14 New Kids' Books About African-American History

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February is African-American History Month, which means it's a time of year when several new picture and chapter books for kids appear on the horizon. I'm excited to share 14 new titles with you that have just been released in the last few months! Thirteen of the titles are picture books, and one is a very special chapter book. Four books are fictional, while the rest are non-fiction. This post is part of the Multicultural Kid Blogs 2015 Black History Month celebration, which you can learn more about here. Don't miss it -- there's a giveaway of books, a DVD, a doll, and other educational materials!

The Case for Loving by Selina Alko and Sean Qualls (ages 6-9)

This picture book about the struggle for marriage rights during the 1960s is important because it's the only children's book to cover this topic. Author Alko relates the story of the Lovings of Virginia, an interracial couple who were arrested for marrying in the early 1960s. (They crossed the state line to Washington, D. C., where interracial marriage was legal, and attempted to move back home as a married couple.) The mixed-media artwork is particularly powerful and engaging, and even more so in that the illustrations were dually executed by Alko and Qualls. In addition, there is a personal story that coincides with the historical one -- Alko and Qualls are themselves an interracial couple; and Alko explains in an endnote why they were compelled to share the Loving's Supreme Court victory. Interesting parallels can be drawn to current headline news on marriage equality, as well. 

My Name is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth by Ann Turner and James Ransome (ages 7-11)

This is perhaps my favorite new picture book for African-American History Month. I appreciate so much a children's author who can tell a life story with lyrical language that makes for a beautiful read-aloud. In this way, kids get to learn about history, and I still get to tell an attention-grabbing story. Turner is an experienced children's writer, and it shows here; she's a master at telling Truth's story from the first-person point of view, and especially resonant words are enlarged so that they travel across pages. Ransome is an equally acclaimed illustrator; his watercolors make the emotions of Truth's difficult life, and the sheer power it took to overcome them, powerfully alive. Don't miss this wonderful addition to children's biographies. 

Friends for Freedom: The Story of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass by Suzanne Slade and Nicole Tadgell (ages 8-11)

I really enjoyed this thought-provoking book about the little-known friendship between Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, which lasted nearly four decades. It provides a perfect way to drive home just how unusual a 19th century relationship between a white woman and a black man was, as well as a parallel between the women's and African-American civil rights movements. This dual biography is well-written, and extensive author notes help kids understand how an author must make choices when the historical record isn't clear. Friends for Freedom is an inspiring story about two people who refused to stop working for what they believed in, sometimes at tremendous personal cost, and will inspire discussion about bravery and enduring relationships.

Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century by Carole Boston Weatherford and Raul Colón (ages 7-10)

As soon as you open this gorgeous picture book biography, you won't be surprised that it's earned starred reviews from numerous children's book review journals. This is Weatherford's third outing that features a lesser-known African-American of historical significance. The lyrical text (most likely intentionally) sings the story of an opera star who struggled to be heard in segregated America: “The song of her soul soared on the breath of her ancestors.” Colón's stunning artwork features swirls of colors that demonstrate Price's talent and emotions. Don't miss this beautiful picture book tribute to a woman unafraid to see her dreams into reality.

Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama by Hester Bass and E. B. Lewis (ages 8-11)

Seeds of Freedom provides a unique look at the American Civil Rights Movement through the lens of the experience of one town. Young readers learn how the residents of Huntsville, both black and white, peacefully negotiated desegregation in the early 1960s, despite the violence that took place in other parts of Alabama. A quiet, thoughtful look at a microcosm of the movement. 

Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper (ages 5-8)

Celebrated picture book illustrator Floyd Cooper just published this story-within-a-story. Modern day Mazie learns about Juneteenth, the celebration of freedom for Texas' slaves, which happened two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. (The 150th anniversary of Juneteenth will take place this summer.) Mazie's father tells a somber, but proud, story of her ancestors' struggles and freedom, with a look at slavery, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and the election of Barack Obama. Cooper's oil paintings paint a tender portrait of one generation's efforts to preserve family history by sharing it with the next.

New Shoes by Susan Meyer and Eric Velasquez (ages 6-9)

While many young kids understand that Jim Crow laws meant riding in the back of the bus and using separate water fountains, they may not know that African-Americans were not allowed to try on clothing in the stores they shopped in. New Shoes is the story of a young girl who encounters this racism when attempting to buy new shoes. She and her friend come up with the unique solution of doing chores around the neighborhood in exchange for gently-used shoes, which they sell in a "shop" they set up outside. I think kids learn so much from books that take an element of a larger issue, like segregation, and create a story around it. Children will enjoy the girls' ingenuity and optimism, despite the difficulties of their situation. End notes are provided to explain Jim Crow laws in the American South of the 1950s, the time in which the story takes place. 

28 Days: Moments in Black History The Changed the World by Charles R. Smith and Shane W. Evans (ages 5-10)

I'm very excited about this unique picture book because it's both a look at history and a work of art in itself. Smith highlights 28 days (one for each of African-American History Month) in which various events pivotal to black history took place. Some are very well-known, such as Matthew Henson reaching the North Pole or the Dred Scott Decision, while others are less obvious, like a tribute to black tennis players Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson. Smith uses multiple methods to portray each moment, including concrete poetry, free verse, and other forms of written art. Evans' accompanying illustrations boldly highlight each accomplishment. Finally, a 29th day is offered in which kids are challenged to make a little history themselves. Reference books are rarely as entertaining as this one. 

Freedom's School by Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome (ages 6-8)

This is a thoughtful look at the concept that legal emancipation didn't mean freedom in many ways. A recently freed African-American community struggles to educate its children. Although obstacles abound, the value of education is deeply cherished. Ransom's beautiful watercolor paintings bring the emotions, struggle, and power of this story to life. 

Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carole Boston Weatherford and Jamey Christoph (ages 6-8)

I'm always excited when an art bio appears that is written about someone who has never been the subject of a children's picture book. Twentieth century Renaissance Man Gordon Parks, the last of 15 children, was a self-taught photographer who chronicled segregation, first while working for the United States government, and then for Life magazine in the 1940s. He also wrote poetry and fiction, and even became a Hollywood director. Readers are treated to Parks' keen eye through spare, poetic prose and stylized art that includes collages of Parks' work. An important addition to children's literature, Gordon Parks received three starred reviews upon its release this month. 

Swing Sisters: The Story of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm by Karen Deans and Joe Cepeda (ages 7-10)

I very much enjoyed the award-winning Little Melba and Her Big Trombone, which I reviewed here. Swing Sisters is reminiscent of that book, in that it features female African-American jazz musicians, and is enhanced by lively, accessible illustrations that bring the appropriate level of movement and excitement to a soundless medium. During World War II, this band of women experienced discrimination similar to that encountered by other African-American performers of the Jim Crow era. The International Sweethearts of Rhythm, many of whom hailed from the American South, ironically (and unfortunately not unusually) could perform and travel freely in Europe, but not in the region of their birth. This picture book would pair well with some time spent listening to swing music. (I dare you to try to keep kids still once the music starts playing!)

Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews by Kathleen Benson and Benny Andrews (ages 9-12)

I'm still waiting to check out this picture book biography about Benny Andrews, which is illustrated exclusively with the work of the artist himself. It's a lesson in the power and possibility of art in the pursuit of social justice, and it's already received two starred reviews. Here's what School Library Journal wrote about Draw What You See: 

Benny Andrews began drawing when he was able to hold pencil in his hands and "once he started, he never stopped." He was born in 1930, one of 10 children to sharecroppers, and attended high school at a time when few of his friends had similar opportunities. After the service and college, Andrews went to New York City, where his work began to blossom: in scenes of Harlem life, the jazz world, and of his Georgia childhood. Social causes and injustice, particularly the civil rights movement and the exclusion of African American and female artists from museums fueled both his art and activism. Thick with broad, vibrant swatches of greens, blues, and reds and incorporating collage elements, the artist's folklike paintings depicted the world around him—and illustrate Benson's moving and accessible picture book biography ...  A powerful work about an influential artist and activist.

Love Will See You Through: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Six Guiding Beliefs by Angela Farris Watkins and Sally Wern Comport (ages 6-11)

See my review of this picture book here

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper (ages 8-12)

I'm thrilled that Sharon Draper has published a new chapter book! She's a phenomenal writer who has garnered several much-deserved awards. This time she uses her own family history as inspiration for the tale of a young African-American girl growing up in Depression-era North Carolina. Stella is 10 years old when she and her brother witness a Klan meeting that takes place very close to her home. Stella lives in a close-knit community that strives to overcome oppression and economic hardship with dignity and determination. Stella hopes to become a journalist when she grows up, and much of the novel consists of her journal entries. Her own journey is paralleled with an effort in the community to get three registered African-American voters to the polls.

