Black History Month (and Beyond) Books for Kids Part 2

February 9, 2020

This week it’s the 10 year-old’s chance to share a few of his favorite black history reads.   

Black Pioneers of Science and Invention by Louis Haber 

Book Synopsis: A readable, perceptive account of the lives of fourteen gifted innovators who have played important roles in scientific and industrial progress. The achievements of Benjamin Banneker, Granville T. Woods, George Washington Carver, and others have made jobs easier, saved countless lives, and in many cases, altered the course of history.  

My son loves all things science related, so this book is one of his favorites.  Much like the Little Leaders and Little Legends series that my youngest son loves, this book allows the reader to choose a different profile each time, which helps with boredom issues.  If you have a science kid in your life, this is a good one for them. 

Hidden Figures Young Readers’ Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly 

Book Synopsis: This edition of Margot Lee Shetterly’s acclaimed book is perfect for young readers. It is the powerful story of four African-American female mathematicians at NASA who helped achieve some of the greatest moments in our space program. Now a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner. 

Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. 

This book brings to life the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, who lived through the Civil Rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the movement for gender equality, and whose work forever changed the face of NASA and the country. 

My son and I read this book around the time of the movie release and it is still one of is favorites.  It could be because it’s science related or that it’s just a great story. I’m not sure. Either way, what I know for sure is that the book is almost always better than the movie. I read Hidden Figures as well, and there was so much more to the story than what we got to see in the movie.  My son has dreams of working for NASA, so he will probably always rank this one book high on his list. 

Dark Sky Rising: Reconstruction and the Dawn of Jim Crow by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 

Book Synopsis: Henry Louis Gates, Jr. presents a journey through America’s past and our nation’s attempts at renewal in this look at the Civil War’s conclusion, Reconstruction, and the rise of Jim Crow segregation. 
This is a story about America during and after Reconstruction, one of history’s most pivotal and misunderstood chapters. In a stirring account of emancipation, the struggle for citizenship and national reunion, and the advent of racial segregation, the renowned Harvard scholar delivers a book that is illuminating and timely. Real-life accounts drive the narrative, spanning the half century between the Civil War and Birth of a Nation. Here, you will come face-to-face with the people and events of Reconstruction’s noble democratic experiment, its tragic undermining, and the drawing of a new “color line” in the long Jim Crow era that followed. In introducing young readers to them, and to the resiliency of the African American people at times of progress and betrayal, Professor Gates shares a history that remains vitally relevant today. 

Anytime Henry Louis Gates writes something, I am reading it. I was delighted when this book was released. I bought it for my son when his class was studying the Reconstruction Era.  Of course what they were teaching wasn’t sufficient…so I had to bring in some re-enforcements from thee man himself – Skip Gates.  The Reconstruction Era is totally misunderstood.  I thought the kid would we bored with this one, but he wasn’t.  It was full of history, easy for him to read and very kid-friendly.  When I asked him to pick some favorite books, I was happy that this one made his list.  I highly recommend this one for clarity on this period in our history. It’s actually a good one for adults too. 

Just Mercy (Adapted for Young Adults): A True Story of the Fight for Justice by Bryan Stevenson 

Book Synopsis: In this young adult adaptation of the acclaimed bestselling Just Mercy, which the New York Times describes as “as compelling as To Kill a Mockingbird, and in some ways, more so,” one of the most important lawyers of our time delves deep into the broken US justice system. 
In this very personal work Bryan Stevenson recounts many and varied stories of his work as a lawyer in the US criminal justice system on behalf of those in society who have experienced some type of discrimination and/or have been wrongly accused of a crime and who deserve a powerful advocate and due justice under the law. 
Through the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), an organization Stevenson founded as a young lawyer and for which he currently serves as executive director, this important work continues. EJI strives to end mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, working to protect basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society. 

We visited EJI this summer and this book was everywhere.  My son asked for it then, but I told him that I would order the kids version later. I finally made it happen for Christmas.  He is still reading it, but he is loving it so much that he took it to school to read in his free time there.  His teacher noticed and they started talking about it too. She says that she is going to see the movie.  I read the adult version and reviewed it. It was a tough book to get through, mainly because it’s hard confronting the truth of just how egregious and archaic our criminal justice system is.   

Be sure to check back next week for a few more of the boys’ favorite black reads! 

What are your young Kings and Queens reading? 

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