Books, Current Events, Reviews

Magic Monday: 5 Children’s Books to Celebrate Black History Month

I know, Black History Month is almost over, but here are the books I read this month and I wanted to share with you as books to include in your reading lists.

5 Children's Books to Celebrate Black History Month

I am also reading ‘The Undergound Railroad‘ by Colson Whitehead (started reading it alongside ‘Lest We Forget’ reviewed today, and together, they truly made a powerful read for what I have read of Whitehead’s book so far).

And my poetic ode for all these books reviewed today:

Some touch your heart,
others enrage,
still others encourage
Some make you smile
others leave you
pondering a while..
As you read through
your brain is enriched,
and your heart,
it is drenched –
in a gamut of emotions. Vidya

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The Books:

Fast Enough: Bessie Stringfield’s First Ride

Fast Enough: Bessie Stringfield’s First Ride
by Joel Christian Gill
Diamond Book Distributors
Lion Forge
Children’s Fiction , Historical Fiction
Pub Date 05 Feb 2019

My Thoughts:

This is a charming fictional graphic tale followed by a factual biography of someone who deserves more recognition. Joel Christian Gill uses the medium of comics to illustrate the powerful message of never accepting that you are not ‘__’ enough. Fill in those blanks with anything – good, fast, pretty, smart, brave, and so on; and remember that you are always more than ‘__’ enough.

In the story, Bessie was told she was not fast enough to ride bikes with boys, but boy, did she prove them wrong! Not only was she fast enough, she was faster. She grew up to become a pioneer who paved the way for future African American (women) bikers.

While the brief bio at the end mentions that there are contradicting stories of Bessie’s life, one thing remains true – Bessie was an amazing woman. She was a daredevil, an inspiration, ‘The Motorcycle Queen’ who paved paths where there were none before.

Rating: 4.5/5
Reading Level:4 – 8
Reread Level: 3.5/5

In Summary:

This book takes the reader from ‘Am Not Enough’ and ‘I Can’t’ to ‘Am Better than Good Enough’ and ‘Yes, I Can’!
While the book is aimed at kids 4 to 8 years of age, the illustrations in the fictional comic will appeal to the younger audiences and the short factual biography can be used to introduce Bessie to older kids (9-12 years).

Goodreads ||  Book Depository 
Target|| Barnes and Noble

Lest We Forget

Lest We Forget

Lest We Forget: The Passage from Africa into the Twenty-First Century
by Velma Maia Thomas
Quarto Publishing Group – becker&mayer!
History , Nonfiction (Adult)
Pub Date 15 Jan 2019

My Thoughts:

Lest We Forget – a collection of three books by Velma Maia Thomas – written so that it sounds like an autobiographical (of the people) text book the intended audience will read, yet presented with a raw, heart-wrenching honesty that resonates throughout the book.

From being referred to as “black gold” (men, women, and children who were taken from their home lands by traders to work as slaves) to #BlackLivesMatter, this book covers it all.

The first section introduces the reader to the beginnings of slave-trade, the conditions that slaves lived and worked in, and later towards emancipation.

The second section shows the struggles and the journeys African-Americans undertook after the proclamation of emancipation to make a life for themselves. They were free, but yet not, with many restrictions being placed by laws and rules and society on what they could or could not do.

The final section brings the reader, as it states, through the twentieth century into the twenty-first century. It describes the struggles, the wins, and the losses African Americans went through during the Civil Rights movement, and ends with the more recent Million Man March in 1995.

An afterword includes President Barack Obama and then into today’s presidency with #BlackLivesMatter.

In addition to reading again about people I knew, like Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King, I was introduced to many lesser known pioneers and heroes , like Mary Fields (the first African-American woman employed as a mail carrier in the United States), Doris Miller (the first African American recipient of the Navy Cross), William Lloyd Garrison(an abolitionist who founded ‘The Liberator’), and Nat Turner(a freedom fighter who led a rebellion).

Rating: 5/5
Reading Level: 12 years and above
Reread Level: 5/5

In Summary:

A must-read and a wonderful resource for high-schoolers and even adults who want to learn more about this history. The transcripts, end-notes, chronology, and image-credits at the end of the book can help the reader further to research and learn more.

Note that the physical book includes interactive elements for the reader to explore. My review is based on a digital review copy.

Goodreads || Book Depository 
Target|| Barnes and Noble

Disclaimer: Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for each of the above two books. The opinions expressed are my own.

