Tag: African-Americans

How to Find a Fox by Nilah Magruder

how-to-find-a-fox-by-nilah-magruder

How to Find a Fox by Nilah Magruder (InfoSoup)

A little girl sets out to find a fox. She immediately finds a fox hole, but the fox isn’t home. She sets out fox bait, then hides and waits so long that she gets sleepy. She tries following fox tracks, but fox are sneaky animals. She puts out more bait and eventually falls fast asleep. She tries making fox calls. Finally, when she climbs a tree to look around, she spots the fox! But she loses him. The little girl is ready to give up, but convinces herself to keep on trying. Perhaps the solution is making the fox want to find her!

Magruder has created a wonderfully appealing picture book with an African-American protagonist. Both the little girl and the fox are dynamic characters who capture your attention. While the little girl searches for the fox, young readers will love spotting him themselves as the little girl just happens to be looking in the wrong direction. These missed encounters add to the excitement of the book. The entire book reads very well and is perfect to share aloud. It shares the value of resilience and persistence.

The art has a lot of charm and is reminiscent of Dora the Explorer which will make this a book that children pick up. There are illustrations that are wonderful, such as the little girl about to give up, lying flat on her back on the grass, spent. The art will project well for a group.

A great addition to storytime units on foxes or being outside. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Loving vs. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell

loving-vs-virginia-by-patricia-hruby-powell

Loving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Shadra Strickland (InfoSoup)

Released on January 31, 2017.

In 1955, Richard and Mildred fell in love in the countryside of Virginia, in Caroline County. Their neighborhood was special and people of all races congregated together. As they went to drive-in movies together and started spending time together, the larger community showed its prejudice since Richard was white and Mildred was African-American. The two of them could not attend dances together, even though Mildred’s family was playing the music at the dance. The two of them get married in 1958 in DC, but their marriage isn’t legal in Virginia. Eventually, they are thrown in jail even though Mildred is pregnant with their second child. The two of them are forced to move to DC and never return to see their families together for decades. As Mildred begins to reach out to lawyers to help, she writes to the ACLU who take up their case which becomes a landmark case for interracial marriage in front of the US Supreme Court.

Written in verse, this novel shows the courtship of Richard and Mildred, their lives together and the damage done by the initial judgement against them that forbade them to cross the border into Virginia together. The use of poetry as a format allows readers to see both Mildred and Richard’s points of view as their relationship grows, flourishes and then is challenged. The book inserts other important Civil Rights events in between the poetry, so that readers can keep an eye on the other changes happening in the United States. It’s an important piece of their story, showing that other changes came much faster than theirs.

The illustrations by Strickland are done in limited colors of oranges and blues. There are beautiful moments captured such as the two teens running through the woods together at night, silent and free. There are also bleak moments like being pulled over by the sheriff with a flashlight shining in their eyes. The illustrations move from freedom to constraint much in the way the story develops and are important in revealing emotional elements to the tale.

This verse novel tells the true story of Loving vs. Virginia and speaks to the importance of regular people standing up to unjust laws. Appropriate for ages 13-15.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

 

 

One Last Word by Nikki Grimes

one-last-word-by-nikki-grimes

One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes (InfoSoup)

Released January 3, 2017.

Master poet Grimes has created a book of poetry that celebrates the poets from the Harlem Renaissance who influenced her. Through her amazing skill, she pays homage to their original poems by creating her own from their words. Using a form called Golden Shovel, she takes lines from their poems and uses them as the final words in the lines of her poems. Both the Harlem Renaissance poetry and Grimes’ speak to the experience of African Americans and for Grimes, African American children and teens. These are poems about difficulties, about racism, about hate and about love.

As I read these poems, I realized over and over again how very skilled Grimes is. It is most stunning when you remember the form she is using, because her poetry flows and dances as if entirely unrestricted. Still, the bold words tie the two poems together and one remembers the strict form she is using and the grace with which she handles it. Grimes speaks directly to children and teens of color in this book, making sure they see themselves and their experiences on the page. That they see the racism, the bullying and the dangers around them. She also makes sure though that they see a strong community, voices to raise in protest and the familial love around them.

The book is beautifully designed with each page washed with yellows and sometimes lined in blue. It is illustrated by some of the top African-American children’s book illustrators working today. It is a stunning collection of art, filled with emotion, pain and endurance.

Masterful, skilled and very timely, this book of poetry elevates us all and sings to the skies that African-American children are valuable and vital in this world. Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from ARC received from Bloomsbury.

Radiant Child by Javaka Steptoe

radiant-child-by-javaka-steptoe

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe (InfoSoup)

Coretta Scott King Award winner, Steptoe has created a visual feast of a book about the remarkable artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat. The book shows Basquiat as a child who drew all day long, refusing to sleep until his art is complete. He wakes in the middle of the night, drawing things from his dreams onto paper. His Puerto Rican mother teaches him to see art all around him. They visit museums, the theater, read poetry and Basquiat learns about art and artists. Eventually, his mother’s mind breaks and she can no longer live at home. He visits her when he can and shows her his artwork. As a teenager, he lives with friends and spray paints art around the city. He mixes collage and paint, his art moving from the street and into galleries, fulfilling his dream of becoming a famous artist.

