Magnolia Flower 💮 Classic Read Aloud for Kids

Magnolia Flower 💮 Classic Read Aloud for Kids. This story by famed writer Zora Neale Hurston has been converted into a lyrical picture book for kids…with a touch of Black and Native American history set in the 1800s. KidTime StoryTime is reading this love story as told by a River to a Brook!

First published in 1925, it’s a story of Magnolia Flower, whose father was an escaped slave and whose mother escaped the Trail of Tears. And they all lived happily and freely in a swampy forest in Florida. But when Magnolia Flower grew up and fell in love, she found herself having to run away – just as her parents once did – to be free to love.

Published by HarperKids. Written by Zora Neale Hurston, adapted by Ibram X. Kendi, and illustrated by Loveis Wise.




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Hey Kid Today’s story is about make-believe people 
but based on real people and a real place. Oh Magnolia Flower! Oh I adore this story!
Oh do you, Olivia the Ostrich? Yes! But I am confused.
Oh? Why so? Because this is by Zora Neale Hurston. I 
love her work, but isn’t it for grown-ups? As a matter of fact, Olivia 
the Ostrich, you are correct.  Of course I am. But somebody said “why should a kid   Have to wait until they grow up to experience 
the wonderful writings of Zora Neale Hurston?” Oh that seems like a good question.
So they made Magnolia Flower a kids book! Oh what a brilliant idea!
I know, right? Oh and I love it, too!
Oh hello Fuchsia Fish! I love it because there’s a talking river,   And I just feel like there’s not enough 
talking rivers in books, you know what I mean? I know what you mean. What’s not 
to love about a talking river?  That’s what I’m saying as well All right, let’s see what this 
talking river says to us in Magnolia   Flower, which is oh so 
floral and beautiful, right? Oh look at the blooms blossoming, just leaping 
off the page, in those bold and brilliant colors. I feel like it’s already setting 
the tone before we’ve ever even   Entered the story. We’re going into a forest. The brook laughed and sang. It hurled its 
water into sparkling dance figures up into   The moonlight. The brook sang louder, louder, 
danced faster, faster with a teasing splash! At the three leaning trees on the banks, the 
trees awoke and began to murmur noisily of seasons   And centuries, love and birth, 
and the transplanting of life. Nature knows nothing of death At last, the brook danced into 
the bosom of the mighty river,   Upsetting the plants who 
blushed from the moon’s kisses. That is a poetic way of saying that the brook is 
feeding into the river, causing a bit of a splash! The mighty river turned in its bed and spoke: 
Why, O young water, do you disturb my sleep? Because, O mighty one, replied 
the brook, the flowers bloom,   The trees and winds say beautiful things to 
me, the moon shines upon me with a full face And there are people in love beneath 
the orange trees on my banks.  No matter, scolded the river, I have 
seen millions of people in love, child.

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The river’s upset because 
the river was really relaxed,   And the brook is all like splashing around. Oh I’ve seen millions of people in love, child. 
Oh tell me about some of them, begged the brook.   Oh well, the river muttered, I 
suppose brooks must be humored. So it’s like the river is kind of a grownup, 
and the brook is kind of like the little kid   And wants to know all the stories. And the 
grownup is like okay, okay, I’ll tell you. Meanwhile these two people in love are 
lounging below this canopy of orange trees. Long ago, begins the story, humans who were pale 
of skin held a dark race of humans in bondage.   The dark ones cried out in sorrow and woe. 
Not here in my country, farther North.   River’s talking about farther 
north where people were enslaved. Rivers carry their tears to the sea, and 
the tide would bring some of them to me.   But some of the darker ones did not 
weep. They fled in the night to freedom. And we can see the shadows in the 
trees at night. And we see people and   Kids and women and men fleeing, 
running, looking for freedom. One of them came here. 
Bentley was large and strong.   The beasts were afraid of him. The 
Florida forest made way for him. Oh so we’re in a Florida forest, which 
means of course that there must be swamps,   Maybe these are the Everglades. There’s an alligator, there’s 
a snake, there’s a deer,   There’s a fox. Bentley gathered stones 
and metals and built a big house. Soon a whole village of runaways hid out over 
here – runaways – because they’re all fleeing   The north, like the river said, 
farther north where they were slaves. But not down here in Florida, 
so a whole village of runaways   Hid out here. They were called maroons. They lived 
on an island of freedom in a vast sea of slavery. Bentley married Swift Deer, a Cherokee 
woman who had fled her own Trail of Tears. So the Cherokee people were fleeing 
the persecution of the Trail of Tears,   He was fleeing for freedom, and together they 
found a home in the same place and each other. Swift Deer and Bentley had a daughter.   Magnolia Flower they called her, for she 
came at the time of the flowers opening. When she was four years old, the tide 
brought rumors of war, war, war over slavery. And here in the images that are so beautiful we 
see images suggesting a great battle happening   Somewhere in the distance. And this war 
that they’re talking about is the Civil War. After the war ended, slavery ended. Black 
people walked free on the lands of Swift   Deer’s ancestors. Wind and water again grew 
sweet. Magnolia Flower, started to fully bloom.

