Biography, Black History Month, Civil Rights, Uncategorized

Brave Ballerina: The Story of Janet Collins By Michelle Meadows

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Back of Book:
Janet Collins wanted to be a ballerina in the 1930s and 40s, a time when racial segregation was widespread in the United States. Janet pursued dance with a passion, despite being rejected from discriminatory dance schools. When she was accepted into the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo as a teenager on the condition that she paint her skin white for performances, Janet refused. She continued to go after her dreams, never compromising her values along the way. From her early childhood lessons to the height of her success as the first African American prima ballerina in the Metropolitan Opera, this is the story of a remarkable pioneer.
My Review:
I received a copy of this book from author Michelle Meadows in exchange for an honest review.
I love this beautiful biography that tells readers of the perseverance that Janet Collins had. Readers are drawn into the life of Janet from her childhood to her success on stage. The story follows Janet as she struggles through prejudice, and expectations to rise up and become the first African American ballerina. The lyrical text is whimsical and draws readers into the magic of the ballet. The illustrations by Ebony Glenn are nothing short of stunning. Each page captures the different movements of the dancers in perfect light and detail. Brave Ballerina will inspire everyone who readers it to fight for what they believe in. A must-have for all classroom libraries.
Ages 5 and up
32 Pages

Black History Month

Meet Miss Fancy by Irene Latham

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Back of Book: Frank has always been obsessed with elephants. He loves their hosepipe trunks, tree stump feet, and swish-swish tails. So when Miss Fancy, the elephant, retires from the circus and moves two blocks from his house to Avondale Park, he’s over the moon! Frank really wants to pet her. But Avondale Park is just for white people, so Frank is not allowed to see Miss Fancy. Frank is heartbroken but he doesn’t give up: instead, he makes a plan! Frank writes to the City Council so his church can host a picnic in the park, and he can finally meet Miss Fancy. All of his neighbors sign the letter, but when some protest, the picnic is canceled and Frank is heartbroken all over again. Then Miss Fancy escapes the zoo, and it’s up to Frank to find her before she gets hurt.
My Review:
I received a copy of this book from author Irene Latham in exchange for an honest review.
This is a truly captivating story based on true events when Miss Fancy came to live in Alabama. The story is set in the era of the Jim Crow Laws and shows readers the extension of segregation. Frank loves elephants and his biggest wish is to pet one. When Miss Fancy comes to town, Frank believes that if he works hard enough he may get to have his wish.
His wish is guaranteed in a unique that makes for a fantastic ending to a satisfying read. I love that this book focuses on the history of what segregation was, but also showed the determination of people who refused to give up hope. The illustrations are beautiful and draw a reader into Franks biggest wish. The back of the book had more information about the real Miss Fancy. A beautiful story about preservice and always chasing your dreams.
Ages 5 and up
32 Pages and up

Biography, Black History Month

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad By Ellen Levine

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Back of Book:
Henry Brown doesn’t know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves’ birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday — his first day of freedom.
My Review:
I was amazed at this unique story about a man who literally mailed himself to freedom. It is a fascinating look at the risk Henry took to gain the freedom he so badly desired. The text follows Henry’s life from childhood to adulthood and paints readers a picture of how Henry continues to find joy throughout his circumstances. The illustrations are a mix of breathtaking and haunting! The back of the book gives more information about Henry Box Brown. I love sharing this book in my class during Black History Month. It is a fascinating tale of preservice and strength.
40 Pages
Ages 5 and up

Black History Month, History

Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town: Based on the History of the African American Pioneer Settlement by A. LaFaye

