Children’s Titles to Celebrate Black History Part 2

Veronica Chambers writes in her New York Times article, How Negro History Week Became Black History Month and Why It Matters Now, ”Why does Black History Month in particular, and the study of Black history overall, still matter so much? ‘There’s no question that history is and continues to be a battleground. The origin stories that we tell matter a great deal for where we set the bar and how we set the bar going forward,’ noted Professor Jones, of Johns Hopkins. ‘So when you talk about people like Carter G. Woodson, these are men who knew that if you don’t rewrite the history of Africans and people of African descent, if you don’t rewrite the history of the United States through the lens of Black history, if you don’t make that record and if you don’t make that case, there are [false] stories that will expand and go toward rationalizing and perpetuating racism, exclusion, marginalization and more.’ Recently, there has certainly been an increase in the attempts to erase Black history and for that reason, I highly recommend reading Veronica Chambers’ article on the origins of Black History Month, and the importance of continuing to document Black history! Chambers traces the beginnings of Black History Month to Educator Mary Church Terrell who in January of 1897 advocated celebrating Frederick Douglas’ birthday on February 14, 1897 for students in the Washington D.C. area’s “colored schools” to learn about his life, speeches and writings; and she follows the tireless work of Black educators and historians (Including the prominent work of “the father of Black history,” Carter G. Woodson) in documenting and bringing to light the tragic, but also proud heritage Black Americans share. In honor of Black History Month 2022 and its historians, I have put together a list of excellent children’s nonfiction titles (preschool & up) including several that are newly published – enjoy!

Because Claudette by Tracey Baptiste & Tonya Engel
(Grades 1-5)
Libby

“On March 2, 1955, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin refused to give her bus seat to a white person, nine months before Rosa Parks's famous act of civil disobedience. Parks befriended the young woman and encouraged her to get involved with the NAACP youth division. The author frames the narrative with the ‘Because’ construct, showing how the civil rights movement was a series of acts of civil disobedience, all part of a larger movement to abolish segregation. Baptiste successfully demonstrates how the decision made by one young person reverberated through history. Cameos by Martin Luther King, Jr. and less-widely celebrated Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, and Mary Louise Smith reinforce how it was the collective work of many unsung people that led to victory in civil rights efforts. Engle's illustrations, rendered in acrylic underpainting and oils on textured vellum paper, are stunning. These exude a sense of warmth and unity. Especially powerful is a spread in which Colvin is understanding her place in history as one of many strong women who have “caused trouble” in the name of freedom. In the author's note, Baptiste explains how she was inspired to write this riveting picture book biography when she heard Fred Gray, civil rights attorney and Colvin's lawyer, say that the Montgomery bus boycott wouldn't have happened if it weren't for the teen's influence. Back matter includes materials for further reading. VERDICT A gorgeous tribute to a young Black activist that will inspire many readers. Add this to all picture book biography shelves. Luminous.” – School Library Journal

Call and Response: The Story of Black Lives Matters by Veronica Chambers
(Grades 5 & Up)
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“An explanatory lesson about the historical protests of June 2020 and what led up to them. Basing their account heavily on firsthand accounts of various Black Lives Matter leaders and New York Times reporters, the authors explore the origins of the movement and the impact it has had along with the historical events that its leaders built it upon. Beginning with how BLM founders Opal Tometi, Patrisse Cullors, and Alicia Garza came separately to activism and then together in 2013 via a Black leadership network, they tell the stories of victims such as Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and George Floyd in the context of the roles they played in the movement's development. The second half delves deeper into history with discussions of systemic racism and comparisons to the civil rights and Black Power movements, allowing readers to clearly identify parallels to the impact on Black Americans today. The roles played by athletes, musicians, and artists may inspire readers to find their unique paths to activism. The authors write with clarity and honesty, holding back no truths, but with language that makes the book accessible to preteen readers and adults alike. A logical progression of chapters punctuated by informational breakouts and concise paragraphs accompanied by photographs on each page make for a clean layout and easy reading. An educational introduction for young readers and a comprehensive primer for adults.” – Kirkus Reviews