There are several qualities that make Stella by Starlight a beautiful and engaging novel. First, Sharon Draper is a fine writer. She knows how to tell a story that is difficult to put down. Second, she's created a character that is extraordinarily brave, yet immensely humble and likable. Modern kids will find Stella, who is based on Draper's grandmother, a wonderful role model for creativity, courage, and strength of character. They'll also rip through Draper's storytelling, unable to put this novel down.

Link disclosure: A Book Long Enough is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. That means if you purchase a book through an Amazon link that appears on my site, I receive a commission.

Don't forget to visit the Multicultural Kid Blogs 2015 Black History Month Blog Hop to register for the giveaway!

2015 Multicultural Award Winners in Kids' Books: African-American, Latino, Asian-American, Jewish, and International Titles

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I mentioned in a post earlier this week that I'd be back to share some more award winners. This time we're going to focus on picture books, chapter books, non-fiction, and teen lit that garnered three major American Library Association 2015 awards. In addition, we'll take a look at medal winners designated by the Association of Jewish Libraries. All of these awards are reserved for books that portray the African-American, Latino, Jewish, and global experiences.

It also happens to be my turn for the Multicultural Kid Blogs Global Pick of the Day, so the awards came at a great time! Now, in case you're wondering why multicultural children's books are so important, take a look here. Then read on below to find great titles you don't want to miss!

First, the Coretta Scott Book Awards, which are divided into subcategories are

given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.  The award commemorates the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honors his wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.   

This year's Author Award went to:

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (ages 9-12)

Brown Girl Dreaming pretty much cleaned up on awards this year, and for good reason. In addition to the Coretta Scott King Medal, it earned the National Book Award, a Newbery Honor Award, and a Sibert Honor Award. Read my review of this beautiful novel here

The runners-up for the author award were:

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (ages 11 and up) (The Crossover was also awarded the 2015 Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to American children's literature.)

how i discovered poetry by marilyn nelson (ages 11 and up)

How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon (ages 14 and up)

The Coretta Scott King 2015 John Steptoe Award for New Talent is given to a previously unpublished African-American author. This year's winner was:

When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds (ages 12 and up)

Here's what the awards committee had to say about this novel:

Reynolds' lively and engaging portrayal of urban teenage boys is a compelling story about neighborhood, family, friendship, values and the acceptance of difference. Living in an underserved neighborhood in Brooklyn, Allen/Ali befriends Noodles and his brother Needles, who has Tourette Syndrome. In an authentic contemporary voice, Reynolds focuses on the importance of family, the acceptance of responsibility and the obligations of friendship and portrays a likeable teenager learning how to be a good man.

This year's Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award went to:

Firebird: Ballerina Misty Copeland Shows a Young Girl How to Dance Like the Firebird by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers (ages 6-9)

The awards committee cited Firebird's 

vibrant lines and colors (which) mirror the movement of Copeland’s “Firebird." Encased in gorgeous collages and endpaper, balletic poses, leaping and bounding into the air at tremendous heights spur the imagination and inspire a young girl’s hopes and dreams.

Here's a look at two page spreads so you can see some of this beautiful book yourself:

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The runners-up for illustration were:

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell and Christian Robinson (ages 6-11) 

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown and Frank Morrison (ages 6-11)

I'm very excited about Christian Robinson's win, because I am a huge fan of his picture books! Take a look at some of the artwork from Josephine

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josephine book long enough

Doesn't Christian Robinson's rendition of the Charleston just jump off the page?

I reviewed Little Melba here. It's a must-have picture book. Here are two illustrations:

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little melba book long enough

And how cool is it that all three of the Illustrator Awards went to books about women in the arts? 

Let's take a look next at the Pura Belpré Medal. Pura Belpré was the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. According to the American Library Association, the award is 

presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. 

The 2015 Author Award went to:

I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin (ages 10-13)

Here's why the awards committee chose this book:

When warships appear, in “I Lived on Butterfly Hill,” Celeste’s idyllic life is shattered. As people disappear, Celeste’s parents go into hiding, and she is sent into exile. When she returns home, she works to reunite people she loves and to move her country forward. Lyrically written by acclaimed poet, Marjorie Agosín, this Chilean story offers a refreshing perspective on resiliency.
With her poet’s eye, Marjorie Agosín gives this tale of exile and return an epic feel. Though she is a refugee, Celeste learns she belongs anywhere there are things she loves.

