Bacus. Mulvina. Athelia. Qush. Dora. Peggy. Jane. John. Betty. Charlotte. Stephen. These names don’t sound familiar for a reason: they belong to slaves whose stories were lost in the oblivion of hatred, inhumanity, and racism— until three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner Ashley Bryan came into possession of the 19th-century document that listed them as property for sale. In Freedom Over Me (Atheneum, $17.99), Bryan pays tribute to each of these individuals with a portrait and two poems, one to describe the reality of life on the plantation and one to give voice to dreams that never came true. This is a deeply moving book that will carry the names of these now-unforgotten souls into the hearts of readers young and old. Ages 10-14.
Although Pete Seeger was born to musician parents, he still had to work hard to convince his mother to let him play something other than classical music. When he found happiness and success as a folk musician, then, he wasn’t about to be silenced—especially when it came to expressing his beliefs. Children’s literature expert Anita Silvey delivers a fascinating account of the many challenges and triumphs in Seeger’s life, from his decade-long battle against the House Un-American Activities Committee to his work with Martin Luther King, Jr. Seeger’s own life story is a powerful testament to the power of music and, above all, how important it is to Let Your Voice Be Heard (Clarion, $17.99). Ages 10-13.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was not your average conspirator. A renowned German theologian, pastor, and pacifist, he seemed destined for a life of quiet contemplation— until World War II destroyed his peaceful future. Although Bonhoeffer had escaped to the United States in 1938 after being arrested by the Gestapo, he was so distraught at the thought of all he could be doing to help fight fascism back home that he returned to Germany on the last ocean liner to cross the Atlantic before war was declared. Bonhoeffer then became part of The Plot to Kill Hitler (Balzer + Bray, $18.99) in an attempt to stop the mass murder that the Führer was perpetrating. Patricia McCormick’s clear-eyed and riveting account of Bonhoeffer’s life is a quick read, but one that will remain in readers’ thoughts long after they turn the last page. Ages 11-14.