Category Archives: Diversity – African American

Books written by or about African Americans.

Step Right Up, How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step Right Up, How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness
by Donna Janell Bowman, illustrated by Daniel Minter
Lee and Low Books Inc., 2016

This little known history story is about a former slave who had a way with animals. Because of his abilities, people soon started calling him Doc. When the Civil War ended, he started a horse hospital. He owned a horse who birthed Jim, part Arabian.  The horse was so sickly, Doc kept him in his house until he got better. Doc soon discovered just how smart Jim was and began teaching him the alphabet—which Jim learned!  Doc and Jim began touring the US.  In time Jim worked with the Human Society and helped promote kindness towards animals. The compelling story keeps the pages turning and an afterword includes photos and more details about Doc and Jim.

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Seeing into Tomorrow, Haiku by Richard Wright

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeing into Tomorrow, Haiku by Richard Wright
Richard Wright, illustrated by Nina Crews
Millbrook Press, 2018

Delightful book. Richard Wright, 1908-1960, wrote hundreds of haiku in his later years and this book features twelve of them. Featuring African-American children it’s a perfect introduction to haiku and the seasons. Nina Crews’ photos capture the images and emotions of the poems.

The haiku explore and encourage deeper associations with typical images seen in each season. “As my delegate, My shadow imitates me…”  How empowering knowing your shadow respects you so much, it imitates and represents you!  Some haiku personify nature, giving children the opportunity to wear another’s shoes and see the world from other perspectives, as in, “The clouds are smiling At a single yellow kite Swaying under them.” These perspectives open reader’s minds to what other things in nature notice their presence, and, they are not alone.

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Martin Rising, Requiem for a King 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Martin Rising: Requiem for a King 
Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Scholastic Press, 2018

A collection of brilliant “docu-poems” summarizing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s(MLK) birth, life and family, and time up to the weeks and months before his death. The time before his death includes his birthday January 15 through April 4, 1968. The story includes the sanitation worker’s strike in Memphis and its challenges, MLK’s last sermon and his last night. It also includes the half-mast flags, funeral and mourning of a community who had lost their leader. Author Andrea Davis weaves in MLK quotes on love into a valentine poem ending with,

“…folks in Memphis
are down on their knees
proposing to Equality:
Be mine!”

The book introduces readers to acronyms like GOD: Gift of Desperation, their motivation for the strike, and COME: Community on the Move for Equality. She uses Henny Penny, a chicken of “The Sky is Falling” fame, as narrator to illuminate, punctuate and foretell events in the story.

In loose, vibrant colors, Brian Pinkney’s illustrations show the emotions of the events, both emotions displayed and emotions held in by the African-American community during their struggles. A brilliant piece of work on all accounts.

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Before She Was Harriet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before She Was Harriet
by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome
Holiday House, 2017

A brilliantly told story that introduces Harriet Tubman, best known as a Conductor in the  Underground Railroad.  Written in brief, open verse, the story opens with her twilight years, and works its way back to when Harriet worked as a suffragist, when she was “General Tubman”, Union Spy, and the many roles she played in history.

“a wisp of a woman
with the courage
of a lion.”

Illustrated in loose, yet vivid, colors, one can ‘feel’ her story.  The book will fuel a curiosity in readers to want to know more about this American hero.

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Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout; Dance, Spin & Turn it Out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout; Dance, Spin & Turn it Out!

Games, Songs & Stories from an African American Childhood
collected by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Schwartz & Wade Books, 2017

“Our earliest toys are our hands, feet, and voices,” says Patricia C. McKassack who collected dozens of hand clap songs and jump rope rhymes, hymns, parables and even performance pieces inspired by African American writers.  Each one comes with a history, some Patricia’s history and most others of where and when they came from or how they came to be.

Her research shows that Aesop is thought to be an Afro-Greek storyteller who lived as a slave more than twenty-five hundred years ago.  The book shares how original songs were reshaped while people were in slavery.  Spirituals originated in the fields and slave quarters of the plantation South.  She writes how the songs came to be written down and are still enjoyed today, songs like Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho.  The song, Follow the Drinking Gourd, was taught to runaways to help lead them to freedom.

A rich collection of history brought together in one book.

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Grandma’s Tiny House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandma’s Tiny House, A Counting Story!
by JaNay Brown-Wood, illustrated by Priscilla Burris
Charlesbridge, 2017

This counting story is perfect for large families, where everyone piles into Grandma’s house for the holidays.  Author JaNay Brown-Wood creatively crafted a story starting with one grandma, two turkeys and three neighbors and with scrumptious smells, slapping high-fives, and mini stampedes, she cleverly moves up through “Nine chatting aunties”, “thirteen thrilled nieces” and “fifteen hungry grandkids”.  But, “How will they all eat in this too-tiny place?”  One of the clever grandkids has just the answer!  A fun, family story kids will want to hear again and again, if only to find themselves in the pictures!

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Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions
By Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate
Charlesbridge, 2016

When a child is curious, they just have to explore, and that’s exactly what Lonnie Johnson did as a child.  Living in a small house with five brothers and sisters, he had challenges storing his rocket kits, bamboo shooters, rubber-band guns, erector set, go-kart engine, and all the other spare parts he used to make things.  He was an inventor.

From scratch he taught himself how to make a rocket and launched it for his classmates.  When an ‘exam’ told him he would not make a good engineer, he pushed through those claims because he knew he had Linux, a robot he had created from spare parts.  In 1968 he and Linux won a science fair at the University of Alabama, where only five years earlier, African American students hadn’t even been allowed.  In time he invents the Super-Soaker and, with perseverance, his dreams come true.  An inspiring story with encouragement to push through setbacks.

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The Village that Vanished


The Village that Vanished

by Ann Grifalconi,
illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2002

This original story reads like an African folk tale and stirs the imagination of how it could be true.

During the time when slavers stole families from African villages, young Abikanile watched her mother pray for magic to protect their village. When they were warned that slavers were coming, Abikanile’s mother decides they must disappear and leave the village behind. In fear they discuss, burning the village, but Aabikanile’s mother says they must dismantle their straw hutches and scatter the materials in the woods. They do so, and disappear to hide in the forest.  Unable to find anyone, the slavers leave, sure someone had been there.  And that is how the village of Yao vanished and all survived.

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Mahalia Jackson, Walking with Kings and Queens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Mahalia Jackson, Walking with Kings and Queens

by Nina Nolan, illustrated by John Holyfield
Amistad, 2015

Mahalia Jackson was born with nothing, except a voice that was bigger than she was.  When she sang, “she felt like a peacock with her feathers all spread out.” Her mama died and later she had to quit school to look after her cousins.  But she always sang.  When she was sixteen, an aunt took her in and she returned to school, until her aunt took sick.  She sang gospel whenever she could.  “Mahalia’s joyful voice lifted people with hope.  After she sang…, people lined up to join the congregation.”  She took a singing lesson as was told to “stop hollering.” She kept hollering.  She sang in Carnegie Hall and before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech.   In back matter, readers learn that well after her death, a New Orleans theatre was named after her and a commemorative postage stamp issued. As her aunt Bell always said to her, “you’ll walk with kings and queens”—and Mahalia became the queen.

A moving story with rich illustrations makes it a joy to follow Mahalia’s dream to sing.  An inspiring story.

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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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