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And that is a poetic way of saying that our star,   Magnolia Flower, was growing up 
just like you, Kid. Growing up. One day, as the sun gave me 
a good-night kiss – remember,   That’s the river talking – as the sun gave me a 
good-night kiss and the stars began their party I bore a young man named John, about 
Magnolia’s age. So this man, John,   Came down the river as well. 
And there they are meeting. John did not have much money, but 
he had many words. Look at that.   We see a book in his hands. That’s 
where some of the words are coming from. Swift Deer liked him. That’s Magnolia’s mom.
Bentley did not. That’s Magnolia’s dad. He wanted a man of metals, 
not words, for Magnolia. And that is a poetic way of saying that   The dad wanted a man with coins – with money 
– for Magnolia – not a man who was a poet. Before two weeks had passed, 
John had taught Magnolia to read   Strange marvels with her dark eyes. And 
she had taught John to sing with his. Oh, how words love. Love knows 
nothing of death. And look at them:   The words, the ideas, the song, the emotion 
filling the air around them like a bird singing And right there, some KidTime StoryTimes! 
Although they’re probably teenagers.   So instead of KidTime StoryTime, it’s 
probably more like TeenTime StoryTime. Soon, Bentley had had enough of their 
love. Enough! Magnolia, I do not approve!   He locked John in a room in the house. Tears, tears. All stayed away. 
All feared Bentley, the dad.  But not Magnolia. As her father 
slept, she went and freed John. Look! There they are running away from 
the house. One minute more and they   Flew down the path to the three leaning 
trees into the boat, away northward. They’re leaving! Oh they’re eloping! This 
is the only way that they can be together. This all happened more than 40 years ago,   As humans reckon time, River said. Magnolia Flower 
has passed from the hearts of people who knew her. Bentley and Swift Deer died. Freedom 
for black and native people died, too.   The tide brought all their tears 
to me and their joy and their love. Their love is mighty and ever-flowing, like me. The brook had listened, thrilled to its very 
bottom. At times, the river spoke calmly on   Flowing under the moon as it moved to the sea. An old couple picked their 
way down to the water’s edge. It’s been 47 years, John, Magnolia said 
sweetly. Do you think we can find the place?

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Chills, chills, chills. It’s them! They’re back! Why yes, Magnolia, my flower,   Unless they have cut down our trees. But 
if they are standing, we’ll know them. Ahhhh, Magnolia Flower, and her love have 
returned to the place where they first met. There they are, Magnolia pointed. They 
hugged the trunks of the 3 leaning trees   Then hugged each other and sat down 
shyly upon the heaped up roots. John, listen did you ever hear a river make 
such a sound, Magnolia whispered. Why it seemed   Almost as if they were talking? I 
look at the reflection in the water. Maybe it’s welcoming us back, 
John said. Maybe, Magnolia beamed.  I always felt that the river 
knew all about you and me And there they are, leaning against this tall 
soft cool grasses, feet in the cool water Letting the grasses and the water swirl 
around them in this beautiful place,   This place where their love story began, 
and also her own parents love story began Yeah two star-crossed loves meeting   In the middle of a Florida forest and 
finding love and freedom together. And then their child finding love and having to 
flee so they could have freedom to love as well. The drama! The poetry! The beauty 
of Zora Neale Hurston’s writing, And look at that, Kid. You didn’t have to wait 
to grow up to get to experience it for yourself.

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About the Author: Irene Jones

I was a teacher in the Philadelphia Public School System for over 20 years. I love teaching preschoolers and watching them progress from wide eyed blank slates to being able to read and write. The pride they enjoy from advancing their abilities and seeing their imagination grow is the greatest reward a teacher can receive.