The three below are books that celebrate rhyme as well as black history. I do enjoy poetry, as you might have noticed if you have visited my blog before. So here they are, shorter(!) reviews of these books I enjoyed:

Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry With A Beat

hip hop speaks to children

Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat (A Poetry Speaks Experience)
Hardcover – October 1, 2008
Author: Nikki Giovanni
Illustrators: Alicia Vergel de Dios, Damian Ward, Kristen Balouch, Jeremy Tugeau, Michele Noiset

My Thoughts:

Hip hop and rap many times get a bad rep, but this selection of poems will make you wonder why and lead you to explore these art forms as well as fall in love – with poetry, with rhythm, with rhyme, with art.

The topics range across love, friendship, freedom, courage, sacrifice, and more, and the tone varies too – sometimes humorous, at others serious. The writing styles are as varied as the writers themselves, who include Martin Luther King Jr, Tupac Shakur, Eloise Greenfield, Nikki Giovani, Queen Latifah, Kanye West, Langston Hughes and so many more.

I loved listening to the poets themselves in many cases reciting their poems but I would have truly loved it even more with more music in it (like some of the tracks are/do have).

It will be difficult to pick favorites since each poem is so uniquely wonderful. Greenfield’s ‘Oh, Words’ delights, Antwone Fisher’s ‘Who Will Cry?’ makes you cry, while Steve Ericson’s ‘Doubtless’ leaves you confidently dreaming (because, you know, dreams are portable!). If I continue in this vein, I will have to list all the poems, and with 50+ poems, this will be a long review indeed!

But one of the first poems I wanted to read and listen to all over again after the first read and listen was Oscar Brown Jr’s poem Dat Dere. It is sweet, touching, humorous, and one that had the parent-me nodding my head in agreement with a smile throughout.

Nikki Giovani’s brief introduction is not to be missed as well, providing a preview of what is to come in the pages ahead – brilliance!

And last, but not the least, the accompanying art is as bold and beautiful as the poem it is paired with. Just like the poems, the illustrations are as varied as the artists who created them, but each one has its own spark.

This book leaves you feeling better, bolder, beautifuler, and hamboning (a word I learned here) to a rhythm that is all-you!

If I had to grade this book, I would give it Selection of poems – A+; Illustrations – A+; the accompanying CD – B+ (only because I wish the CD does not include all the poems in the book

Rating: 5/5
Reading Level: Ages 8 and up (but really all ages!)
Reread Level: 5/5

In Summary:

You need this book now! Note: This review is based on my library edition, and I will need to return it soon (so I am going to have to get one for myself since this is one I am going to keep returning to)

Goodreads ||  Book Depository 
Target|| Barnes and Noble

I, Too, Sing America: Three Centuries of African American Poetry

I, Too, Sing America: Three Centuries of African American Poetry
by Catherine Clinton (Contributor), Stephen Alcorn (Illustrations)
Hardcover, 128 pages
Published October 26th 1998 by HMH Books for Young Readers

My Thoughts:

This is a wonderful collection of poems featuring a total of 25 African-American poets throughout American history. Starting with Lucy Terry (1730 – 1821) to Rita Dove(b. 1952). It includes the more well-known like Langston Hughes, and Gwendolyn Brooks and other lesser known poets such as Audre Lorde and Jean Toomer.

I loved the inclusion of a brief yet exhaustive biography of the poet which shows how they found their way to poetry and what influenced them on their poetic journeys. The selection is varied, from rhyming verse we can recite to free verse we can sing and dance to.

Reading through the selection of poems in this book left me feeling like I need to go read more by each poet. Alice Walker’s ‘Women’ speaks to me, and I am sure, so many others too, when she says:

How they knew what we
Must know
Without knowing a page
Of it
Themselves.

The illustrations accompanying the poems are amazing pieces of art by themselves – each one reflecting the poem perfectly.

Rating: 5/5
Reading Level: Grade 5 and above
Reread Level: 5/5

In Summary:

Another book that is a great addition to libraries everywhere – classrooms and homes.

Goodreads ||  Book Depository 
Target|| Barnes and Noble

One Last Word

One Last Word by Nikki Grimes: I reviewed this earlier, well, raved about it, actually. And had to include it here to make this a list of five.

Goodreads ||  Book Depository
Target|| Barnes and Noble

Linking to It’s Monday, What Are You Reading (and I know it is way past Monday!) or IMWAYR over at Teach Mentor Texts

15 thoughts on “Magic Monday: 5 Children’s Books to Celebrate Black History Month

  1. Ooooh, I somehow missed Hip Hop Speaks to Children when it came out. That one grabbed my attention — will have to add this one to my list and hopefully hunt it down locally. Thank you for all the shares, Vidya!

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