In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives by Kenneth C. Davis
(Grades 5 & Up)
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“Known for his Don't Know Much About… series, Davis here focuses on the lives of five individuals who were enslaved to some of the most important proponents of American liberty; ‘Only then can we really understand and possibly move past the stain of a racist past that still haunts America.’ Davis begins by discussing the inherent contradictions of the founders' fight for liberty, then turns to his subjects. Billy Lee was purchased by George Washington as a teenager and served as his manservant until Washington took office. Ona Judge, a maid to Martha Washington, escaped while Washington was president. Isaac Granger spent a significant portion of his days at Monticello, the property of Thomas Jefferson. Paul Jennings, enslaved by President James Madison, was part of the White House staff that fled Washington, D.C., during the War of 1812. And Alfred Jackson was enslaved to President Andrew Jackson and remained at the Hermitage, telling stories about the man who had owned him until the end of his life. The premise of this work is unique, and Davis has a very readable storytelling style. In addition to the selected individual stories, he provides historical context, including information about other enslaved people connected to the four presidents. An important and timely corrective.” – Kirkus Reviews

Opening the Road: Victor Hugo Green and His Green Book by Keilia V. Dawson & Alleanna Harris
(Grades 2-4)
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“This picture book about the birth of the Green Book and its creator provides historical context and a foundation for current social justice issues. Victor Hugo Green (1892-1960), a Black postal worker from Harlem, NY, loved taking road trips across the United States, but it wasn't always safe to do so because of Jim Crow laws, especially in segregated areas and sundown towns. Green understood that Black sightseers needed a reliable guidebook for safe travel; he created The Negro Motorist Green Book in 1936. The travel guide sold more than two million copies, and although Green was successful, he wished for a world that didn't need such a book. Some may find the timeline of Green's life and the history of his guidebook difficult to read, but the use of a roadway to depict the passage of time is a clever visual device. Dawson's text makes a stark, complex topic accessible and comprehensible to younger readers. Harris's digital illustrations are realistic for historical accuracy and offer a warmth that invites readers into the narrative. Back matter includes an informative author's note, a timeline, and a selected bibliography. Similar reads include Shaking Things Up by Susan Hood and The Journey of York by Hasan Davis. VERDICT A compelling picture book that introduces the history of segregation and its impact in the U.S. to young readers.” – School Library Journal
Evicted! The Struggle for the Right to Vote by Alice Faye Duncan & Charly Palmer
(Grades 4 & Up)
Libby

“In this absorbing collection of profiles—including of parents and children, farmers, students, and the ghost of a lynched Black man, Thomas Brooks—Duncan illuminates the grassroots Fayette County Tent City Movement in late-1950s Tennessee, which opposed racial terror aimed at Black voters and eventually helped lead to the 1965 Voting Rights Act. As the Black residents of Fayette County take a stand and register to vote, white citizens do all they can to discourage them, denying them groceries, gas, and shelter. Duncan follows the Black activists in quietly compelling prose: about schoolteacher Minnie Jameson, ‘while Harpman bellowed over bowls of steamy collards and yams about Negro voting rights, Minnie would declare, ‘That school board can take my job, but they cannot take my self-respect.’ ’ Palmer’s abstract spreads, rendered in surreal-colored acrylic, offer mesmerizing visual accompaniment. An empathic tribute that will resonate amid present-day conversations about voter suppression. Back matter includes a timeline and author’s and illustrator’s notes.” – Publisher’s Weekly

Opal Lee and What it Means to be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth by Alice Faye Duncan
(Grades K-3)
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“In the midst of a Juneteenth jubilee, Opal Lee sits beneath a tree, surrounded by children eager to hear stories of this special day. The silver-haired woman–old but vivacious–begins with the holiday's origin story, as told to her by her father. Bobo's fabulous illustrations are richly colored and have a painted, folk art flair that helps tell Juneteenth's history as the true end to slavery in the U.S. Opal Lee then recounts her own childhood as a Black girl in Jim Crow Texas, where sweet freedoms went hand in hand with painful demonstrations of racism, such as segregation practices and the burning of her family's house by an angry mob. This, she declares, is the ember that still burns in her to fight for freedom for everyone. Before sending the multiracial group of children off to enjoy the barbecue, she reminds them that “Juneteenth is freedom rising. And freedom is for everyone. Juneteenth is YOU and ME.” Duncan includes a more detailed biography of Opal Lee, “the Grandmother of Juneteenth,” at the story's end, which makes Lee's passion and life experiences ring all the louder in the narrative. Back matter also includes a recipe for Juneteenth Red Punch, a timeline, and bibliography. A joyous account of Juneteenth's meaning that doesn't overlook the harsher aspects of history or the work that is yet to be done.” – Booklist

Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution by Joy Ellison
(Grades K-5)
Libby
Library Catalog

“Here, the LGBTQ+-rights movement of 1969 is brought to life among the neighborhoods of New York in which the queer community took refuge. Ellison's lighthearted text and Silver's bright illustrations focus on Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, two transgender women of color, and their goal to bring respect and equality to the queer, especially transgender, community. While this book targets a young audience, it makes the compelling concepts clear, if somewhat simplified–from the homophobia and transphobia that Sylvia and Marsha experience to the upsetting reality of trans homeless youths living on the streets. The book focuses on gender identity through its heroines, affirming their part in a sisterhood that struggles for a safe and equal existence. Ellison and Silver use fictionalized but realistic dialogue to propel an energetic plot that touches on the events at the Stonewall Inn and the subsequent result of Sylvia and Marsha opening their house and hearts to their transgender sisters. Included also are helpful resources defining LGBTQ+ terms; highlighting short biographies of Sylvia, Marsha, and other key players; and introducing discussion questions and activities.” – Booklist

Rosa by Nikki Giovanni, Bryan Collier
(Grades K-4)
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Giovanni (The Sun Is So Quiet) and Collier (Uptown) offer a moving interpretation of Rosa Parks's momentous refusal to give up her bus seat. The author brings her heroine very much to life as she convincingly imagines Parks's thoughts and words while she rode the bus on December 1, 1955 (‘She was not frightened. She was not going to give in to that which was wrong’), pointing out that Mrs. Parks was in the neutral section of the bus and (as some fellow riders observe) ‘She had a right to be there.’ The author and poet lyrically rephrases what the heroine herself has frequently said, ‘She had not sought this moment, but she was ready for it.’ After Mrs. Parks's arrest, the narrative's focus shifts to the 25 members of the Women's Political Council, who met secretly to stage the bus boycott. Inventively juxtaposing textures, patterns, geometric shapes and angles, Collier's watercolor and collage art presents a fitting graphic accompaniment to the poetic text. After viewing an image of Martin Luther King, Jr., encouraging a crowd to walk rather than ride the buses, readers open a dramatic double-page foldout of the Montgomery masses walking for nearly a year before the Supreme Court finally ruled that segregation on buses was illegal. A fresh take on a remarkable historic event and on Mrs. Parks's extraordinary integrity and resolve.” – Publisher’s Weekly

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison & Kwesi Johnson
(Grades K-4)
Libby
Library Catalog
“An artist's social media sensation is lovingly brought to life in this standout title. Initially a personal project for Black History Month, Harrison's collection highlights 40 notable black women throughout U.S. history. Each entry includes two to three paragraphs of biographical text, opposite which nearly identical figures (most are drawn facing forward with cherubic smiles and closed eyes) hold center stage of their full-page portrait, framed by simple yet clever backgrounds that contextualize their achievements. Audre Lorde, for example, stands before muted brown bookshelves-keen eyes will discern that the books displayed feature her poetry and prose. Leadership is embraced in forms past and present and across various disciplines; renowned abolitionists Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth are joined by Air Force General Marcelite J. Harris and filmmaker Julie Dash. A concluding ‘More Little Leaders’ segment addresses the difficulty of selecting 40 women to represent a historical legacy and offers miniature renditions of additional icons, including Gabby Douglas, Lorraine Hansberry, and the Williams sisters. Useful back matter provides multimedia sources for inevitably curious readers. The amount of information included makes this book ideal for budding researchers or for small groups, although the heartwarming digital images will garner a younger audience, too-kids of all ages will love poring over Harrison's tender artwork. VERDICT Beautifully designed and chock-full of information, this is a fantastic survey of black women who made and continue to make history. A must-have for youth nonfiction collections” – School Library Journal
Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History by Vashti Harrison & Kwesi Johnson
(Grades K-4)
Libby
Library Catalog

“Harrison's biographies of trailblazing men are brief enough for elementary school children but enjoyable for readers of any age. The subjects include Benjamin Banneker, the inventor of the first full-size clock; Thurgood Marshall, the first African American member of the U.S. Supreme Court; and André Leon Talley, former editor-at-large for American Vogue. Harrison's ideas are thoughtful, thorough, and accessible. She acknowledges that not every exceptional black man in history could be included and adds several mini-biographies at the back of the book with accompanying illustrations. VERDICT This striking book will resonate with readers in search of biographies of pioneering black men in history.” – School Library Journal

