the power of the narrative, with the story of each artist told alongside the over-arching themes.

I found some of the language and explanations in Musical Truth a little simplistic at times, and therefore I would say the book is perfect for 12-16 year olds.

That said, overall Musical Truth is highly accessible and creatively written, with great illustrations and a profound, thought-provoking message. I would thoroughly recommend for lovers of music and/or history, particularly political and cultural history.

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Reviewer Profile

  • Name: Jasmine
  • Age: 17 Years
  • Likes: animals, music and ice-cream
  • Dislikes: homework and awkward situations
  • Favourite Book: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  • Favourite Song: Unstoppable by Sia
  • Favourite Film: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl