Recommended by Mary Burns from Northeast Dade – Aventura Branch.
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Books have the power to show us diverse perspectives we might not otherwise know about. This month’s selection of books by Black authors offer something for all children—visibility and relatability and the opportunity to see realities and experiences different from their own.
Written by Lupita Nyong’o, Illustrated by Vashti Harrison
Sulwe is a young schoolgirl unhappy that she was born with skin the color of midnight. Her family members have skin tones that are not nearly as dark as hers, and at school her lighter‑skinned sister, Mich, is called by cheerful, pretty nicknames, while Sulwe is called names that feel hurtful, shameful and cause her to want to hide away. She dreams of being the same color as her sister with lots of real friends, leading her to attempt to lighten her skin in. She tries to rub off her dark skin with an eraser, puts on her mother’s make up, eats light colored foods, and prays hard before bed—all to no effect. She shares her unhappiness with her mother, who explains to Sulwe that her name means “star” and emphasizes to her daughter that beauty comes from the inside out and in how Sulwe sees herself—and not how others see her. That night, Sulwe dreams of an incredible, supernatural story: one of two sisters, Night and Day, who find out that they truly need each other to exist. The experience helps Sulwe understand how her brightness and beauty can light up the darkest midnight sky like a star.
In the afterword, dual nationality Mexican‑Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o shares her own parallel, personal story of growing up and finding her own sense of inner beauty and self‑worth; Sulwe’s supernatural dream communicates a simple, stirring message that young children can easily understand. Vashti Harrison is an award‑winning author/illustrator of numerous children’s books, including the Little Leader series. The figures, colors and background of this story are astonishingly sweet, lovely and memorable. (Ages 4‑8 years)Check Availability
Brown Sugar Babe
Written by Charlotte Watson Sherman, Illustrated by Akem
In this delightful picture book‑poetic ode, young readers will find whole new ways to understand, imagine and appreciate the earthy, humble color brown. For brown is not only the color of dark skin—it’s the reddish‑brown color behind our sleeping eyelids and the color of a little girl’s hands raised to the sun, a mother reminds her. The little girl tells her mother she does not want to be brown because brown isn’t a sunny, yummy or cute color. Mother comes back with the most awesome of rejoinders: “Brown… bubbling brown sugar babe, honeyed and bright as marmalade.” She goes onto enlighten her daughter on how glorious shades of brown rebound everywhere in the world—in texture, in sounds of music and nature, in the things we eat and taste, in the places we travel to physically and via our imaginations, and in the creatures we encounter and the events and activities we experience and enjoy. Brown, as it turns out, can recall for us the roots of the timeless, elemental tree of life with its branches of love.
Enjoy the rhymes in this wonderfully crafted story, which author Charlotte Watson Sherman was motivated to write to help children of color love their brown skin. Canadian‑based illustrator Akem’s images of imaginative realism complement the story. (Ages 3‑7 years)Check Availability
M is for Melanin: A Celebration of the Black Child
Written and illustrated by Tiffany Rose
Melanin, our natural skin pigment, doesn’t sound very exciting to write or read about, but this wonderful picture book with that title teaches kids their ABC’s and functions as a celebratory lexicon for black children. Turning the pages, young readers will see each letter of the alphabet clearly and vividly presented by various black children; the letters themselves are drawn as big, thick, capital letters, each representing concepts obvious and less so. Under each letter is a short, punchy exposition of that concept. For example, “A is for Afro/Your hair makes a statement. Embrace the bigness of your hair. PICK IT, FLUFF IT, LOVE IT.” My favorite is the letter D: “D is for Dream/From MARTIN to MICHELLE and everyone in between, you, little black child, are your ancestors’ wildest dream.”
Tiffany Rose is a globe‑trotting author and illustrator who currently lives in Shanghai, China. Each of the kids illustrated in this charming alphabet book differs in looks, clothing and posture, as well as skin tone, ranging from palest albino to darkest brown, and every shade in between. There’s even a kid with vitiligo (skin that has lost its pigment). (Ages 2‑6 years)Check Availability
The King of Kindergarten
Written by Derrick Barnes, Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley‑Newton
Young readers will enjoy this story about little boy who assumes the mantle of a make‑believe king who is having fun while starting his first day of kindergarten. The little boy‑king wakes up bright and early, brushes his teeth with a golden brush, washes his face with a fancy cloth, and dresses himself neatly in his Osh‑Kosh attire suitable for his “royal” highness. The little boy wolfs down a stack of pancakes for breakfast, gets his height measured by Daddy (he’s growing taller all the time) and then boards the yellow, ahem, carriage to deliver him to the grand fortress of kindergarten, where he’ll keep his pluck up and greet everyone with a wonderful smile. His teacher will greet him and the other kids, and the boy‑king will be able to introduce himself to her and the others with confidence and friendliness. He’ll show bravery by making friends with other new kids and playing with them, as well as sharing with others and being kind, learning his alphabet, shapes, and numbers, and just having fun all around!
