February is African-American History month. These books serve as a reminder of America’s heritage and the contributions made by African-Americans.
“Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills” by Renee Watson, Illustrated by Christian Robinson, Random House, 2012, ages 5-9.
Florence Mills was born to sing and dance. Love and talent for both took her all the way to Broadway during the 1920’s. This picture book story of Harlam’s Little Blackbird draws on simple collage and mixed media illustrations to depict Florence as an advocate for fellow black performers and for equal rights. When Florence died at the age of thirty one, people with different backgrounds and from around the world mourned the loss of this talented performer and charitable person. Written in a forthright style, the book presents Florence Mills as a positive role model for readers of all ages.
“The Secret River” by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon, Antheneum, 2011, ages 5-9.
Calpurnia and her dog Buggy-horse discover a secret river with enough fish to put her father back to work and feed the village, so that hard times can become soft times again. This reinterpretation of “The Secret River”, a Newbery Honor book in 1956, honors the original author, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, also the 1939 Pulitzer Prize winning author of “The Yearling”. Illustrators Leo and Diane Dillon add their award winning artistic style to create beautiful acrylic paintings for this captivating tale as the young girl travels from home to the enchanted river and back again.
“I Too Am America” by Langston Hughes, Illustrated by Bryan Collier, Simon & Schuster, 2012, ages 5-9.
Originally published in 1925, this Langston Hughes poem inspires hope and endurance for many people. Bryan Collier’s illustrations, a mixed-media collage style, feature Pullman porters, African-American men who served wealthy white passengers traveling aboard luxury trains during the early to mid 1900’s. Collier’s interpretation utilizes the train to transport the reader from the historic to the modern day, symbolic of the changes in the lives of African-Americans over time.
“Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America” by Andrea Davis Pickney & Brian Pickney, Disney, 2012, ages 9 and up.
“These are the stories of ten bold men who built a chain called hand in hand”. These words from the opening poem describe the connection between the ten Black men featured in this biographical collection, including Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, Martin Luther King, Jr., and President Barack Obama. These men reached, pulled, believed, achieved, and added to a chain linking one man’s success to the next. All now serve as an inspiration to all seeking to create a better world. Watercolor and ink illustrations combine with detailed biographies woven together to create a story of dedication and achievement.
Children’s literature provides us with stories of our past and inspiration for the future.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Dobler