Category Archives: Diversity – African American

Books written by or about African Americans.

Between the Lines, How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Between the Lines, How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery
by Sandra Neil Wallace, illustrated by Bryan Collier
A Paula Wiseman Book, 2018

Born in segregated South Carolina, Ernie Barnes couldn’t wait until the rainy season, for he could paint pictures with a stick in the mud.  Not allowed into museums, he went to his mom’s place of work where he could look at books and art.  At six foot three, his high school football coach got him onto the team, where Ernie soon became captain.  His abilities earned him 26 college scholarships. He took the one he could learn art while playing football.  A beautifully told story of how Ernie became famous for his paintings of sports.  As a player, he included details non-players couldn’t know.  His first painting was called The Bench.  After his football career, his art career flourished.  An inspiring tale encouraging readers to never give up on their dreams and to be ready to work hard, in spite of roadblocks.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

What is Given from the Heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is Given from the Heart
Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by April Harrison
Schwartz & Wade Books, 2019

An old tale with a new twist. Re-written with a voice of a poor African-American, young boy, his father dies, his mother and him lose the farm and they move. The mother always tries to find the good in every situation. At church they are asked to help a family with a young girl who lost everything in a fire.  The boy wonders what he could possibly give a young girl, for they have nothing. He considered many things, but nothing seemed right, until, when he was reading his favorite, his only, book, he thought to make her a book. He presented the book, “From My Heart to Your Heart”, a story about her, to her personally.  She was overwhelmed and so pleased to have a book about herself.

Beautifully written, illustrated with loose colors of mixed media including art pens.  A touching story.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

The Day You Begin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Day You Begin
by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018

Jacqueline Woodson writes a deeply felt book on diversity as only she can.

Told in second person, the books speaks frankly to its readers about how “no one … is quite like you.”  She shares many ways in which everyone is different from everyone else.  She shows how her summer story of reading books to her sister can be just as wonderful as everyone else’s stories of summer travel.  And it shows how even when you are excluded from teams and play, how you still have “your own brave self”.  It ends with, “every … friend has something a little like you—and something else so fabulously not quite like you…”  A book that speaks to the heart and gently enlightens and empowers the soul and imagination into a world of acceptance of differences.  Beautiful story.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

Carter Reads the Newspaper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carter Reads the Newspaper
by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Don Tate
Peachtree Publishers, 2018

Carter Reads the Newspaper documents the history of Black History Month, beginning with two unknown figures.  Oliver Jones, a coal miner, and Carter G. Woodson, a former miner and, later, historian.

Oliver opened his home to other miners and provided them books written by African-Americans and newspapers from all over the world.  One of the people visiting his home was Carter, who had had some education and knew how to read.  He soon began reading to others.  When others asked questions about the news, Carter researched them and found the answers. After three years in the mines, he returned to school, graduating at age 20, eventually earning his Ph.D. in history from Harvard.  In 1926 he established Negro History Week, which later expanded into Black History Month.

Well documented story, with illustrations inspiring pride. The book also includes illustrations of 43 Black leaders and a bit about them.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

Neema’s Reason to Smile

Neema’s Reason to Smile
by Patricia Newman, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini
Lightswitch Learning, 2018

Author Patricia Newman cleverly weaves Africa into every scene in her story, Neema’s Reason to Smile.  From elephants taking mud baths, she introduces Africa culture with descriptions that include, “…my bare feet trace the dusty path that unwinds like a cheetah’s tail…” and “A thought buzzes like a mosquito.”   Newman also shows how the whole village supports Neema’s dream.

In this story, Neema wants more than anything to go to school, but she and her mama don’t have enough money.  Everyday Neema sells fruit to drop a coin or two into her dream basket.  One day she sees a girl running by in a school uniform. Excited there might be a new school she could attend, she follows the girl, but several times she stops to sell fruit and loses sight of the girl.  Neema persists everyday she goes to market until she finally arrives at the school.  Her dream met, she assigns a new dream to her basket.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

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.

Read more reviews and purchase on Amazon.

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.

Read more reviews and purchase on Amazon.

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.

Read more reviews and purchase on Amazon.

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.

Read more reviews and purchase on Amazon.