The story’s make‑believe structure of a little boy‑king and kindergarten kingdom may help those very young first‑time reluctant school goers to take heart and think of school as an adventure. The story’s use of royalty tropes is fun, too. Author Derick Barnes, who won multiple awards for his Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, has done it again with this spirited, heart‑warming story, playfully illustrated by Vanessa Brantley‑Newton. (Ages 4-6 years)Check Availability
Written by Matthew Cherry, Illustrated by Vashti Harrison
Zuri is a little African‑American girl with a head of hair, that’s for sure. Her hair acts in all kinds of ways and goes in all kinds of directions. Daddy, however, has told her it is beautiful and she has come to realize that it helps her express her individuality—whether braided with beads like a princess, in pony puffs above her head like a superhero, large and wavy, or small and slick from rain. One day, however, with her cat Rocky for help, Zuri tries on her own for the perfect hairstyle. Fortunately, Daddy is home and ready to help, even if he’s not a pro. They go through several different ones, but none of them is the one Zuri really wants. What one can they find together that will satisfy Zuri and allow her to surprise Mommy when she comes home?
Academy Award winning filmmaker Matthew A. Cherry is a Chicago native and a former NFL wide receiver, as well as the director of several popular TV series, including Whiskey Cavalier, Black‑ish, and Mixed‑ish. Acclaimed author/illustrator Vashti Harrison once again brings the characters to life with warmth, humor and expression. (Ages 4‑8 years)Check Availability
There is so much to do in the summer, what with water and beach activities, summer camp and even the sun shining outside and bringing out the adventurous spirit in all of us, even animals. Don’t worry if your kids can’t experience all a typical summer allows for during these times, they can still activate their imaginations through these wonderful books that center on summertime and its activities.
Water Can Be…
Written by Laura Purdie Salas, Illustrated by Violeta Dabija
Laura Purdie Salas sparks our curiosity about H2O—water, that is—and all of what it can be through the seasons. At the start, she declares, “water is water—it’s puddle, pond, sea/when springtime comes splashing, the water flows free.” Now free, water can go on in the story to be so much more. It can be life‑giving (baby tadpoles hatch in it), picture‑making (we can see our own reflections in it), as well as creature‑feeding (it provides fish for otters to eat, among other kinds of nourishment), and much more. As young readers turn page after page of exquisite, glowing illustrations, their minds and imaginations will begin to understand water—as a natural part or landmark in our world, as a progenitor of life, as a home for creatures great and small, as a driver of the seasons and climate, as well as being an essential need of kids and adults! The story ends with an encouragement to young readers to go out and discover the many different ways water can be found.
Originally from Romania but now based in California, Violeta Dabija has illustrated numerous children’s books, including, A Leaf Can Be and A Rock Can Be. This book is available in both regular format and as an eBook in Overdrive. (Ages 4‑6 years)Check Availability
This Beach is Loud!
Written and Illustrated by Samantha Cotterill
It’s a beach day, and a little boy, already dressed and breakfasted, imagining himself in his snorkeling gear, races to wake up Dad and get him out of bed so they can begin their great outing to the beach. He can’t wait any longer. And readers soon realize that the little boy takes in so much of the world through his senses that he can’t slow down enough to process it all! Once they arrive at the beach, his senses are overwhelmed by the numbers of people, sounds all around, the hot, sticky, itchy sand, and that his Sharkie toy is too hot to play with. Dad steps in, though, by urging his son to take a deep breath, to give Sharkie a squeeze, and to tap his fingers and count, “1‑2‑3 tap… 1‑2‑3 tap…” After doing this a couple of times, all is well again, and they are able to enjoy themselves for the rest of the day.
Samantha Cotterill has authored and illustrated several children’s books; this is her first in The Little Senses series of books that allow kids to recognize themselves as they experience the world in safe, enjoyable ways. (Ages 4‑8 years)Check Availability
Summer Sun Risin’
Written by W. Nikola‑Lisa, Illustrated by Don Tate
A rooster crows to a young farm boy, “Wake up, little one—summer sun’s a–risin!” A little boy is woken up by his mother in his beloved home, already humming with activity, as the sun is rising on the horizon, “tastin’ the sweet, sweet air.” As the little boy eats his breakfast, the sun keeps him company, shining through the kitchen window and keeping everything his mother cooks for breakfast—eggs, toast, fritters and coffee—hot and presumably delicious to eat. Then, as the boy cracks open the barn door to begin early morning chores, he catches “the summer sun’s shinin’, floodin’ inside.” Through the course of busy, hard day of work on their farm, the sun is always present—whether glaring, blazing, or burning down on the boy and his family, or stirring a summer breeze as it slips down in the sky and he fishes with his Pa. Later, at home, having eaten dinner and been read a story for bedtime, the summer sun finally is asleep, the boy tells us, as he soon will be himself.
