This month I’ve been focusing on children’s books that commemorate figures in Black History. Here are a few of my favorites:
I Am Rosa Parks by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos (Picture Book)
This book is part of a series called Ordinary People Change the World, and I love it. The illustrations are bright and engaging for young readers; parts of the story are told in comic book style with the dialogue featured in word bubbles above the characters heads, and the familiar story of Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on the bus is made fresh. My favorite thing about it, though, is that Rosa Parks is not deified. She is portrayed as an ordinary person who made a difficult and heroic choice. There is danger in turning ordinary people into saints, especially in children’s books. It creates distance between the child reader and the hero, adding unnecessary difficulty to the child’s understanding of heroism - “I am Rosa Parks. I’m not a politician, or a president, or an actor, or a famous business owner. I’m just an ordinary person. But I’m also proof that there’s no such thing as an ordinary person. I hope you’ll always stand up for yourself, and I hope you’ll remember that we’re all in this together.”
This Is The Rope is a generational story, told from the perspective of a granddaughter jumping rope with the same rope her grandmother used as a girl. The girl’s grandparents moved from the South in order to give their family more opportunities for education and equality. They buy their house in Brooklyn, send their daughter to college, and watch their granddaughter grow up and thrive. The writing is lyrical and the illustrations are beautiful and inspiring. Put this at the top of your reading list.
The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine (Middle Grade Novel) - Book Review by Francesca Geffre, age 11 - We're so excited that Francesca has agreed to join our blog and share her perspectives on the books that she is reading. Stay tuned for more in the coming months!
“I think a friend is someone who helps you change for the better. And whether you see them once a day or once a year, if it's a true friend, it doesn't matter.”
When the person Marlee feels comfortable enough around to talk to leaves school without saying goodbye, Marlee is heartbroken. Rumor has it, Liz was a black girl trying to pass as white in segregated Arkansas. But Marlee doesn't care what anyone tells her, she just wants her friend back.
If you enjoy sitting down to read a good historical fiction book like I do, this is the book for you. Kristen Levine made me feel I was really there, with Marlee, in Little Rock, Arkansas, 1958, fighting for equal rights. I loved this book and if you read it, you will too.
March is not considered YA, but I think this graphic novel trilogy is a great way to start a dialogue with your older children about the violent segregation and racism that led to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s. John Lewis weaves his personal experiences growing up in Alabama and marching for civil rights with his work as a congressman in Georgia, and the election of President Barack Obama in 2008. This is not an easy read, but it is vital.
Others to check out:
Rose Lee Carter is growing up in Mississippi in 1955. Emmett Till has just been killed and her grandparents have decided she won’t be returning to school in the fall because they can’t spare her in the fields. Midnight Without a Moon is a complex portrait of a brave girl growing up in unjust times.
Josephine is an exuberant celebration of a larger-than-life performer who refused to be dismissed because of the color of her skin.
This is a stunning book. Harriet Tubman comes alive for readers as Lesa Cline-Ransome honors her many different roles as daughter, suffragist, and freedom fighter, to name a few.
Bryan Collier’s illustrations perfectly express Troy Andrews’ joyful story of music, family, and the cultural heritage of New Orleans.