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Celebrate Black History Month
Among the most inspiring works of literature available today about the African-American experience are books, plays, and poems written for children, teens, and young adults. For this year’s celebration of Black History Month, we’ve asked the booksellers in P&P’s Children and Teens Department to recommend their favorite works by and about African Americans. While these books will be on special display in the store throughout the month, they are timeless selections that can and should be enjoyed every day, every month, and all year long:
In her haunting collection of poems, Eloise Greenfield gives us a glimpse into The Great Migration: Journey to the North (Amistad, $16.99). Influenced by the poet’s own experiences as a child, the collection explores the thoughts and emotions of African Americans as they sought to escape the hardships of the South by migrating to the North. Ages 4-8.
The remarkable life and accomplishments of Booker T. Washington are well-documented from his birth into slavery to his hard-won acclaim as an author, educator, activist and political advisor. In the new picture-book biography Fifty Cents and a Dream (Little, Brown, $16.99), author Jabari Asim focuses on the young Washington's insatiable need to educate himself despite the odds against him. Award-winner Bryan Collier’s textured illustrations in watercolor and collage are carefully matched to the text, incorporating intricate symbolic details that turn this book from a simple biography into a testament and tribute to the power of literacy. Ages 4-8.
For Florence Mills, growing up in Washington at the beginning of the twentieth century, music was an inspiring and powerful force. Though no recordings of her singing were ever made, the purity and strength of her voice and her role in the Harlem Renaissance are legendary. Renée Watson portrays the life of Harlem's Little Blackbird (Random House, $17.99) as an endless and inspiring pursuit of music, from the playground to the international stage. Christian Robinson's elegant, high-contrast illustrations emphasize the mix of inspiration and fantasy that make up both Mills's life and her legacy. Ages 5-8.
Young Horace Pippin loved drawing. Throughout childhood and adulthood, Horace continued making art with whatever leftover materials he could find, always adding A Splash of Red (Knopf, $17.99). When a war injury almost ended his career, he found new paths to artistic expression. And as author Jennifer Bryant and illustrator Melissa Sweet demonstrate in their engaging picture-book biography, he also stayed true to himself. Ages 7-10.
Opening with a concise yet powerful introduction by Arnold Rampersand on the history of African American Poetry (Sterling; $14.95) and edited by Rampersand and Marcellus Blount, this volume in the Poetry for Young People series is a necessary and powerful addition to every child’s library. Each new poet introduced in the volume is accompanied by significant biographical information and, when appropriate, the poems include a small glossary to help young readers interpret the language. The collection provides a sampling of works by African American artists from the 1700s to present day. Karen Barbour’s dramatic and colorful illustrations complement the compilation. Ages 10-13.
Heart and Soul (Balzer + Bray, $19.99) tells the story of African Americans from slavery to the civil rights movement, culminating in the election of President Barack Obama. Kadir Nelson’s prose sets the tone for a historical survey that feels more like a personal memoir. Most striking are Nelson’s gorgeous portraits and illustrations. Ages 10 and up.
The year 1968 was one of the most fraught, tumultuous years in recent U.S. history. But when sisters Delphine, Vonetta and Fern hop on a plane to Oakland, CA, they’re not concerned with social issues but with re-uniting with their mother. They haven’t seen her since she abandoned them and moved across the country, and will spend One Crazy Summer (Harper Collins, $6.99) getting to know her and uncovering the secrets of their pasts. Rita Williams-Garcia’s award-winning novel is an engaging journey through histories both political and familial. Ages 11-13
We hope you and your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends and neighbors will enjoy these wonderful books.
- Brad and Lissa