W. Nikola‑Lisa has authored 30 books for older and younger readers, including Bein’ with You this Way. Fans of Carter Reads the Newspaper will get to enjoy Don Tate’s wonderful illustrations, which bring to life the young boy, his family, the farm and its creatures all to life, along with the sun. (Ages 4‑8 years)Check Availability
Possum and the Summer Storm
Written and illustrated by Anne Hunter
What can humble Papa Possum and his babes do when a violent summer thunderstorm sweeps them and their brush pile home into the nearby creek? It’s their fellow forest animals who come to the rescue! First is a friendly chipmunk, who shows up and offers to dig them a home underground. Unfortunately, their newly dug home doesn’t have a door big enough for Papa Possum to fit through, though his offspring can. So, off the family goes in search of a bigger home—and they meet a muskrat who offers to build them a lodge above their dugout. Not long after, a wasp and an oriole pitch in with windows for the lodge and a hammock‑like nest for the possums in a tree overlooking their new home. After all the building is done and after Papa Possum and the babes thank their forest friends for all of their help, another summer storm approaches. Oh no! Where will all the forest animals take shelter now? Read the story to find out!
Young readers will get to enjoy a story of how invaluable and interconnected a community can be, including animals in the high days of summer! Anne Hunter beautifully illustrates these wild animals and especially their unique homes. An eBook version is available in Axis360. (Ages 4‑8 years)Check Availability
Arnie Goes to Camp
Written and illustrated by Nancy Carlson
Wondering what a two‑week sleep away summer camp might be like? Follow the adventure of Arnie on his first‑time ever experience there. Nervous and unsure, Arne joins his peers on the bus for the ride to the camp, where everything is strange and new to him. Upon arrival, he’s met by his 18‑year‑old camp counselor, Stretch, who wears all kinds of curious camping gear on a belt. As Arnie hikes to the cabin where he and his peers will sleep that night, he realizes he misses his mother already, but not for long, as he makes friends with a new bunk‑mate, Ted, who convinces Arnie to come to lunch, which he unexpectedly enjoys. After lunch, it’s nap‑time, when everyone goofs off. Later in the afternoon, everyone goes for a hike, which again Arnie finds unexpectedly enjoying. Nighttime is time for singing songs and telling stories around the campfire—even more fun! As the days roll by, Arnie and everyone else keep busy playing games, making arts and crafts, writing letters home, and so forth. Will Arnie want to go home once camp is over?
Nancy Carlson is the author and illustrator of many children’s books. She dedicated this one to the Minnesota Outward Bound School, which she states changed her life. Young readers will enjoy her vivid pictures of Arnie—especially his expressions—and his time at camp with his new friends. An eBook version is available in Axis360. (Ages 7‑10 years)Check Availability
Being a mom or dad is a job like no other and this month's selection includes the whole gamut of emotions experienced by parents and their children, from the joys of playing and shopping with your kids to the sadness of dealing with loss and the importance of staying in the moment. Pick up these books, read them with your children and recognize the moments they depict in your own lives.
My Papa is a Princess
Written and Illustrated by Doug Cenko
A father's job, much like a mother's, can barely be done in a single ordinary day, let alone an extraordinary one! Discover a father's extraordinary roles and feats and how much he means to his daughter in My Papa is a Princess. Together, they ride toy racing cars in imaginary speed‑defying races, put on imaginary space suits for fantastical outer space adventures, and as art collectors and connoisseurs, they enjoy all manner of works of art. However, when the occasion demands it, Papa performs other feats too for his not always cooperative daughter, including hair styling and putting out fires on the family barbecue grill!
Author‑illustrator Doug Cenko lives in Chicago with his wife and a daughter. Parents and kids will thoroughly identify with and enjoy reading tales of Papa and his daughter, their adventures, and the times they spend together in page after page of cheerful, lively scenarios. Cenko's other works include Mama is a Mechanic and Little Monster Trucks Go!Check Availability
Written and Illustrated by Oge Mora
Ava cherishes special, splendid Saturdays with Mother, and they wait the entire week for it to come round. On Saturdays, Ava and Mother go to the library for story time, the hair salon for new hairdos, the park for picnics, and now on this particular Saturday, they will also attend the theater for a one‑night only puppet show! However, one by one, as Ava and Mother rush around town, the plans that they'd so looked forward to doing together become undone. What can Ava and Mother do to rescue their ruined Saturday and enjoy it once again? Find out when you read Saturday!