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Back of Book:
When Dede sees a notice offering land to black people in Kansas, her family decides to give up their life of sharecropping to become homesteading pioneers in the Midwest. Inspired by the true story of Nicodemus, Kansas, a town founded in the late 1870s by Exodusters—former slaves leaving the Jim Crow South in search of a new beginning—this fictional story follows Dede and her parents as they set out to stake and secure a claim, finally allowing them to have a home to call their own.
My Review:
I received a copy of this book from author A. LaFaye in exchange for an honest review. I am a huge fan of historical nonfiction picture books! I love sharing them in my classroom and giving my students a glimpse into the past. Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town is a terrific look at a time period that is not often shared in Kidlit. The story follows Dede and her family as they work to create a better life for themselves in a state called Kansas. I love that Dede and her family form relationships with the Native Americans that already lived there. It shows readers an important piece of history that is often overlooked. A. LaFaye beautifully told the story of one family’s fight to have a better life. Nicole Tadgell’s illustrations are soft and detailed. The back of the book has more information about The Exodusters who mase their way to free land. This is a must-have addition to any Post Civil War or Black History Month unit.
Ages 5 and up
32 Pages

Biography, Black History Month, History

Fearless Mary: The True Adventures of Mary Fields, American Stagecoach Driver By Tami Charles

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Back of Book:
A little-known but fascinating and larger-than-life character, Mary Fields is one of the unsung, trailblazing African American women who helped settle the American West. A former slave, Fields became the first African American woman stagecoach driver in 1895, when, in her 60s, she beat out all the cowboys applying for the job by being the fastest to hitch a team of six horses. She won the dangerous and challenging job, and for many years traveled the badlands with her pet eagle, protecting the mail from outlaws and wild animals, never losing a single horse or package. Fields helped pave the way for other women and people of color to become stagecoach drivers and postal workers.
My Review:
I received a copy of this book from author Tami Charles for in exchange for an honest review.
One of my favorite parts of January is celebrating black history month with my students. I love sharing gems like Fearless Mary with my class. This is such a beautiful and inspirational book about one woman who wouldn’t take no for an answer. Tami has weaved together a fantastic tale of strength and determination. Claire Almon created detailed illustrations that show readers a true picture of the past. Reading this book made me want to research more about female stagecoach drivers. I can’t wait to share this book with my class when we get back from break.
Ages 5 and up

32 Pages

Biography, Black History Month

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks (People Who Shaped Our World) Alice Faye Duncan

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With a voice both wise and witty, Gwendolyn Brooks crafted poems that captured the urban Black experience and the role of women in society. She grew up on the South Side of Chicago, reading and writing constantly from a young age, her talent lovingly nurtured by her parents. Brooks ultimately published 20 books of poetry, two autobiographies, and one novel. Alice Faye Duncan has created her own song to celebrate Gwendolyn’s life and work, illuminating the tireless struggle of revision and the sweet reward of success.
My Review:
I received a copy of this book from author Alice Faye Duncan in exchange for an honest review. I was so excited to see that this touching lyrical biography publishes on January 1st. It is a perfect addition to any Black History unit. Having never read anything written by Gwendolyn Brooks I was quickly drawn into the life of this strong woman. In reading this story I learned so much about Brooks and the time period that she lived in. Xia Gordon created illustrations that are rich in color and texture. Overall, this is a stunning book that combines history and poetry to create a moving narrative that readers will love.
48 Pages
Ages 6 and up

Black History Month, Cyblis Awards 2018, History

Young, Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present

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Back of Book:
Meet 52 icons of color from the past and present in this celebration of inspirational achievement—a collection of stories about changemakers to encourage, inspire and empower the next generation of changemakers. Jamia Wilson has carefully curated this range of black icons and the book is stylishly brought together by Andrea Pippins’ colorful and celebratory illustrations.. All children deserve to see themselves represented positively in the books they read. Highlighting the talent and contributions of black leaders and changemakers from around the world, readers of all backgrounds will be empowered to discover what they too can achieve. Strong, courageous, talented and diverse, these extraordinary men and women’s achievements will inspire a new generation to chase their dream… whatever it may be.
My Review:
I was excited to read this book as a part of the Cybils Awards. It is a fantastic look at 52 African Americans who have made an impact on the world around them. It is an excellent resource to teach children about some of the bold, brave, and gifted men and women who have stood for equality and honor. I loved that the text covers heroes from our past like Harriet Tubman, but also discusses people who are making an impact now like Simone Biles. I appreciated the welcome note from the author and illustrator in the front of the book. I can tell that they put a great deal of thought and research into the men and women in this book. I can see using this book in class as an opening to many discussions involving, race, equality, history, and activism. The illustrations are appealing and vibrant. A great addition to any school library or classroom. I also see it as a great book for Black History Month.
Ages 8 and up
64 Pages

