Category Archives: Awards – Coretta Scott King

Freedom Over Me, Eleven Slaves, their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life












Freedom Over Me, Eleven Slaves, their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life

By Ashley Bryan
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book & Newbery honor award

Freedom Over Me jumps into the lives of eleven slaves, their thoughts, feelings, dreams.  The eleven selected were from Mary Fairchild’s estate listing of her property, including their names, sex, and worth.

The story opens with Mary selling off her estate and returning home to England after her husband died.  Each slave is given a story, a voice to be heard.  While the stories are fiction, they are composites of true stories of real slaves.  Written in open verse, we learn of what they currently do, their past when they were ripped from their villages, their future, all with the same dream of freedom.  At this point in the story they wait, helplessly, knowing they will be sold, and likely separated.

Loose, color-filled illustrations bring life to the people, show the love they had and the pains they survived.  An insightful, heart-felt book that gives a deep look into the lives of those enslaved.

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Voice of Freedom, Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement












Voice of Freedom, Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement
by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes
Candlewick Press, 2015
2016 Caldecott Honor Book
2016 Robert F. Sibert Honor Book
2016 John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award Winner

Written in free verse poetry this was my introduction to Ms. Hamer, the spirit of the civil rights movement.  I had not heard her story, but the riveting poems brought me into her world and shed light on a person instrumental in both building the movement and holding it together.

Born in 1917, her mother was paid $50 by the plantation owner for producing a future field hand; the money helped them get through the winter as sharecroppers.  Fannie Lou was six when she started picking cotton.  As a child, she never understood why black people were poor and whites were not.  She married, adopted two girls, and when the battle over voting began, took the ‘literacy’ test.  After that, she had to go on the run.  She sustained a severe beating that was to affect her the rest of her life.  Figuring she had nothing to lose, she continued speaking up and singing to inspire others to stand up for themselves.

A well written and inspiring, as well as educational, book.

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Trombone Shorty













Trombone Shorty
by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2015
2016 Caldecott Honor Book, Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Award Winner

A great celebration of a great musician, written by the musician!  Trombone Shorty played music way before he had an instrument. When he found an old beat-up trombone, twice the size of him, he played it everywhere he went.  Raised in New Orleans, he was born to play music.  While in the audience of a Bo Didley concert, he started playing his trombone.  The show stopped.  Bo asked who was playing the trombone.  He was so short, his mother had to raise him up so Bo could see him.  Trombone Shorty was passed up to the stage and played with Bo Didley at a young age.  Soon after he formed his first band, The 5 O’Clock Band, as that’s when the practiced after they completed their homework.

Readers can feel the joy of music, the love of rhythms, and the passion Trombone Shorty has for his music.  Bryan Collier’s illustrations further enhance the story bringing color and passion to each page.  A wonderful introduction to music, the Mardi-Gras, and following your passion. An afterward includes more details of the musician’s life

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Brown Girl Dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming
by Jacqueline Woodson
Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Books, 2014
Newbery Honor Book
Coretta Scott King Award
Siebert Informational Book Medal
National Book Award 

Written in open verse, Jacqueline Woodson provides a rich view of herself growing up in the 60’s in South Carolina and New York.  In a time where she is still referred to as a colored girl, she takes readers on a leisurely stroll, inviting a deep excitement to swell inside as they digest her phrases, images, dreams, and yearnings.  Walking in her shoes, readers can feel the joy of freedom and the confusion of racism poking at the young girl unable to respond, but knowing it’s wrong, just plain wrong.  Woodson’s writing is vivid, startling, fascinating, and from the heart.  It’s easy to see why she’s won so many writing awards.

A special treat for writers, Woodson walks readers through the inside thoughts of a young writer in the making, including the joy of her first composition notebook well before she could even write.  She shares the secret to her writing—listening—and with each story, she spills delectable foods across the table for readers to taste, savor, and digest.  This is not a book readers will want to breeze through, it is one in which readers will want to linger, contemplate, and experience.  Sure to be an award winner.

Originally published in San Francisco Book Review, December 2014

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Knock Knock, My Dad’s Dream for Me

Knock Knock, My Dad’s Dream for Me
By Daniel Beaty, illustrated by Bryan Collier
Little Brown & Company 2013
Coretta Scott King Award Winner

A young boy plays “Knock Knock” with his father every morning, until one day the boy no longer hears the “Knock Knock.”  Nor the next day, or next.  Thinking his father may be at home while he’s at school, he writes his father a letter.  It sits on his desk for more than two months and then one day his father responds to his son’s letter.  In the briefest of words he instructs his son on the boy’s concerns.  Then he shares, “No longer will I be there to knock on your door, so you must learn to knock for yourself.  Knock Knock down the doors that I could not.  Knock Knock to open new doors to your dreams.”  “Knock Knock” is for any boy who has a missing father and needs encouraging words from a missing father.

Author Daniel Beaty played Knock Knock with his father, until he was incarcerated.  He knows from experience the pain of not having a father to guide him through life.  Illustrator Bryan Collier creates rich portrayals of the loneliness and emptiness—yet hope—of missing a father.

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Words with Wings

Words with Wings
By Nikki Grimes
WordSong, 2013
Coretta Scott King Honor Book

Words with Wings began as a picture book, but a wise editor asked Nikki to develop it into a novel.  Nikki created seventy-one poems to tell us Gabby’s story.

Except for English, Gabby is not the best student, she day dreams most of the time.  Her mother tries to get her to stop, while her father encourages it.  Her mother and father split and Gabby expresses her pain through poems.  Determined, Gabby tries very hard to not daydream, but her world is dull and even her teacher who normally scolds her for daydreaming, asks if she is okay.  Gabby makes a friend with an artist.  One day, while passing notes back and forth, Gabby is caught.  She walks her story of her daydream up to the teacher, returns to her seat and waits for her punishment.  Only it doesn’t come.  She worries all night.  The next day, after class, her teacher asks to talk to her.  He tells her,

“It’s wonderfully vivid,” he says.
“In fact, it’s given me an idea.
I’ll tell you all about it,

She’s dismissed and floats out of the room.  The next day the teacher announces they will have 10 minutes of daydream time every day, after which they can write them down.  Gabby’s whole life changes.  With a channel for her creativity, her relationship with her mom even changes.  Find out how.

A touching story, vivid in its descriptions, readers become part of Gabby’s experience.

more reviews on Amazon

Dave the Potter, Artist, Poet, Slave

Dave the Potter, Artist, Poet, Slave
By Laban Carrick Hill, Illustrated by Bryan Collier
Little, Brown and Company 2010

Beautifully illustrated in watercolors and collage, this book takes you back in time. Dave was a rare slave who worked as a potter. Written in a poetic voice, the author helps readers feel the rhythms of throwing clay and spinning a wheel. Little is known of the artist, but from a few remaining pots we know he was able to make large pots, requiring great strength and skill. A bio after the story, shares what little is known, including that when Dave was in his 30’s, he lost his leg. Another slave spun the wheel for him, while Dave did his work. Readers also learn of how African’s influenced today’s art. Very beautifully rendered and inspiring.

Caldecott Medal and Coretta Scott King Award

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