Oge Mora is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design the author and illustrator of Thank you, Omu!, which won a Caldecott Honor Book award. Readers will enjoy Mora's use of vivid colors and cut paper figures and backgrounds, carefully positioned and layered, that bring to life this positive story about a mother and daughter and their special relationship. Fans of Raj and the Best Day Ever by Sebastien Braun may also enjoy this story.Check Availability
To the Moon and Back for You
Written by Emilia Bechrakis Serhant, Illustrated by E.G. Keller
The road to parenthood can be unexpectedly rocky, painful and poignant. Some of us, like author Emilia Bechrakis Serhant, have not taken it for granted. In this sweeping, metaphorical story she recounts to young readers and parents how hard it can be to conceive and bring a baby into the world. The story begins with a woman sitting in a field of beautiful wildflowers and grass with her husband by her side as she looks off into a bank of clouds whipping across the sky. As she watches a dandelion blowing its seeds into the wind, the woman then says to her as yet‑unborn child, "I loved you before I met you./I felt you in my arms before I could hold you." With imaginary cliffs, a distant to the Moon and back journey, a rough sea, the tallest mountain–all climbed up, travelled to, navigated, and summitted–the woman vividly describes to her future child what the journey was like to reach, find, and finally meet her child.
Bechrakis Serhant's real‑life story of how she became a mother to her daughter Zena inspired this picture book. It is beautifully illustrated by E.G. Keller, the illustrator of A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo and His Royal Dogness, Guy the Beagle: The ReBarkable True Story of Meghan Markle's Rescue Dog.Check Availability
The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota's Garden
Written by Heather Smith, Illustrated by Rachel Wada
Makio's fisherman dad loved listening to the ocean and catching fish. But one day a giant wave (tsunami) takes his dad's life and those of others in the community. Makio's loss seems to be beyond words until one day, his elderly neighbor and friend, Mr. Hirota, decides to build a telephone booth in the garden, complete with an old‑fashioned phone on a table but lacking plugs or wires to connect the phone to anywhere. After watching Mr. Hirota visit the phone booth to talk to his own lost son, others in the community also begin to visit this phone booth every day to talk to their lost loved ones. Finally, Makio visits the phone booth himself, where he's able to talk to and reconnect with his beloved, departed dad and deal with his passing.
Author Heather Smith was inspired to write this story based on real‑life; in the coastal town of Otsuchi in Japan in 2010, Itaru Sasaki built a phone booth (complete with a disconnected phone, or "phone of the wind") in his garden to help him deal with personal grief. A year later, this unusual phone booth began to be visited by thousands of mourners in the community who had lost loved ones to a tsunami that had struck the town, as they struggled to deal with the loss of family and friends. Illustrator Rachel Wada's bold, intricate artwork uses Japanese art techniques and forms to portray Makio, Mr. Hirota, and the phone booth in moving, unusual ways.Check Availability
You're Missing It!
Written by Brady Smith with Tiffani Thiessen, Illustrated by Brady Smith
Calling all moms and dads who cannot put down cell phones and other devices! You're missing out on a lot, according to the young boy hero of this story. While in the park together, Dad misses a pack of dogs wildly chasing a jogger, as well as the sight of falling flowers, big beautiful butterflies and a baby bird hatching from an enormous egg. More ominously, he overlooks the appearance of a purple rhinoceros running loose in the park with a zookeeper in pursuit. Will Dad ever put down his phone and live in the moment with his adventurous son? Read this wonderful story to find out!
Actor‑turned artists and married couple Brady Smith and Tiffani Theissen have appeared in numerous T.V. shows and movies, including ER, JAG, and Saved by the Bell and The Perfect Daughter. This is their first picture book.Check Availability
March On With Women in March
Women have come a long way in recent times. That makes it hard to believe everything they have overcome in history, as they have long fought to be considered equals to their male counterparts and treated as such. This month's selection of books highlights the struggles women have gone through in past times and all the way to the present where they are increasingly impacting the world in all manner of ways. Celebrate Women's History Month by picking up one or more of these for your children.
Written and illustrated by Ken Wilson‑Max
Astrid awaits her mother's return from no less than space, as it turns out! From the start, readers learn that Astrid loves gazing at the starry sky from her bedroom window; she tells her friend Jakey she wants to be an astronaut and promises to bring him an asteroid when she comes back from space. Even when her father reminds her that the life of an astronaut is hard and challenging—involving having to turn around and around in a spaceship, eating food from plastic tubes or packages, getting used to zero gravity, completing science experiments, and sleeping alone among the stars—Astrid cheerfully insists she can do it and shows her father what she's already doing on her own here on Earth! When her mother finally returns from her space flight to be with them, there is a joyful reunion for all.
