As a Brown Bookshelf partner, The African American Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators society is dedicated to spreading the word about these and other books that are of special interest to multi-cultural audiences.
From Board Books to Young Adult fiction, Heads Up serves as a guide of what to look for in stores or what to ask for at the library.
Taking a peek at this column’s latest entries, I get the sense that with Black History Month around the corner, historical books are the flavor of the day.
FREEDOM ON THE MENU by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by
Jerome Lagarrigue (Puffin) Picture Book/Paperback (ages 4-8)
There were signs all throughout town telling eight-year-old Connie where she could and could not go. But when Connie sees four young men take a stand for equal rights at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, she realizes that things may soon change.
This event sparks a movement throughout her town and region. And while Connie is too young to march or give a speech, she helps her brother and sister make signs for the cause. Changes are coming to Connie’s town, but Connie just wants to sit at the lunch counter and eat a banana split like everyone else.
CIRCLE UNBROKEN by Margot Theis Raven (Square Fish) Picture Book (ages
As she teaches her granddaughter to sew a traditional sweetgrass basket, a grandmother weaves a story, going back generations to her old-timey grandfather’s village in faraway Africa. There, as a boy, he learned to make baskets so tightly woven they could hold the rain.
Even after being stolen away to a slave ship bound for America, he remembers what he learned and passes these memories on to his children.
FRANCIE by Karen English (Square Fish) – Middle Grade (ages 9-12)
Francie is happiest up on her hill, bare feet pushed into the cool grass, eating a Scooter Pie, reading a Nancy Drew mystery, and–best of all–waving at “her” train as it heads up the tracks to Birmingham. Life isn’t easy being a quiet, bright, “colored” eighth-grader growing up in the ’30s in Noble, Alabama. The fact that Francie can be a little willful doesn’t always help.
Her train promises escape, the chance to travel to “places of possibility.” And anywhere seems better than Noble, with its “pickaninny” racism and back-breaking routine, where she slaves away with her mother cooking and cleaning for white folks in town (when she isn’t studying hard at Booker T. Washington, her clapboard country school, that is).
Francie dreams of Chicago, where her father moved a year ago to work as a Pullman porter, promising to send for Francie, her little brother Prez, and their mama as soon as he could. But Daddy has yet to come through, and Noble begins to offer possibilities of its own, the most exciting being when Francie puts her reading smarts to use tutoring an unschooled 16-year-old from nearby New Carlton.
When he gets framed for attacking a white foreman, though, the courageous Francie can’t keep from trying to help, endangering herself and those she holds dear.
I, MATTHEW HENSON By Carole Boston Weatherford (Walker Books for Young
Children) – Nonfiction (ages 5-10)
Matthew Henson was not meant to lead an ordinary life. His dreams had sails. They took him from the port of Baltimore, around the world, and north to the pole. No amount of fear, cold, hunger, or injustice could keep him from tasting adventure and exploring the world.
He learned to survive in the Arctic wilderness, and he stood by Admiral Peary for
years on end, all for the sake of his goal. And finally, after decades of facing danger and defying the odds, he reached the North Pole and made history. At last, Henson had proved himself as an explorer—and as a man.
A SWEET SMELL OF ROSES by Angela Johnson (Aladdin) – Picture Book
There’s a sweet, sweet smell in the air as two young girls sneak out of their house, down the street, and across town to where men and women are gathered, ready to march for freedom and justice. Inspired by countless children and young adults who took a stand, two Coretta Scott King honorees offer a heart-lifting glimpse of children’s roles
in the civil rights movement.