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard & Oge Mora
(Preschool – 3rd Grade)
Libby
Library Catalog

Mary Walker, born enslaved in 1848 Alabama, knew the first rule of her plantation (“Keep working!”) and the second: ‘Slaves should not be taught to read or write.’ Emancipated at 15, Walker grew to adulthood and into old age, working and raising a family, but still the marks in the Bible she was given as a gift remained illegible. When she was 114 and had outlived her entire family, she entered a reading class, practiced writing until ‘pages and letters and words swirled in her head,’ and at last achieved her goal. Crisp, engaging collages by Mora tell Mary Walker’s story in tapestrylike scenes whose planes of blues and greens convey the slow turning of years. In her early days, the signs and notices on the wall around Mary Walker appear as scribbles, but after she learns to read, they turn into words. Walker’s determination and her long, long life—she died at 121—offer genuine inspiration.” – Publisher’s Weekly

Brave. Black. First: 50+ African American Women Who Changed the World by Cheryl Hudson & Erin K. Robinson
(Grades 3-6)
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Library Catalog

“Accompanied by Robinson's brightly textured illustrations, Hudson's text highlights trailblazing African American women from the 1700s until the present day. Including women from all industries and spheres of activity–theater to mathematics to tennis–everyone here has made her mark. The illustrations evoke a reverence for these women and capture iconic poses, such as Zora Neale Hurston in her fur-trimmed coat and feathered cap and Angela Davis with a raised fist. Each one-page biography includes a famous, inspiring quote from its subject as epigraph. ‘Women know how to get things done,’ for instance, introduces civil rights activist Dorothy Irene Height. Alongside familiar figures are names likely new to many readers: sculptor Augusta Fells Savage, fashion designer Ann Lowe, and Union Army nurse Susie King Taylor, for instance. Although the book does include a few members of the lesbian, bisexual, and queer community, such as Sheryl Swoopes, there is an absence of transgender women, many of whom have achieved historic firsts in the 20th and 21st centuries. It is disappointing to see the omission of such pivotal figures, who have often stood side by side with cisgender black women to advance the rights and freedoms of African Americans. The backmatter provides additional facts about each woman along with information on artifacts at the National Museum of African American History and Culture and at the National Portrait Gallery. A beautifully illustrated testament to the continuing excellence and legacy of African American women.” – Kirkus Reviews

A Ride to Remember: A Civil Rights Story by Sharon Langley, Amy Nathan & Floyd Cooper
(Grades 1-4)
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“Sharon Langley became the first African American child to legally ride the carousel at Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Baltimore, Maryland, one month before her first birthday, in 1963. Her ride on the carousel followed a series of protests and the arrests of many, including children, who demanded the park integrate. The story is told through a conversational reminiscence between a school-age Sharon and her parents, interspersed with moments when Langley speaks to readers as an adult. The questions the little girl poses to her parents are those one would expect from a child grappling with injustice: ‘What about the Golden Rule? What about treating other people the way you want to be treated?’ Her mother tenderly answers her innocent yet complicated questions with kindness and grace: ‘I guess some people forgot that the Golden Rule is supposed to include everyone.’ Braided into the story are mentions of the other children who participated in the protests for the integration of the park. Backmatter includes photographs and a note from Langley, a timeline, and updates about the people mentioned in the story. Cooper's grainy sepia and golden tones with bright bursts of color give the book a dreamy and nostalgic quality that fits well with the story. This book delivers a beautiful and tender message about equality from the very first page.” – Kirkus Reviews

Jefferson’s Children: The Story of One American Family by Shannon LaNier & Jane Feldman
(Grades 5 & Up)
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“‘My name is Shannon Lanier. I am a twenty-year-old descendant of Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings,’ begins this thought-provoking, handsome volume designed to resemble a family photo album. Earnest and energetic, Lanier, Jefferson's fifth great-grandson through Sally Hemings's son Madison, brings both these qualities to his anecdotal narrative as he introduces descendents through both family lines and affectingly conveys the tension that surrounded some of his encounters. Describing the first Jefferson family reunion to which the Hemings relatives were invited, at Monticello in 1999, Lanier writes: ‘There were Jeffersons there who threw their arms around me, and one woman who looked at my outstretched hand and actually shuddered.’ Those responses are reflected in the profiles here, too, from Jane Floyd's (a descendant of Sally Hemings's and Jefferson's eldest son) articulate discussion of black history including the forming of the NAACP, to Jane Randolph Schluter's flat refusal to believe that Jefferson fathered Hemings's children (‘In my family, it was always referred to as a rumor propagated by the Hemings family’). Not surprisingly, some of the subjects are more eloquent and have more compelling stories to recount than others (and some detail their family trees to such a degree that youngsters may get lost in the branches). But this makes a strong teaching tool and springboard for discussion on subjects as varied as understanding one's own genealogy and the devastating results of racial prejudice. Archival photographs supplement Feldman's crisp and candid black-and-white shots, which capture the essence of each subject.” – Publisher’s Weekly

