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Black History Month (and Beyond) Books for Kids Part 3

February 16, 2020

This week’s picks are some of the house favorites. They are filled with the most beautiful illustrations and stories about ordinary people who did extraordinary things that changed the course of history.

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson

Book Synopsis: Using an “Everyman” player as his narrator, Kadir Nelson tells the story of Negro League baseball from its beginnings in the 1920s through the decline after Jackie Robinson crossed over to the majors in 1947. Illustrations from oil paintings by the author.

Once again, Kadir Nelson’s illustrations brings the story to life. This is a very in-depth book that covers a lot of ground about the Negro Leagues. If you have a baseball lover at home, this would be a great pick for him/her.

28 Days: Moments in Black History That Changed the World by Charles R. Smith, Jr.

Book Synopsis:

Each day features a different influential figure in African-American history, from Crispus Attucks, the first man shot in the Boston Massacre, sparking the Revolutionary War, to Madame C. J. Walker, who after years of adversity became the wealthiest black woman in the country, as well as one of the wealthiest black Americans, to Barack Obama, the country’s first African-American president.

With powerful illustrations by Shane Evans, this is a completely unique look at the importance and influence of African Americans on the history of this country.

We love books like these because every page is a new story. Last year, we read one page a day in February. The illustrations are amazing and the historical figures chosen are perfect.

Delivering Justice: W.W. Law and the Fight for Civil Rights by Jim Haskins

Book Synopsis: “Grow up and be somebody,” Westley Wallace Law’s grandmother encouraged him as a young boy living in poverty in segregated Savannah, Georgia. Determined to make a difference in his community, W.W. Law assisted blacks in registering to vote, joined the NAACP and trained protestors in the use of nonviolent civil disobedience, and, in 1961, led the Great Savannah Boycott. In that famous protest, blacks refused to shop in downtown Savannah. When city leaders finally agreed to declare all of its citizens equal, Savannah became the first city in the south to end racial discrimination.

A lifelong mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, W.W. Law saw fostering communication between blacks and whites as a fundamental part of his job. As this affecting, strikingly illustrated biography makes clear, this “unsung hero” delivered far more than the mail to the citizens of the city he loved. 

This is a great book about a lesser known historical figure who made a difference. This book is helpful in teaching kids that anybody can make a difference and anybody can become a force for positive change.

John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson

Book Synopsis: The son of an Alabama sharecropper, John Lewis experienced the injustice of segregation early in life. Inspired to action by the words of Martin Luther King, Lewis joined with him and other civil rights leaders who believed in fighting segregation peacefully. This book tells his story.

Who doesn’t love John Lewis? Before becoming the Congressman that we know and love, he was on the battlefield fighting for our rights – right along with Dr. King. My kids love learning about John Lewis because not only is he a national hero, he’s a hometown hero!

Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington by Jabari Asim

Book Synopsis: Born into slavery, young Booker T. Washington could only dream of learning to read and write. After emancipation, Booker began a five-hundred-mile journey, mostly on foot, to Hampton Institute, taking his first of many steps towards a college degree. When he arrived, he had just fifty cents in his pocket and a dream about to come true. The young slave who once waited outside of the schoolhouse would one day become a legendary educator of freedmen.

Award-winning artist Bryan Collier captures the hardship and the spirit of one of the most inspiring figures in American history, bringing to life Booker T. Washington’s journey to learn, to read, and to realize a dream.

I am a proud Hampton grad so you know my kids had to have this book! They too love anything that teaches them a little more about Hampton. They have seen the statue of Booker T. Washington on Hampton’s campus and they have visited Tuskegee. For them, this is exciting because they have been to the places mentioned in the book. And, Booker T. Washington’s story is quite interesting…

Mahalia Jackson: Walking with Kings and Queens by Nina Nolan

Book Synopsis: Accompanied by John Holyfield’s gorgeous illustrations, debut author Nina Nolan’s narrative wonderfully captures the amazing story of how Mahalia Jackson became the Queen of Gospel in this fascinating picture book biography.

Even as a young girl, Mahalia Jackson loved gospel music. Life was difficult for Mahalia growing up, but singing gospel always lifted her spirits and made her feel special. She soon realized that her powerful voice stirred everyone around her, and she wanted to share that with the world. Although she was met with hardships along the way, Mahalia never gave up on her dreams. Mahalia’s extraordinary journey eventually took her to the historic March on Washington, where she sang to thousands and inspired them to find their own voices. With a timeline and further reading section, this book is perfect for Common Core.

Confession time. I love this book. We don’t get to learn a lot about people like Mahalia Jackson. She was a force! And her story deserves to be told. This is a book that encourages kids to not be afraid to use their gifts and to never give up on their dreams.

Well, that’s it for Part 3. We have one more week to go! February sure did fly by.

What are your young Kings and Queens reading?

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