Henry’s Freedom Box, A True Story from the Underground Railroad

Written by: Ellen Levine

Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson

For ages: 7 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Enslavement, Underground Railroad, Historical  Figures, Historical Fiction, Family, Friendship, Abolition. 

Summary: This book is heart wrenching.  Very little happens in this story that is positive besides gaining freedom, and it gives a very real look at Henry’s life while being enslaved.  There are very mature themes throughout this book, and it should be used in conjunction with classroom talks and discussions about enslavement, freedom, and racism.

Henry is a young enslaved boy when his enslaver falls very ill.  Henry is called to his enslaver’s bedroom and has the tiniest spark of hope that he will be given freedom.  Instead, he is given to his enslaver’s son.  Henry says goodbye to his family, and is sent to work in his new enslaver’s factory.  Henry was good at his job, but the factory owner was very cruel and would poke his enslaved people with a sharp stick or beat them for making mistakes.

Henry is now older than a boy, still working in the factory.  He meets Nancy, who is also enslaved, and they fall in love.  Given permission to marry, they do so and had three children.  Henry and Nancy were lucky in that despite being enslaved by two different people, they were permitted to live together as a family.  One night, Nancy confides to Henry that her enslaver just lost a lot of money and is worried that he will sell their children.  The next day, Henry tries not to be worried about what Nancy had said but cannot shake the feeling.  Henry’s friend James comes into the factory and whispers to Henry that his wife and children have just been sold to another enslaver.  At lunch, he runs downtown just in time to see his wife and children disappearing down the road.  Devastated, he can’t think of anything except how to escape enslavement.  Weeks pass, and Henry comes up with a plan with the help of his friend James and a white abolitionist named Dr. Smith.  Henry will mail himself to freedom in a shipping crate.  Dr. Smith addressed the crate to his friend in Philadelphia, and then Henry burned his hand down to the bone with oil of vitriol as an excuse to stay home from the tobacco factory.  Despite Dr. Smith begging the shipping crew to be careful with the box, it is thrown onto a steamboat and Henry must ride upside down until he is moved again.  He falls asleep and is awoken to loud knocking on the box.  He made it to Philadelphia!

Henry’s 350 mile journey took him around 27 hours, and is one of the most well-known individuals that freed themselves from enslavement using the help of the Underground Railroad.  He never found Nancy and his children, and moved to England in 1850.  Henry was a very intelligent man.  This book was published in 2007 and is a Caldecott Honor Book.  Some of the language could be updated to reflect the switch to ‘enslavement’ rather than ‘slavery’ when describing the period of enslavement.  Levine is a talented author with an interest in social justice, and this is an important story for children to know about when learning about history.  We must acknowledge that she is non-Black and writing about a BIPOC historical figure, but she writes in a way that gives Henry ownership over his own destiny and is an active-doer.  Henry is the one that gets himself to freedom, enlisting the help of an abolitionist rather than waiting for someone to save him.

Reflection Questions:

  • What do you think about Henry?
  • How do you think families felt when they were broken up, like Nancy and Henry were?
  • Why do you think people enslaved others?
  • Abolitionists were crucial in fighting against the white supremacy and enslavement during Henry’s life.  Why do you think these people decided to fight against the system?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Ellen_levine-210Ellen Levine, whose books for young people were born of a love for teaching and her active espousal of social justice, died on May 26, 2012 of lung cancer. She was 73.

Her 2007 picture book Henry’s Freedom Box (Scholastic), illustrated by Kadir Nelson, was the true story of a slave named Henry “Box” Brown who mailed himself north to freedom in a wooden packing crate. The title received warm critical praise and was named a Caldecott Honor Book. Some of her other well-known publications include I Hate English! (Scholastic), Freedom’s Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Stories (Putnam), and Rachel Carson: A Twentieth-Century Life (Viking). Levine published several nonfiction works for adults as well.

A woman of wide-ranging interests and talents, Levine earned degrees in politics and political science, was an attorney for a public-interest law group after receiving her law degree from New York University in 1979, and was a respected documentary filmmaker, woodcarver and freelance photographer. She also was an adult literacy and ESL tutor and taught courses in writing for children and young adults in Vermont College’s MFA program.

She is survived by her spouse and partner Anne Koedt, also an author and illustrator of children’s books, her sister and brother-in-law Mada Leibman and Burt Liebman, and nieces and nephews.

SITE BIO PHOTO2Kadir Nelson (b. 1974) is an American artist who currently exhibits his artwork in galleries and museums nationwide and abroad. His paintings are in the private and public permanent collections of several notable institutions including the Muskegon Museum of Art, The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, the International Olympic Committee, and the US House of Representatives. Nelson has also authored and illustrated several award-winning NYT Best-Selling picture books including, “WE ARE THE SHIP: The Story of Negro League Baseball” and “Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans.” Nelson states, “I feel that art’s highest function is that of a mirror, reflecting the innermost beauty and divinity of the human spirit; and is most effective when it calls the viewer to remember one’s highest self. I choose subject matter that has emotional and spiritual resonance and focuses on the journey of the hero as it relates to the personal and collective stories of people.“

Dictionary of Dinosaurs

Edited by: Dr. Matthew G Baron

Illustrated by: Dieter Braun

For ages: Any age!

Language: English

Topics Covered: STEM, Natural World, Paleontology, Dinosaurs.

Summary: From an Aardonyx to a Zuniceratops, read about when dinosaurs lived, where they lived, what they ate and so much more!  This book is incredibly comprehensive, and includes such incredible illustrations by Dieter Braun.  His artistic style is similar to Owen Davies, and we can’t get enough of either!  This book includes every dinosaur that’s ever been discovered.  The hardcover edition is hefty, but not too big.  It has a lovely color scheme and makes learning about these prehistoric friends easy and engaging.  Almost every kid has a dinosaur phase, and some (us, for instance) carry that interest and hobby into adulthood.  Corrie bought this for herself as a treat one day, after finishing exams.  This dictionary has duration and appeals to a huge audience and wide variety of ages.  It will be sticking around on our shelves for years to come!

About the Editor & the Illustrator:

s200_matthew.baronDr Matthew Grant Baron is a Cambridge and London based early career researcher in Palaeontology, specialising in dinosaur evolution, anatomy, taxonomy and systematics. His current focus is the origin and early radiation of the Ornithischia.

Dr Matthew G. Baron works alongside Dr David B. Norman (Cambridge) and Prof. Paul M. Barrett (London).

31088Dieter Braun is the illustrator of this awesome book! Dieter Braun regularly travels to Africa and Australia to observe the local wildlife in its natural habitat. His digitally rendered animal illustrations are also influenced by the children’s books, and vintage and Japanese design books he collects. The Hamburg-based artist has been commissioned by Time, The New York Times, Cosmopolitan and The Wall Street Journal, and has written his own children book entitled The World of Wild Animals.

Astro Kittens: Cosmic Machines

Written by: Dr. Dominic Walliman

Illustrated by: Ben Newman

For ages: Infant & Toddlers (Board Book)

Language: English

Topics Covered: STEM, Space. 

Summary: This is another book sent to us by the publisher, Flying Eye Books, Nobrow in the UK, but all opinions are our own!

As you may have gathered already, we’re a teeny bit obsessed with all things Professor Astro Cat.  The Astro Kittens series is no different.  The ability to take complicated scientific concepts like telescopes, space probes, and Newton’s second law of motion and break them down for children will never cease to amaze us.  The only issue we have with the book series is that there’s only two so far!  Highly recommend this whole series, it’s the best way we’ve found to be able to educate young people on space and cosmic occurrences without being a physicist ourselves.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

DominicWallimanDominic Walliman is a physicist, and award-winning science writer. He is co-creator of the Professor Astro Cat science books with illustrator Ben Newman.

Dominic received his PhD in quantum device physics from the University of Birmingham, and currently works at the quantum computing company D-Wave Systems Inc. As well as writing, he enjoys making films and animations to explain science and has produced a series of online videos communicating D-Wave’s groundbreaking quantum technology and his own videos about general science.

He has been writing science books since 2011, and he aims to give children super fun and clear explanations of science through the adventures of Professor Astro Cat. He grew up reading science books and remembers vividly the excitement of discovering the mind boggling explanations that science gives us about the Universe. If he can pass on this wonder and enjoyment to the next generation, he will consider it a job well done.

Desk-shotBen Newman has developed a distinct aesthetic over the years; a contemporary fusion of bold shapes, bright colours and playful characters which has been described as ‘bauhaus fuzzy felt.’ He has produced work for a large range of clients, including the Tate Modern, New York Times, BBC Radio 4, Google and The New Yorker. His practice extends outside of commercial work into worldwide exhibitions, paintings and three dimensional collaborations. Nowadays, he spends the majority of his time collaborating on the Professor Astro Cat children’s books with his longtime friend and scientist, Dr Dominic Walliman, which are published by Flying Eye Books and have been translated into 18 other languages.

Concurrent to working as a freelance illustrator, Newman lectures on illustration at various universities and conferences in the UK and Europe.

Rickshaw Girl

Written by: Mitali Perkins

Illustrated by: Jamie Hogan

For ages: YA Book, easy read.

Language: English, some Bangla. Glossary included in back.

Topics Covered: Feminism, Bangladeshi Culture & Traditions, POC-Centric Narratives, Own Voices, Women in Business.

Summary: This is a quick read about a girl named Naima, who paints the best alpanas in the village.  But, she dreams of more.  Naima yearns for the freedom that boys and men have to work and earn money, to pursue education, and not have to stay around the house doing chores. Naima’s father is a rickshaw driver, and one afternoon when he is taking a rest she tries to drive it so she can disguise herself as a boy and help him earn money.  Unfortunately, she crashes into a thicket and damages the rickshaw.  Her father continues to drive it damaged, until he can’t get anymore business because it starts to rust.  He has heard that a rickshaw repair shop he used to frequent until it shut down has reopened, and Naima’s mother gives him one of her gold bangle bracelets to pay for the repairs.  Meeting her friend Saleem (they must meet in secret, because he is a boy) in the woods, they hatch a plan that Naima will borrow Saleem’s mosque clothes and offer her painting services to the repair shop in exchange for the repairs her father needs so he doesn’t have to use the bangle.  Naima walks to the shop, marveling at the freedom boys and men have to walk around in the streets, and even drink tea at cafes while watching television!  When she gets to the shop, she asks a woman to direct her to the repairman so she may offer her services.  Much to Naima’s shock, she is gruffly told that the woman is the shop owner and rickshaw repair person!  In a rush, Naima takes off her disguise and tells the woman the whole story, and her frustrations that she can’t earn money for her family.  The shop owner softens, and gives her a chance to demonstrate her painting abilities.  After several hours of hard work, Naima’s father arrives in a flurry of worry about Naima’s whereabouts.  He is shocked to find that the repair shop owner is a woman (she took it over when her father passed away, which is why it was closed) and that Naima has been helping her paint all afternoon and evening!  The shop owner offers to exchange the rickshaw repairs for Naima’s labor, and offers to pay her after the repairs are made.  Naima has finally found a way to funnel her artistic talents into a viable source of income for her family!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

largeMitali Perkins has written twelve books for young readers, including Between Us and AbuelaForward Me Back To You,You Bring the Distant Near, and Rickshaw Girl, all of which explore crossing different kinds of borders. She was honored as a “Most Engaging Author” by independent booksellers across the country and has addressed a diversity of audiences in schools and libraries, as well as at festivals and conferences. Mitali was born in Kolkata, India before immigrating to the United States. She has lived in Bangladesh, India, England, Thailand, Mexico, Cameroon, and Ghana, studied Political Science at Stanford and Public Policy at U.C. Berkeley, and currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Jsilver_webJamie Hogan is an award-winning illustrator, educator, and biker living three miles out to sea.  She grew up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and earned a BFA in Illustration from Rhode Island School of Design.

Her illustrations have appeared in books and magazines as well as winning merit from the Maine Advertising Club, the 3 x 3 Illustration Annual,  American Illustration, PRINT Magazine, Graphis, and the Society of Illustrators.

She is the author and illustrator of The Seven Days of Daisy, and the illustrator of a dozen children’s books, as well as several adult titles. She illustrated Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins, winner of the Jane Addams Peace Association Award and named on the New York Public Library’s list of 100 Best Books.

Jamie was an adjunct professor at Maine College of Art in Portland from 2003 to 2018, teaching courses in the BFA Illustration program and Continuing Studies. She is currently a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance.

Since 1992, Jamie has lived on Peaks Island with her husband, Marty Braun, and daughter, Daisy. An avid motorcyclist and sketchbook keeper, she draws inspiration from moonlight, reflections, pink clouds, wishing on the first star, and the raw beauty that is Maine.

 

Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists

Written by: Mikki Kendall

Illustrated by: A. D’Amico

For ages: YA older teens (mature topics-violence, assault, enslavement, death)

Language: English 

Topics Covered: Activism, Historic Figures, Historical Fiction, Enslavement, Women’s Rights, Suffrage, Women in Politics, Women in Leadership, Assault, Death, Indigenous Voices, POC-Centric Narratives, Marginalized Populations, Modern Black Freedom Struggle, LGBTQ, Black Feminist Thought. 

Summary: Triple A, how much do I love you?  Let me count the ways.  This book is PHENOMENAL. Like, I opened the envelope and immediately got in bed to read it and stayed up over an hour past my bedtime to finish it.  It is That Good.

This book is the definition of fire, it goes hard and I LOVE IT. This book, besides from being beautifully illustrated, does not shy away from the hardship and inequities faced by marginalized populations throughout history.  It is difficult for me to explain the joy that I feel to find a book that centers the experiences of women of color and celebrates their contributions to nearly every movement throughout history.  We’re history buffs here at The Tiny Activist, and I derived incredible excitement from learning so many new names and accomplishments of badass ladies that came before me.  The book is extremely in-depth and well-researched.  The majority of these names I would feel confident in saying aren’t well-known by most of us nowadays, and this is exactly the book we need right now to inspire a new generation of activists and change makers.

This book is absolutely for teens and above, it does not shy away from the ruthlessness that many leaders exemplified in order to clinch their power and leadership especially in a male-dominated world.  The book begins with a global perspective on ancient societies and the rights of women, focuses in on the USA, and then returns for a global look once again.  Nearly every activist movement is given space in this book, and it is nearly 200 pages.  There are only a few movements not mentioned, the Zapatista’s and the Fat Activist movement are two I can think of offhand, but due to the global overview of the book it can still be considered incredibly comprehensive.  Since it is for an older audience, Triple A doesn’t sugarcoat history, especially the inequities faced by marginalized populations.  It emphasizes the unfairness of Enslavement, Jim Crow laws, and various other historical settlements.  There are a few fabulous two-page illustrations showing women of color fighting monsters with names like “Racism” and “Online Harassment” while white women are floating on clouds, protected from having to do the dirty work.  This. Is. What. We Need.  We need critical reflections on public figures, despite the good that they did for humanity, it often came at the expense of more marginalized populations (ex: the racist views that many white women’s suffrage activists held) Indigenous activism is particularly prevalent, a refreshing and glorious part of this book.  CAN YOU TELL I LOVED IT YET?  Listen, I know we say a lot that books are required for every shelf, but this book is the definition of that phrase.  This graphic novel is creating a new standard for books about feminism, history, and badass ladies.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

PJmm2RUhMikki Kendall is a writer, diversity consultant, and occasional feminist who talks a lot about intersectionality, policing, gender, sexual assault, and other current events. Her nonfiction can be found at Time.com, the Guardian, Washington Post, Ebony, Essence, Salon, XoJane, Bustle, Islamic Monthly and a host of other sites.  Her new book Hood Feminism is coming out in February 25th, 2020 and can be preordered here!

Her media appearances include BBC, NPR, Al Jazeera, WVON, WBEZ, TWIB, and Showtime.

Her fiction has been published through Revelator magazine and Torquere Press.

Her comics work can be found in the Swords of Sorrow anthology, the Princeless charity anthology, and in the CCAD anthology of 2016.  She has acted as a diversity consultant for writers of fiction, playwrights, fan conventions, and several organizations.

DAmico-headshot-2019Aster D’Amico is a Queer Illustrator living near Ann Arbor, Michigan, who loves all things tea, historical fashion, and fantasy! She enjoys writing and illustrating comics, which Aster finds to be an incredibly powerful vehicle for storytelling; her main medium of choice is Digital, but also very much loves using watercolor and Ink Wash.

D’Amico graduated with a BFA in Illustration and a minor in Creative Writing from the Columbus College of Art & Design in 2016, and have been freelancing since.

 

 

Sound Off Saturday featuring: Parakeet Books!

Happy Saturday!  We are super jazzed to feature a great publisher that we’re totally in love with: UK-based Parakeet Books!  It’s been a minute since we’ve been able to feature someone for Sound Off Saturday, and these are the perfect humans to start the series back up again with.  Hope everyone is having a good day, and that you are able to take a look at the literature-world-shaking that these two powerhouses are up to 🙂

The Tiny Activist: Introduce yourself/your organisation!

IMG_6969Parakeet Books: Hello! We are Sheju John and Judy Skidmore of Parakeet Books. All our books are diverse and inclusive, all our books are feature stories. We write children’s tales and adventures where the main characters are people of colour, or they have disabilities, or girls are the heroes, or they feature LGBTQ+ families. We’ve both worked in other industries for a while and after we had our children (now 2 aged and 5) we really wanted to make diverse books for them that reflect the world around them. The more we searched in the book shops, online and in the library, the more we found that diverse books featuring people with black and brown skin just aren’t there. So we make our own and we decided to bring in us much diversity as we can – starting with us.

