Saturday, February 28, 2015

Saturday Roundup #7: 2015 Black History Month

I had picked out a lot of books for Black History Month this year, but unfortunately illness got the better of me for more than two weeks (and now you know, I'm not one of those efficient bloggers who does her posts in advance).   But I still have a few books I'd like to share with you now that I think reflect this year's theme, A Century of Black Life, History and Culture.

I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Bryan Collier
Simon & Shuster BFYR, 2012, 40 pages

Artist Bryan Collier takes the reader on a ride covering past to present, South to North, segregation to integration using as his starting point the spare words of Langston Hughes's well-known 1925 poem "I, too, sing America"about the Pullma porters who worked on the railroad trains.  The illustrations are metaphorical representations of Langston's words, for example, he shows how the porters used to toss the items left behind - newspapers, magazines, records, etc- from the caboose, and sees them as "acting as a conduit of culture, a distributor of knowledge to those who couldn't afford these items on their own." (Author's Note)  This is a beautiful book that will generate lots of discussion and, I hope, a love Langston Hughes's poetry. Collier used mixed media for creating his visually stunning illustrations.  Age 5+

Swing Sisters: The Story of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm
By Karen Deans, illustrated by Joe Cepeda
Holiday House, 2015, 32 pages

In 1909, a school/orphanage was founded by Dr. Laurance Clifton Jones to educate black girls.  Part of the school's curriculum was learning to play a musical instrument.  In 1939, an all-female interracial group called the International Sweethearts of Rhythm was formed.  Embracing the new Jazz music of that time, the Sweethearts played around the country, traveling in a bus called Big Bertha, where they often sleep and ate when the African American members were barred from hotels and restaurants in the Jim Crow south.  The band was particularly popular during World War II, when traditional male bands lost members to the Armed Forces.  A nice addition to the world of jazz picture books.  The very colorful, very upbeat illustrations are done with acrylic and oil paint.  Age 7+

Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin A. Ramsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Lerner Publishing, 2010, 32 pages

It's 1950 and Ruth is pretty excited when her dad brings home a nice new car and the family decides to drive from Chicago to Alabama to visit grandma.  Eager about going on a road trip, Ruth and her family keep running into signs that say "Whites Only"along the way.  Finally, a family friend they stay with for a night, tells them to go to an Esso station and ask for a copy of the Green Book.  The rest of the trip goes more smoothly as Ruth finds places to eat and places to stay that welcome African Americans listed in the Green Book.  The history of the real Green Book is included in the back matter.  This is an interesting and informative picture book for older readers about a part of African American history that most of us are not familiar with.  Cooper's realistic illustrations manage to beautifully capture the whole wide range of emotions that Ruth and her family experience on their road trip to grandma's.  Age 8+

Freedom Summer: The 1964 Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi 
by Susan Goldman Rubin
Holiday House, 2014, 128 pages

1964 was an important year in the Civil Rights Movement, particularly the Summer of 1964, when the eyes of the nation were focused on Mississippi and the young, mostly college student volunteers who traveled there to help educate the black citizens about their rights and help them register to vote.  Rubin chronicles the bombings of homes and churches, the creation of Freedom Schools, the jailing and beating of activists, but at the center of the book is the story of three civil rights workers from the north who disappeared and whose bodies were later found.  The book, which is written in chronological order, with copious photographs and other documents of the time, is a wonderful introduction to those difficult days for readers age 10+


28 Days: Moments in Black History That Changed the World
by Charles R. Smith, illustrated by Shane W. Evans
Roaring Brook Press, 2015, 56 pages

Written chronologically and beginning with an African American former slave whose shooting death with three other men was a spark that began the American Revolution, each person or event is included in this unique book is presented in a two page spread.  Smith uses a mix of poetry and prose and each entry is accompanied with a short informative piece about the person or event.  Some of Smith's choices will be familiar to young readers, like Oprah Winfrey, Nelson Mandala and Barack Obama, others may not be, but all contributed something in their own way that made the world a different place than it was before them.  The words are artfully matched with Evans's colorful digital collage and oil illustrations.  This picture book for older readers (age 8+) must be read and studied in order to fully appreciate every aspect of it.  

February is Black History Month


  1. Thanks for this compilation of titles. I've bookmarked it for future use.

  2. Replies
    1. No, I'm sorry I don't have a list like that, but I suspect you can find one on the internet.


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