Young readers are not shown the dark part of the Basquiat’s life. That is revealed in the author note at the end of the book where Basquiat’s death at age 27 from his drug addiction is explained. The picture book focuses on the inspiration for his art, his dreams of fame and how he used his diverse urban landscape as inspiration for his art and his life.

Steptoe’s art pays homage to Basquiat. Done on boards where the seams are rough and form an organic pattern, the art is a mix of painting and collage. As he explains in a note about motifs, there are certain items that repeat in Basquiat’s art that readers can see echoed in the art in the book as well. The art is stunning, detailed and worth lingering over.

A luminously beautiful book about a passionate and gifted artist, this picture book shines. Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Freedom Over Me by Ashley Bryan

freedom-over-me-by-ashley-bryan

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan (InfoSoup)

Based on actual slave auction and plantation estate information, this is a picture book that truly captures the world of enslaved people in the United States. The household has lost its master, who ran the plantation with its eleven slaves. His wife is about to return to England and the slaves will be sold with the rest of the property. The book opens with a poem of the wife and then into the voices of the eleven slaves, each one filled with a refusal to be seen only as a price tag or property, each one celebrating their skills and their lives.

Bryan’s poetry sings on the page, defiant and strong. He writes of the losses of slavery, of families broken up and never seeing one another again, of brutality on the plantation and the auction block, of being taken from Africa and freedom, and of the hardships of life as a slave. Bryan also notes though for each person that there are things that make them far more than any category could put them in, more valuable than their skills, more vital than their age and sex. This is a powerful testament against the inhumanity of slavery done by putting a face to eleven slaves that are impossible to turn away from.

Bryan’s art focuses on the faces of the slaves. He does one portrait almost as a flyer for the auction with their face and price, name and age. Then the page turns and you see their dreams on the page, captured in the same thick paint but no longer framed with words of slavery and now bright with colors and action.

Powerful and unique, this picture book takes on slavery in the most passionate and personalized way possible. Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum.

Preaching to the Chickens by Jabari Asim

preaching-to-the-chickens-by-jabari-asim

Preaching to the Chickens by Jabari Asim, illustrated by E. B. Lewis (InfoSoup)

John Lewis, renowned Civil Rights leader and Congressman, dreamed of becoming a preacher as a child. When he was put in charge of the family’s flock of chickens on their farm, he knew it was a great responsibility. John loved going to church on Sunday and took what he learned in church back to his flock. He would sermonize to them, the chickens mesmerized by his voice. He would also baptize them, speak up for them when they needed a voice and rescue them when they needed help. As he preached the words he learned in church, he put those words into action while tending his flock.

Asim beautifully ties together the lessons in church to actions in caring for others. There is a richness to the writing in this picture book biography, capturing both scripture and the beauty of life on a small farm filled with hard work. This is not a fantasy farm, but one where toil is what makes for a successful harvest. Still, it is a place that grew an activist like John Lewis, who learned about using his voice for a cause right there on the farm with his chickens.

The illustrations by Lewis are done in watercolor, capturing the chicken coop and John himself with just enough detail to convey their simplicity but also their stature. Lewis uses the play of light spectacularly in the book, deftly incorporating shadow and light into John’s childhood sermons.

A beautifully crafted picture book biography that speaks of the power of childhood dreams to create activism and a man with a voice to change generations. Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Lift Your Light a Little Higher by Heather Henson

lift-your-light-a-little-higher-by-heather-henson

Lift Your Light a Little Higher: The Story of Stephen Bishop: Slave-Explorer by Heather Henson, illustrated by Bryan Collier (InfoSoup)

Stephen Bishop was a slave who explored and mapped Mammoth Cave. The book is set in 1840 where you can follow the light of Bishop’s lantern deep into the massive cave as he gives people and the reader a tour. For the reader though, the tour is about slavery, about civil rights and about the ability for a man to discover value through exploring darkness. Bishop was the first to see many of Mammoth’s sights, including the blind fish. He learned to read as people signed their names on the cave’s ceiling, though learning to read and write was forbidden for slaves. This man’s story is a tale of resilience, self worth and discovery.

Henson tells the story almost in verse, capturing the highlights of the man’s discoveries but also weaving the dark side of slavery with the darkness of the cave. Henson gives Bishop a strong voice, one that stands out on the page and demands to be heard. Told in the voice of The Guide, Bishop explains slavery and its structure to the reader just as he explains his role and his attitudes towards life and the cave that made his famous. The author’s note contains information on Bishop and how he was sold along with the cave to several owners.

Collier’s illustrations are exceptional. He has several that are simply amazing in their power. One that caused me to linger for some time was the page with the oxen with faces on their sides, faces of slavery in various colors that are wrinkled and damaged. It’s a powerful reminder of the place of slaves as property. There are other pages that show hope in the slanting light of sun as Bishop exits the dark of the cave is one. Exceptional.

A strong picture book biography of a man many won’t have heard of before, this book speaks to the tragedy of slavery and the resilience and power of one man. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum.