Category Archives: Diversity – African American

Books written by or about African Americans.

We are Brothers

We are Brothers
by Yves Nadon, illustrated by Jean Claverie
Creative Editions, 2018

Stirring. Riveting. Heartfelt. We are Brothers tells the tale of how a younger brother is encouraged by his big brother to jump from rocks high above the water.

Told from the younger brother’s point of view, and in a poetic voice, we see “the wall.”  We feel the fear, “Not now”.  Surprised, the younger brother climbs the wall with the ease of a cat.  At top, he hesitates. Trusting his brother, he finally jumps…and everything is silent as he falls.  He’s thrust into the water, then returns to the surface like a fish.  Big brother celebrates the first jump, then they do it again.  As brothers.

The illustrations by award-winning French artist are soft, gentle, exquisite. They capture and show the feelings involved with the first jump from a high place. They show the trust the young brother feels from the encouragement of a loving big brother.

If you like this story, also check out Jabari Jumps, a story about a father supporting a boys first jump into a pool.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

Little Leaders, Bold Women in Black History












Little Leaders, Bold Women in Black History
by Vashti Harrison
Little, Brown and Company, 2018

Little Leaders celebrates 40 well-known and little-known women who changed history in little or big ways.  From currently popular women, like Oprah Winfrey, to little-known women like Alma Woodsey Thomas.  Like other collections of women  who made a difference, I’m amazed at the variety and caliber of careers, especially those in history where women having careers wasn’t allowed.  From medical researchers, to physicians, to spies, to astronauts, engineers, filmmakers and more.  For many of these women, they made their mark against all odds, just quietly going about their work. An inspiring and eye-opening collection for girls and boys from all backgrounds.

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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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