The committee awarded a Pura Belpré Honor Award to runner up:

Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes by Juan Felipe Herrera and Raúl Colón (ages 8-12)

The committee noted:

Juan Felipe Herrera celebrates the lives of 20 Hispanic people who up to now have been in the shadows to many despite their significant contributions to American society. These poignant biographical sketches succinctly present the essence of each hero’s life and legacy to the future generations of their culture.

And if you're not familiar with Raúl Colón, he's an award-winning picture book artist worth checking out!

The committee gave the Illustrator Award to:

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales (ages 5 and up)

This one also won a prestigious Caldecott Honor. The illustrations are amazing, partly because they were created in such a complex manner. The awards committee said:

“Viva Frida” uses rich, vibrant color photographs and minimal evocative text to beautifully portray the unique imagination and creativity of an iconic Latina artist. Morales blends a wide variety of mediums - stop-motion puppets, acrylic paints and digital manipulation - to create a whimsical picture book that will inspire your artistic sensibilities.  
“It’s Yuyi, what more can you say?” said Pura Belpré Award Committee Chair Tim Wadham.  “Her multi-media illustrations take the reader on a journey straight into Frida Kahlo’s artist’s heart and creative soul.

Viva Frida is one of those rare picture book that can be enjoyed by kids of all ages, and even adults. 

Three books were awarded honors in the illustration category:

Little Roja Riding Hood by Susan Middleton Elya and Susan Guevara (ages 4-8)

Green is a Chile Pepper: A Book of Colors by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and John Para (ages 3-8), which I reviewed here.

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Taonatiuh (ages 7-10). This one also won a Sibert Honor medal. I reviewed it here

The American Library Association gives the Mildred Batchelder Award for

the most outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States.

The 2015 winner was:

Mikis and the Donkey by Bibi Dumon Tak (ages 6-9)

This short chapter book was translated from Dutch. The committee noted:

Mikis’ simple, quiet life on the Greek island of Corfu is upended when his grandfather surprises him by buying a donkey. During the following year, Mikis’ adventures with the donkey show the village what it means to care for one another. This charming book has remarkable depth. Vividly set in a tiny island village, the universal themes will be relevant to all readers.

Runners-up for the Batchelder Award were:

Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust by Loic Dauvillier, Greg Salsedo, and Marc Lizano (ages 8-12)

Hidden was translated from French. The committee noted:

In this evocative graphic novel, a grandmother recounts her childhood experiences hiding from the Nazis in World War II France. Surrounded by cruelty, Dounia also benefited from the exceptional kindness and courage of her protectors.  The telling of her story to her grandchild brings healing and hope. This subtle but powerfully illustrated graphic novel will capture readers with its gripping account of heroism in the truly dire circumstances of the Holocaust.

Nine Open Arms by Benny Lindelauf (ages 10-13)

Also translated from Dutch, this novel was chosen as an honor recipient because:

In this intricately plotted book, Fing’s loving but fractious family moves into a new house outside of town and gradually discovers a “tragical tragedy” concerning the mysterious man living in the hedge. Combining elements of historical fiction, mystery and magical realism with large doses of humor, this book enthralls. Readers will be enchanted by the indelibly drawn characters, the rich language and the interwoven narrative.

Finally, the Sydney Taylor Book Award is given annually by the Association of Jewish Libraries. "to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience." The awards are divided into three categories, which are books for "younger," "older," and "teen" readers. The 2015 winners, in age category order, were:

My Grandfather's Coat by Jim Aylesworth and Barbara McClintock

Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust by Loic Dauvillier, Greg Salsedo, and Marc Lizano (ages 8-12) 

Storm by Donna Jo Napoli

I'm so excited to see My Grandfather's Coat win this medal! It was one of my favorite picture books published last year, and you can read why here

Finally, the Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature, also given by a division of the American Library Associations, were announced this past week. These books "promote Asian/Pacific American culture and heritage ... and are awarded based on their literary and artistic merit." Awards and honors are given in "picture book," "children's" (chapter book), and "young adult" (teen) categories. Here are the awards for books published in 2014, in age/category order:

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin by Chieri Uegaki and Qin Leng (ages 5-8)

Gaijin: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner (ages 10-14)

tiger girl by may-lee chai (ages 14 and up)

I bought Hana Hashimoto, a lovely picture book, as a gift for my daughters' violin teacher this past Christmas, so I'm thrilled to see it win this award!

Link disclosure: A Book Long Enough is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. That means if you purchase a book through an Amazon link that appears on my site, I receive a commission.