Dream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon by Kelly Lyons & Laura Freeman
(Grades K-5)
Libby
Library Catalog

“The achievements of award-winning architect Philip Freelon (1953–2019) are detailed and celebrated in Lyons’s carefully crafted picture-book biography. Born into a family of well-known artists (his grandfather was Harlem Renaissance painter Allan Randall Freelon), businesspeople, and educators, young Phil seemed destined to excel—and excel he did. Exceptionally gifted in both art and engineering, Freelon found reading a challenge (backward and askew letters in the illustrations suggest dyslexia), but perseverance won out. In high school and college he realized that architecture would best suit his talents; when he noticed a lack of representation in his studies, he sought to learn all he could about African and Islamic architects. His commitment and drive led Freelon to what he called the “pinnacle of my career”: his role as lead architect for the National Museum of African American History and Culture. In a nod to the architectural process, Freelon’s story is told in five brief parts, entitled Vision, Foundation, Frame, Form, and Dream. Freeman’s illustrations seamlessly incorporate architectural elements (shadows of well-known buildings, gridlines, etc.) into the brilliantly hued digital illustrations. Back matter includes an afterword by Freelon as well as Lyons’s author’s note describing her time interviewing him before his death. A bibliography is appended.” – Horn Book Magazine Reviews

The Vast Wonder of the World: Biologist Ernest Everett Just by Mélina Mangal & Luisa Uribe
(Grades 1-4)
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“Set amidst the evocative illustrations of Uribe is the life of Ernest Everett Just, a teacher, scientist, and poet famous for his foundational contributions to cell biology. Born in 1883 in Charleston, SC, Just was the son of a school teacher who encouraged his curiosity from a young age. Throughout, the discoveries Just makes-as a child and as an adult-spur his curiosity rather than sating it. It drives him to Dartmouth (during which time he also financially supported his siblings in the wake of his mother's death); to a faculty position at Howard in the biology department; to the Marine Biological Laboratory every summer for further research; and finally to Europe, where he received more respect as a scientist and thinker than he ever had in the United States because of racism. The text does not shy away from the discrimination Just and his family experienced as black Americans, and the ways it hindered him and his scholarly work throughout his life. Winner of the first NAACP Spingarn Medal, Just's accomplishments are not limited to the title of scientist: he was first a professor at Howard in the English department before becoming head of the Biology department, he wrote poetry, and he cared deeply about the experiences of his students. VERDICT A must-purchase picture book biography of a figure sure to inspire awe and admiration among readers.” – School Library Journal

Bayard Rustin – Leaders Like Us Series by J. P. Miller & Markia Jenai
(Grades K-4)
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“Readers are introduced to six African Americans who were pioneers in their fields. Brief overviews of their lives are provided, which include their experiences with discrimination and prejudice. For example, ‘Some people treated Bayard Rustin unfairly because he was gay, but this did not stop him.’…The vivid illustrations feature close-ups of the subjects as well as action scenes…The information tends to be scarce; most of the facts are shared in the time lines. VERDICT Though the lack of in-depth content means this series won't be useful for report writers, the bright illustrations will attract browsers who will enjoy learning about these inspiring individuals.” – School Library Journal

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson
(Grades 4 & Up)
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“As in We Are the Ship, Nelson knits together the nation's proudest moments with its most shameful, taking on the whole of African-American history, from Revolutionary-era slavery up to the election of President Obama. He handles this vast subject with easy grace, aided by the voice of a grandmotherly figure who's an amalgam of voices from Nelson's own family. She does not gloss over the sadness and outrage of her family's history, but her patient, sometimes weary tone (‘The law didn't do a thing to stop it,” she says about the Ku Klux Klan. “Shoot, some of the men wearing the sheets were lawmen”) makes listeners feel the quiet power that survival requires. In jaw-dropping portraits that radiate determination and strength, Nelson paints heroes like Frederick Douglass and Joe Louis, conferring equal dignity on the slaves, workers, soldiers, and students who made up the backbone of the African-American community. The images convey strength and integrity as he recounts their contributions, including ‘the most important idea ever introduced to America by an African American’ – €”Dr. King's nonviolent protest. A tremendous achievement.” – Publisher’s Weekly

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson & R. Gregory Christie
(Grades 1-5)
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“Nelson and Christie bring the story of Harlem’s storied National Memorial African Bookstore to picture book readers in this companion to their 2012 YA collaboration, No Crystal Stair. The shop was opened in the 1930s by Nelson’s great-uncle, Lewis Michaux, who ‘started out with five books… and a mission.’ Writing in the voice of Michaux’s admiring son, Nelson illuminates Lewis’s generosity (he invited those who couldn’t afford books into his shop to read) and his fervent belief in the power of words and books to change lives. Michaux’s love of words comes through in his catchy aphorisms and sales pitches (‘Knowledge is power. You need it every hour. Read a book!’), which appear throughout, as well as his nickname for the shop, ‘The House of Common Sense and Home of Proper Propaganda.’ Christie’s paintings powerfully contrast the idea of the bookstore as a refuge with the tensions of the day, particularly during a section of the book about Michaux’s friendship with Malcolm X and his anguish following the activist’s assassination. It’s an emotive tribute to Michaux’s personal and professional legacy.” – Publisher’s Weekly

Molly By Golly! The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter by Dianne Ochiltree & Kathleen Kemly
Libby
Library Catalog

“Williams was a cook for New York City's volunteer Fire Company 11 in the early 1800s. When a snowstorm and influenza threatened to cripple the firefighters' efforts, the African American woman fled her kitchen as the first church bells announced a fire nearby. She alerted the runners to gather buckets and volunteers, fetched water from the river, pumped the engine, sprayed the blazing wooden house, and ‘pulled down chunks of burning roof with a hooked iron rod.’ From then on, she was known as ‘Volunteer No. 11,’ the first woman firefighter in America. Mouths will water at the mention of Molly's delectable 19th-century dishes such as hasty pudding, chicken roly-poly, hot apple tansey, and venison stew-students will probably want to research the recipes as well. They can also compare the tools, equipment, and practice of firefighting today to that of 200 years ago. Vibrant watercolor illustrations are filled with historical details; windmills, butter churns, cobblestoned streets, wooden houses with thatched roofs, and weather vanes capture the ‘small town’ community in which everyone pitches in to avert crisis. This attractive, engaging, carefully researched title will not only enrich firefighting units, but is also recommended for women's history and lessons on post-Colonial life” – School Library Journal

Lift As You Climb: The Story of Ella Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell & R. Gregory Christie
(Grades 2 & Up)
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“Early in life, Ella Baker listened to her grandfather's sermons, her grandmother's stories about life during slavery, and her mother's advice to ‘Lift as you climb’: the lodestars that guided Baker to her purpose and accomplishments. Powell's verse biography chronicles the professional life of civil rights leader Ella Josephine Baker. Not as widely familiar as Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Dorothy Height, she nevertheless played a pivotal role in educating African Americans of all backgrounds about freedom, voting, and their rights. The book cites Baker's working relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as they formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, as well as her work with the NAACP and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Christie's illustrations are in the style of African American folk art, a harmonious choice for the subject matter. Vivid colors abound, and the typeset alternates between black and white, both clearly legible against solid backgrounds. Centered in distinctive display type is Baker's oft-repeated question, ‘What do you hope to accomplish?’ There is an urgency to the clipped text, accentuated by frequent use of the em dash: ‘Ella thought [Dr. King] should ask– / not command. / Still, she agreed– / for the cause.’ Substantial backmatter includes an author's note with further information about Baker's personal life, a glossary of the initialisms, a timeline, and a bibliography. A beautiful book and a welcome addition to the picture-book-biography shelf.” – Kirkus Reviews

The Quilts of Gee’s Bend by Susan Goldman Rubin
(Grades 3-6)
Libby
Library Catalog