Originally from Zimbabwe, Ken Wilson‑Max is a graphic designer, illustrator, author, and publisher now based in the U.K. He's also the illustrator of Where's Lenny, Lenny and Bruce, The Drum, and The Flute. In a recent interview featured in Books for Keeps, Wilson‑Max says he tries to remember the feelings, sounds and even smells when he sketches. The author and illustrator adeptly depicts Astrid with her father's facial expressions and actions and the simply worded story provides ample inspiration for what women and girls of any color skin can achieve. There is also a neat glossary of terms, too. (Ages 3‑7 yrs.)Check Availability
Born to Ride: A Story About Bicycle Face
Written by Larissa Theule, Illustrated by Kelsey Garitty‑Riley
Just who were the wheelwomen? And what was bicycle face? Louisa Belinda Bellflower, a young girl in Rochester, New York, in 1896, wants to ride a bicycle—something women and girls were not free to do, along with not being able to vote or even wear pants. Louisa begs her brother Joe, who has a brand‑new Van Cleve to ride, to teach her how to ride. Along the way, she ditches her frilly petticoat and dress for one of her brother's pairs of pants. But what if Louisa develops bicycle face—a medical condition resulting in permanently bulging eyes and a closed‑up jaw that women suffer from the strain of trying to keep one's balance—asks Joe? But Louisa cannot find any traces of bicycle face on Joe. She learns to ride a bicycle under Joe's tutelage. She falls a lot but hops back on the bike, until one day, she is doing it—with a gigantic, joyous smile on her face!
In the late 19th century, bicycles were the latest fad, but at the same time, women cyclists who were then referred to as wheelwomen—had to ride in the face of tremendous social ridicule and criticism. Despite the ostracizing the women's cycling movement foreshadowed other social breakthroughs for women and people of color—including the 19th Amendment and even the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Theule's book includes some essential historical context to Louisa's story for readers. Illustrator Kelsey Garrity‑Riley has illustrated several books, including The Whirlpool: Stories by Laurel Croza, as well as authored and illustrated her own book, Frankie's Favorite Food. (Ages 4‑8 yrs.)Check Availability
Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World
Written by Susan Wood with various Illustrators
This wonderful book, spanning over 200 years of history, celebrates achievements of women both known and relatively unknown. It begins with Molly Durham Williams, New York City's first woman firefighter, who served as a volunteer firefighter around 1776 and actually helped her company fight fires when called upon. Women would not be hired as professional firefighters in New York until 1982. Then there is Mary Anning, who as a young girl in 1812 unearthed an ichthyosaur—a prehistoric sea reptile—along the coast of England. Later, as a paleontologist, she would discover the first complete plesiosaurus and pterosaur. Anning's discoveries would later help Charles Darwin form his theory of evolution. Other women featured include Annette Kellerman, record breaking swimmer and creator of the first modern one‑piece swimsuit in the first quarter of the 20th century; children's author and first Latina librarian Pura Belpre, who revolutionized New York City and its library in the early 20th century for Hispanic communities; and Frances Moore Lappé, a professor and researcher who discovered that most of the world's grains actually feed cattle, not people, and who urged people to eat more locally‑sourced food. There's also British Secret Agent Sisters Jacqueline and Eileen Nearne, who served undercover to help the French Resistance and fight Nazi Germany; Ruby Bridges, the first young African‑American girl to attend a racially integrated school in the American South; Malala Yousafzai an activist for girls' education and youngest recipient of Nobel Peace Prize in 2014; and several others.
Author Susan Wood notes how women's roles, behavior, speech, rights, aspirations, and even clothing, have been contested for centuries. This book focuses on girls and young women who faced terrible odds and considerable adversity, poverty and other challenges. Each biography is accompanied by a relevant quote and unique, colorful and varied illustrations of the heroine. Some of the bios are written in verse, and even in the form of shape poems. (Ages 7‑12 yrs.)Check Availability
Written by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush, Illustrated by Ramona Kaulitzki
The story begins with a light‑haired girl admitting to feeling lonely despite having friends to laugh with and dogs to chase. She imagines a younger sister's face and prays that her future younger sister be born with a kind, enormous heart, soft hands to hold, warm arms to hug, and gentle, loving eyes. Of course, when the younger, brown‑haired baby sister comes along, it is love at first sight between the two. Until, that is, the older sister realizes her baby sister cannot play tag or sing with her. She remembers her earlier prayer and wish for a sister, and realizes how she needs to reciprocate and perform those roles for her baby sister until the latter has grown some. When at last the younger sister does catch up, there are exciting, lively days to spend together, as other pairs of sisters are already doing. The sister pairs are there to support one another and their non‑biological sisters too, when things aren't going well. The story ends with the hopeful verse, "and through many days, the best and the worst, help us remember we are sisters first."