Biography, Black History Month

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 By Alice Faye Duncan

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Back of Book:
In February 1968, two African American sanitation workers were killed by unsafe equipment in Memphis, Tennessee. Outraged at the city’s refusal to recognize a labor union that would fight for higher pay and safer working conditions, sanitation workers went on strike. The strike lasted two months, during which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was called to help with the protests. While his presence was greatly inspiring to the community, this unfortunately would be his last stand for justice. He was assassinated in his Memphis hotel the day after delivering his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” sermon in Mason Temple Church.
My Review:
I revived a copy of this book from author Alice Faye Duncan in exchange for an honest review.
Run don’t walk to your nearest bookstore today and grab this amazing, haunting story about the Sanitation Shrike of 1968. Alice Faye Duncan took a historical event and brought it to life! The story follows a young girl as she watches her daddy stand up for what he believes in. The story is inspired by and teacher and her memories of participating in the strike when she was a child. The text is written using poetry. Each page holds a title with a verse. The illustrations are unique and rich in texture and color. The back of the book has a fantastic timeline as well as a list of museums that readers can visit. This is a perfect book to add to any Martin Luther King Jr. or history unit. It is a book that King himself would be happy to read.
Ages 9 and up
40 Pages

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Biography, Black History Month

Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton

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Back of Book:
You know the Super Soaker. It’s one of top twenty toys of all time. And it was invented entirely by accident. Trying to create a new cooling system for refrigerators and air conditioners, impressive inventor Lonnie Johnson instead created the mechanics for the iconic toy.

A love for rockets, robots, inventions, and a mind for creativity began early in Lonnie Johnson’s life. Growing up in a house full of brothers and sisters, persistence and a passion for problem solving became the cornerstone for a career as an engineer and his work with NASA. But it is his invention and of the Super Soaker water gun that has made his most memorable splash with kids and adults.
My Review:
I was raised in the 90s so Super Soakers were apart of every summer. Everyone I knew had one. When I saw that there was a biography picture book about the man who invented them, I knew I needed it in my collection. I loved reading about the determination of Lonnie Johnson. The story begins with his childhood and ends with the invention of the soaker. It was fun to share this story with my students. They loved hearing about the creation of a toy that they all play with regularly. The illustrations are Don Tate and have beautiful images and detail. There is a note in the back of the book from the author about his interview with Lonnie Johnson. This is a great story to give to any readers who want to be inventors. I would also recommended adding this to all summer reading lists.
Ages 6 and up

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Black History Month

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed

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Back of Book:
A great classroom and bedtime read-aloud, Mae Among the Stars is the perfect book for young readers who have big dreams and even bigger hearts!
When Little Mae was a child, she dreamed of dancing in space. She imagined herself surrounded by billions of stars, floating, gliding, and discovering.
She wanted to be an astronaut.
Her mom told her, “If you believe it, and work hard for it, anything is possible.”
Little Mae’s curiosity, intelligence, and determination, matched with her parents’ encouraging words, paved the way for her incredible success at NASA as the first African American woman to travel in space.
This book will inspire other young girls to reach for the stars, to aspire for the impossible, and to persist with childlike imagination.

My Review:
This book is such an inspirational look at how Mae never gave up on her dream to go to space. Even when others doubted Mae she never gave up on what she wanted to be when she grew up. The writing of this text is beautiful and the message of never giving up is truly inspirational! The illustrations are warm and inspirational. I did not know very much about Mae before I read this picture book. I fell in love with her pure determination and strength. She is a historical figure that every young girl should learn about. The back of the book has a bio and resources on how to find out more information about Mae. A terrific story that should be in every library and classroom.
Ages 5 and up
40 Pages

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