“Rubin (Hot Pink: The Life and Fashions of Elsa Schiaparelli) tells the story of a folk art form passed down through generations in a small corner of the Deep South. Descended from the enslaved and, later, tenant farmers, the women quilters of Gee’s Bend, Ala., create unique variations of traditional patterns. Their vibrant handiwork sits in stark contrast to archival photographs of the quilters’ hardscrabble surroundings. The women’s expressions are proud, their settings meager—a 1937 photograph shows a room wallpapered in newsprint to keep out drafts. Rubin traces the quilters’ history alongside their struggle for civil rights and a steadily improving quality of life. When the women’s art is ‘discovered’ by outsiders and becomes sought after, the results weren’t always welcome. Numerous quotations allow the women to tell their story: ‘A lot of people make quilts for your bed,’ says Mensie Lee Pettway. ‘But a quilt is more. It represents safekeeping, it represents beauty, and you could say it represents family history.’ An epilogue, source notes, bibliography, index, and brief quilting how-to wrap up a celebration of fellowship and ingenuity.” – Publisher’s Weekly

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margaret Shetterly & Laura Freeman
(Grades K-2)
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“Shetterly introduces young readers to the inspirational and groundbreaking stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, and their once-hidden contributions to science, aeronautics, and space exploration. Shetterly expertly puts these women's achievements in their historical context: segregation, blatant sexism and racism in the workplace, the civil rights movement, and the space race. Despite the challenges these women faced, they persisted, worked hard, and put a man on the moon. In this picture book take, the text, at times, reads a bit clinical and it's occasionally difficult to distinguish one woman's characteristics from another's while reading. This is remedied with the handy timeline of short profiles in the back matter. Freeman's full-color illustrations are stunning and chock-full of details, incorporating diagrams, mathematical formulas, and space motifs throughout (including the women's clothing and jewelry), enhancing the whole book. VERDICT An essential purchase for elementary school and public libraries.” – School Library Journal

Black Voter Suppression: The Fight for the Right to Vote by Dr. Artika R. Tyner
(Grades 3 & Up)
Libby
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“Discussing issues of great importance, the Fight for Black Rights series (6 titles) traces Black Americans' past and ongoing struggles for civil rights and equality, and it presents the tools available to help affect change. Black Voter Suppression details barriers to voting that Black people have faced in the past and continue to contend with today. Short, clear chapters are accompanied by black-and-white and color photographs and illustrations that show persons and events referred to in the text, with yellow boxes highlighting important individuals and asking readers thoughtful questions to inspire discussions. A timeline of events and list of recommended websites and books are included in each title. A well-organized and timely series.” – Booklist

My Name is James Madison Hemings by Jonah Winter & Terry Widener
(Grades K-4)
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Library Catalog

“The author of many acclaimed nonfiction books, Winter takes on a neglected part of American history with the story of the son of Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson. A chestnut-haired boy, who stares at the reader from the cover, tells his tale in a straightforward yet moving first-person narrative that begins with a terse explanation of slavery. He and his siblings are the children of the man who owns his family. Though Jefferson remains unnamed for most of the book, he is portrayed as a writer, a violinist, a scholar. Sally Hemings is a worker, mending clothes and sweeping floors. For James, life is a series of juxtapositions. He lives and works in the house while he watches others toiling in the field. Jefferson’s granddaughter teaches him to read, but his real education will be learning woodworking. He is a slave, but his father has promised that one day he will be set free. The question James asks near the book’s beginning about his father haunts the rest of the story: ‘How could I be both his slave and his son?’ Terry Widener provides compelling artwork throughout, from a picture of children listening to their mother as she tries to explain their parentage to an ironically pastoral scene of heavenly colored skies and green fields; one has to look closely to see the slaves planting crops. Like Heather Henson’s similar Lift Your Light a Little Higher (2016), Winter’s book raises the question of how far boundaries can be stretched when writing nonfiction. Winter tells us in his lengthy and informative author’s note that his book is ‘inspired by and partially based’ on an 1873 interview with Hemings. Aside from that, Winter continues, ‘There is limited documentation.’ Though he says he has presented Hemings’ story as ‘historical fiction’ (‘fictionalized biography’ might be a better term), the Library of Congress has given the book a Dewey number of 973.4, placing it on history shelves. Winter’s book is built around the skeleton of a true story and the lives of real people, but incidents, motives, and thoughts are added…” – Booklist

Categories: Authors & Books, Featured, Homepage Kids, Kids, and Library News.

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