In this wonderful picture‑book version of the best‑selling book by twins Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush, younger readers follow the imaginary lives of two pairs of multi‑racial older and younger sisters. German‑born illustrator Ramona Kaulitzki's illustrations of these young sisters convey innocence, tenderness and charm. She has illustrated several other children's books, including The Friendship Lie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Mary Shelly. (Ages 4‑8 yrs.)Check Availability
Superheroes are Everywhere
Written by Kamala Harris, Illustrated by Mechal Renee Roe
As a little girl, Senator Kamala Harris of California believed superheroes blended in with ordinary people, ready to come to the rescue or work their good right away. She found one first in her mother, who made her feel safe, special, and strong. There was her younger sister, Maya, as well as her other family members including her Dad and even her grandparents from as far away as India and Jamaica. Kamala shares with readers her (super)heroes while growing up and asks young readers to identify theirs in turn and to think about the qualities that make them superheroes—kindness, knowledge, curiosity, hard‑work and the power to protect. Some of Kamala's heroes, perhaps not surprisingly, are women. Her teacher, Mrs. Wilson, family friend Mrs. Shelton, and her aunts, are some. But there are others, too, and Kamala ends her story with a surprise ending and discovery for young readers about superheroes that will empower them too.
Young readers will enjoy the illustrations by Mechal Renee Roe, who is also the author of Happy Hair. A hero code and timeline of Kamala Harris's life, as well as personal photos of her growing up can also be found at the end of the book. (Ages 5‑8 yrs.)Check Availability
It is one thing to take in the celebrations of Black History Month, but it is quite another to sit down and read about the history and historical figures the month pays tribute to. This month's selection of books does exactly that with a candid and sensitive look at some of the events and people that struggled through slavery and the civil rights movement in order for society to come to terms with past injustices and look forward to a future with hope.
Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History
Written and illustrated by Vashti Harrison (with Kwesi Johnson)
This delightful book features over 35 exceptional black leaders and trailblazing men, some little known and others famously familiar, spanning several hundred years, and from around the world. They came from a wide field of professions and different walks of life. Those featured include Bass Reeves, one of the first black deputy U.S. Marshals appointed during the Reconstruction Era and a possible inspiration for the Lone Ranger; Arturo Schomburg, an early 20th century campaigner for Puerto Rican liberation, art and book collector, and advocate for black history courses; and Ousmane Sembéne, 20th century Senegalese born founder of African cinema. More famous figures include American greats Benjamin Banneker, Frederick Douglass, Thurgood Marshall, James Baldwin, John Lewis, Alvin Ailey, and even the musician Prince!
There is also a glossary with additional exceptional black men, recommended reading lists, and an outline to help young readers draw a famous legendary man of their own. Author Vashti Harrison's one‑page bios are beautifully and succinctly written, each with accompanying illustrations that are sure to charm. (Ages 8‑12 years)Check Availability
Carter Reads the Newspaper
Written by Deborah Hopkinson, Illustrated by Don Tate
Carter G. Woodson was born in 1875 amidst humble beginnings: his parents, James Henry and Anne Eliza Woodson, had been born slaves and would remain poor, illiterate, hungry, struggling sharecropper farmers in post‑Civil War Virginia. However, with courage and resourcefulness they were able to get some schooling for Carter, who grew up reading newspapers at every opportunity. Later in his life, while working in a West Virginia coal mine, Carter would be inspired by Oliver Jones, an older, black, illiterate coal miner, who loved knowledge and learning and convinced Carter to read to him and other black miners. When he attended Harvard University, Woodson became determined to prove that black Americans had a rich history, contrary to academic views of the time; he successfully established Negro History Week, the forerunner of Black History Month, in 1926, as well as created what would later become the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).
Deborah Hopkins is an award‑winning author of Sweet Land of Liberty and Keep On! The Story of Matthew Henson, Co‑Discover of the North Pole. Don Tate has illustrated several successful children's books, including the recent No Small Potatoes: Junius G Groves and His Kingdom in Kansas by Tonya Bolden and Stalebread Charlie and the Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band by Michael Mahin. (Ages 6‑10 years)Check Availability
Let the Children March
Written by Monica Clark‑Robinson, Illustrated by Frank Morrison
May 1963, Birmingham, Alabama, was the flashpoint for an extraordinarily courageous act in the American Civil Rights Movement: for an entire week, thousands of black children and teens volunteered to peacefully march for civil rights and end segregation in place of their parents. Over that week, these brave kids assembled at church, dressed in their best clothing, and set off, often hand in hand, to walk through Birmingham to peacefully protest and to sit‑in at public places. Day after day, the kids encountered police dogs, stinging water hoses, police threats and beatings, and mass arrests. While many would questioned putting the children in harm's way, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., publicly recognized that "[the children] are doing a job not only for themselves, but for all of America and for all mankind."
