Picture book guy here. I love the art of telling stories with words and pictures. And I get all excited when I find a new picture book in my mailbox, a book sent to me by publishers for mention here at the Brown Bookshelf. Thing is, I’ve been so busy with my own book projects, I haven’t had time to chat-up other books lately. But I plan to do better, so here goes. These are a few that recently arrived in my mailbox:
Young Wangari was taught to love and respect mugumo (trees). Trees are home to many and provide food. In addition, the Kikuyu people of Kenya believe their ancestors live in the shade of trees.
When Wangari began attending school—something most Kenyan girls weren’t allowed to do—she excelled. Science was her favorite subject. Her education in Kenya eventually lead her to the United States where she attended college and later became a teacher at a university. But Wangari never forgot her childhood teachings, and she never stopped loving trees.
When she returned to Africa, Wangari was saddened to discover her people had turned their backs of the custom of not chopping trees down. With the loss of trees, the land was destroyed, food sources dried up, children were hungry. Wangari put her education to work and organized other women. Together they saved the land and her people, one tree at a time.
Jen Cullerton Johnson introduces readers to a little-known but important African heroine, a Noble Peace Prize winner and environmentalist. Illustrator and fine artist Sonia Lynn Sadler’s artwork is bold and colorful. Her rich paintings bring stained glass to mind.
Adrienne, Keesha, Michael and Tommy are best friends. They live on the same street in New Orleans, a close-knit community where everyone knows each other, and everyone says hello.
One day as the kids play, the sun shines bright. But that only the calm before the storm. Time stands still, the sky grows dark. Hurricane Katrina moves in. During the storm streets flood, windows shatter, homes are under water. The friends are separated as the flood affects each family different. Tommy’s family goes to Houston. Keesha ends up in a trailer. Adrienne and her family goes to Baton Rouge. Michael’s family stays put and has to be rescued. “Katrina turned New Orleans inside out.”
In alternating voices, four friends describe their life before, during and after the storm.
Renee Watson’s emotive story serves as a reminder that it’s not things that make a community—people do. Shadra Strickland’s mixed media illustrations successfully capture the emotion of the story. A stunning double-page spread illustrates the enormity and devastation of the flood.
The World Cup is an international football (soccer) competition. And it’s happening right now, which makes this book report especially appropos.
Set in a dusty alleyway of a South African township, Anjani and his friends prepare to play football. They kick, dribble, run and score with Anjani’s brand new federation-size football, a prize won for being the best reader in class. But the alley isn’t safe and the friends must keep an eye out for bullies. When they are approached by a group of older kids who want to steal their ball, a new game is on as the younger kids whip the bullies at their own game.
Goal! is Mina Javaherbin’s debut in the children’s book market, and she scored a big win. A.G. Ford’s oil-painted illustrations are full of energy and emotion. In my opinion, his best work to date.
The Brown Bookshelf is designed to push awareness of the myriad of Black voices writing for young readers. Our flagship initiative is 28 Days Later, a month-long showcase of the best in Picture Books, Middle Grade and Young Adult novels written and illustrated by African Americans.
You can read more about the founders of The Brown Bookshelf here.