In this inspiring book, author Monica Clark‑Robinson presents a timeline of the Children's March, explains some of its underlying reasons, and illuminates the satisfying end for the kids. Illustrator Frank Morrison's foregrounding of the kids against vivid scenes allows young readers to feel as if they are right there with these kids walking alongside them.Check Availability
Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968
Written by Alice Faye Duncan, Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
The nearly forgotten Memphis Sanitation Strike of 1968, which happened around the time of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, is retold through the eyes of a young black heroine, nine‑year old Lorraine Jackson. Two black sanitation workers, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, had been tragically killed because of malfunctioning, aging equipment on one of several old garbage trucks. Starting on February 12, 1968, and for 65 days thereafter, Lorraine's father, himself one of these struggling sanitation workers, joined his black co‑workers on a union strike for better wages, safer working conditions, and ultimately, equal rights and dignity on the job against deeply unfair racial discrimination. Weeks into the strike, Lorraine's family struggled to pay bills until they received relief from their local church community group, which would eventually reach out to Dr. King for help; he would come t to Memphis twice to march in solidarity and support of these striking workers and their impacted families. It was during the launching the Poor People's Campaign, that Dr. King would make two famous speeches, including "I've Been to The Mountain Top," the night before he was assassinated by the fugitive‑felon James Earl Ray.
Coupled with R. Gregory Christie's colorful bold illustrations, author Alicia Faye Duncan's prose and verse are stirring and heartfelt, especially with her use of Dr. King's metaphor of climbing the mountaintop; through Lorraine (who is based loosely on the real Dr. Almella Starks‑Umoja, who witnessed and lived through the strike as a young girl) young readers can begin to understand how striving for justice and equality in all aspects of our lives remains as crucial now as it was 50 some years ago. There is also a helpful timeline and glossary of facts. (Ages 9‑12 years)Check Availability
So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth's Long Walk Toward Freedom
Written by Gary D. Schmidt, Illustrated by Daniel Minter
Isabella was born into slavery in New York and like many slave families before and after, her family members were wrenched apart and sold. However, Mau‑mau Bett, Isabella's mother, remembered all of them, as would Isabella. Many years later, Isabella gained freedom for herself and her young daughter, but her five‑year‑old son, Peter, was sold by her old master Dumont to another master and sent down to Alabama, against New York laws that prohibited slaves from being sold outside of the state. So, Isabella went to court in New York and won an order for Peter to be returned to her (the first legal case of a black women winning against a white man in the U.S.) and would be reunited with him eventually in New York City, along with other family members. Years on, religiously reawakened and reborn as the famous Sojourner Truth, she delivered famous speeches across the Midwest and the South, fighting for the abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, and justice.
Schmidt manages to tell Truth's story directly and simply for young readers while also providing a more complete biography and bibliography of this remarkable American woman, identified in 2014 as one of the 100 Most Significant Americans by Smithsonian Magazine. Illustrator Daniel Minter, inspired by Sojourner's story, creates a series of fascinating, uplifting vertical illustrations that resonate with historic and contemporary feeling. (Ages 6‑12 years)Check Availability
As much as the world has come together in recent decades, war still taints the whole of humanity. The best means of guaranteeing a world free from widespread war in the future, rests in the minds and hearts of our children. These books introduce children to the dangers and sorrows of war, while simultaneously presenting lessons of peace and how future wars can be stopped, prevented and overcome.
By Zazi, Ziwelene and Zindzi Mandela
In Grandad Mandela, Zindzi Mandela, a daughter of former South African leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela, answers her own grandchildren's questions and recounts her famous father's story of long imprisonment and personal hardship to liberate apartheid South Africa. “Grandad Mandela” was imprisoned when Zindzi was only 18 months old, upending a normal married and family life with wife Winnie (called “Big Mummy”) and their two daughters. Life in the large segregated township of Soweto was unfair and hard, and schools, hospitals, and critical institutions were unjustly segregated by race. Zindzi, Winnie, their family and others like them faced continual surveillance, arrest, harassment and threats by apartheid police and the white minority government.
Readers will learn some of Zindzi's own proud story and of ubuntu (humanity), reconciliation and volunteering that her father uniquely personified and helped bring to the world. Zindzi's answers to the grandchildren's questions, told from their perspective, are inspiring and easily understood. Brooklyn‑based artist and illustrator Sean Qualls has worked on a number of award winning, highly acclaimed books for children, including Giant Steps to Change the World by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis‑Lee, Little Cloud and Lady Wind by Toni Morrison and her son Slade, and before John Was a Jazz Giant by Carole Boston Weatherford. (Ages 4‑9 years.)Check Availability
The Hawk and the Dove
Written and illustrated by Paul Kor (Translated by Annette Appel)
In this wonderful fable about war and peace, a feisty, dejected hawk broods on impending war. He decides to mask his face and put on gloves so that he can appear to be a gentle dove. His change ushers in a narrative of contrasts and transformations—tanks fall silent and battles cease, so that a tractor can “hum a tune of peace.” Planes dropping bombs yield to butterflies that flit in the sky; warships withdraw guns, gently drift and battle flags are put away, so that dazzling sailboats can come forth. Even the bullets of soldiers cease and make way for happiness, brightness and multitudes of flowers. As readers turn page after page, they can actually see how the images of war contain hints of ever‑present peace.
Author Paul Kor grew up in France and later in Switzerland during World War II. He drew tanks, fighter planes and warships as boy; however, Kor only began writing The Hawk and the Dove much later, during the Six‑Day War between Israel and its neighbors in 1967, and then in earnest in the 1982 Lebanon War, when the son of a good friend was killed. To help readers experience the immediacy of the transformation from war to peace, paper cutout techniques inspired by impressionist Henry Matisse are used, as well as different page sizes. (Ages 4‑8 years.)Check Availability
Written by Guy and Patricia Storms, Illustrated by Milan Pavlović
In this tale of peace, an unnamed narrator imagines what they would do if they were the moon. Looking down from the sky above onto shimmering water presumably both warm and cold, in streaks of gold, green, blue, purple and white, he or she shares, “If I were the moon, I would paint ripples of light on wet canvas/and shimmer over dreams of snow.” The fish in the water and the polar bears on the icy rocks below pause to watch and listen. Next, as a long line of men, women and children leave behind troubles and their homes with only their belongings on their backs, the moon‑narrator tells them and readers that as he or she would wax and wane, he or she would wish them peaceful sleep from Earth's troubles. In scene after scene, the narrator assures all living creatures that as the moon, he or she would give a voice, become a beacon or light the way for travelers so as to shine on all of them.
The beautiful, short lines of prose, scenes and scenarios will stir readers' memories of Julie Fogliano's If I was the sunshine, and they will feel lulled and soothed by the book's end. Illustrator Milan Pavlović depicts the moon's face with gentle expressions and the creatures, people and their world with swirls and washes of soft, relaxing colors. Pavlović is the illustrator of many children's books in Europe and now in Canada, including The Boy Who Invented the Popsicle. (Ages 4‑8 years.)Check Availability
The Day War Came
Written by Nicola Davies, Illustrated by Rebecca Cobb
One morning on an ordinary school day, a mother walks her young daughter to school, while her father lulls the daughter's baby brother back to sleep at home. At school, the young daughter studies the natural world—volcanoes, tadpoles, frogs and birds. And then, war erupts. Suddenly, debris spatters her classroom, envelopes and destroys everything she's known—the playground, the roof, her teacher and her town—with thunderous noises and confusing smoke and fire. The daughter and others flee to survive, embarking on a long, dangerous journey. Even later on, at a refugee camp next to a town, the daughter discovers war has followed her there; it's traumatized her, as well as the world and people around her, who mistrust her and others like her. What will remove war from her heart and soul? Read this story to find out.
Author Nicola Davies was inspired to write this work when she heard that her country, the United Kingdom, was denying refugee children a welcome. She helped establish the #3000chairs project in response to their plight. Award‑winning British illustrator Rebecca Cobb depicts the enormity of war with images that children can readily grasp. (Ages 4‑8 years.)Check Availability
Peace and Me
Written by Ali Winter, Illustrated by Mickaël El Fathi
This wonderful collection features mini‑bios on a dozen Nobel Peace Prize Laureates (recipients), well‑known and less so. Among them are Jean Henry Dunant (founder of the Red Cross), Fridtjof Nansen (inventor of the Nansen passport to permit free travel for homeless, undocumented refugees), Jane Addams (founder of Hull House, a model community house to assist the needy), and Martin Luther King, Jr. (American leader for racial equality and civil rights); other laureates featured come from the far corners of the world. Prefacing the bios is an introduction to Alfred Nobel, the ambitious Swedish chemical engineer and inventor of dynamite. Worried at how his invention came to be widely used in wars, Nobel bequeathed his fortune when he died in 1896 to be awarded as prizes to individuals for their efforts to advance and benefit humankind (in areas of science, medicine, literature, and peace).
Author Ali Winter seeks to engage young readers' minds by repeatedly mentioning what peaceful achievements involve and asks them in turn to reflect on what peace means to them. The glossary provides a world map locating the areas and countries of the world where the featured prize‑winners are from. Mickaël El Fathi's accompanying illustrations are stunningly beautiful and colorful. The book is endorsed by Amnesty International. (Ages 7‑12 years.)Check Availability