TTA: What are you passionate about?

socialPK: Equality. We always knew we wanted to be part of positive change. We recycle and do our best for society and the planet. Then we had kids and this publishing company just … popped out of us! We are the only publishing company that pledge to create 100% diverse and inclusive books. So far our books feature main characters who are people of colour, girls as heroes, gender neutral characters, and LGBTQ+ families. In the pipeline we are creating books with main characters with differing abilities or disabilities. And crucially. The books are good! They focus on rip-roaring tales, and cosy family adventures for all children. We also showcase other authors and illustrators making diverse books so if people are looking for recommendations they might want to head over to our insta feed.

TTA: Tell us about a project you’re currently working on!

_DSC4035PK: We just finished a collaboration with a local primary school to create an alphabet book made entirely from the school children’s work. It is a sideways take on the usual ABC book with stories, poems, tongue twisters and drawings all inspired by the letters of the alphabet. The children’s creativity and innovation have blown us away. It is a joyful, proud and touching book.

TTA: How can people support you on your journey?

5-6PK: Buy our books for your family and friends and share our posts on social media. Join our No Outsiders campaign to get LGBT families represented in every school room. Leave reviews on Amazon. Aaaand if you are a book publicist or book distributer and like what we do, please get in touch because we are ready to for distribution.

TTA: What book was your favourite in 2019 so far?

PK: We’re in love with Swami on Rye. We liked the look of it and Sheju’s oldest friend is called Swami! The hero, Max goes off on a wild search for the meaning of life that takes him to India, where he visits the Temple of Doubletalk, meets a chatty guru named Vivek Shabaza-zaza-za, and has other adventures. It is totally surreal. And we’re cheating because it turns out this books came out in 1995 – but it only came to us in 2019! We also bought Under the Love Umbrella by Davina Bell and Alison Colpoys – it is sumptuous to look at and moving to read. The book features all different kinds of families and we got it from London’s only gay Book Shop – Gay’s the Word. Gay’s the Word also stock our book, Eve’s New Brother, which makes us wildly proud.

TTA: What are you looking forward to in the coming year?

IMG_4072PK: Making another book, collaborating with  schools and children – they have the best ideas, it’s a blast.

 

 

 

 

 

Stay connected with Parakeet Books!

Brownstone’s Mythical Collection: Kai and the Monkey King [released 10/22]

Written & Illustrated by: Joe Todd-Stanton

For ages: 5-7 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Adventure, Mythology, Family, Love, Women Adventurers, Single Mother Families. 

Summary: This book was sent to us by Flying Eye Books, Nobrow in the UK, but all opinions are our own!  This book is part of the larger Brownstone’s collection, and the illustrations are incredible!

Kai and her mother Wen are adventurers, traveling there world helping people.  When the pair are in a village visited by a destructive monster once a year, Wen and Kai head straight to the library.  Soon, Kai gets bored and decides to solve the problem herself by freeing the Monkey King to help defeat the monster.  After the Monkey King is freed, he has a few things to take care of before helping Kai.  After getting chased by monsters when Kai tries to help the Monkey King gather immortal peaches, she gets frustrated and he leaves her on a cliff.  Returning home, Kai sees her mother defending the village from the monster all by herself!  Rushing to help, Kai hopes the Monkey King will also come back and help but she is disappointed.  It is up to Kai and Wen to save the village!  Can they?

This is a great book that weaves in an original story and mythology.  Having the two main characters be women adventurers is an amazing breath of fresh air.  The way the illustrations wend their way through the book is reminiscent of a comic book, but with larger panels.  This is the only book in the Brownstone’s series that we have read so far, but we absolutely plan on getting more of them!

Reflection Questions:

  • What adventure of Kai’s would you like to have gone on?
  • Do you think Wen spends too much time in the library?
  • What do you believe Kai thinks?
  • Would you have freed the Monkey King?

About the Author & Illustrator:

Headshot_BW_croppedJoe Todd-Stanton grew up in Brighton and studied at UWE Bristol, receiving a first class degree in Illustration. Joe has been commissioned to work for clients such as Oxford University Press, Usborne Publishing and Aquila magazine.

To find out a little more about his work, Flying Eye asked Joe the following questions:

What inspires your work?
I normally find inspiration through reading or conversations. It’s rare that I get a fully-formed image in my mind but I will read about something strange that interests me and I will research it to see if anything grabs my attention. Normally by the time I have finished the work it has complete changed from the thing that influenced it but I think that is what makes it interesting.

Tell us a bit about your process…

I try and keep plenty of sketch books and fill them up with weird characters and life drawings so when it comes to making an actual piece of work or commission I already should have a few relevant drawings and I’m not just starting from scratch. Once I have a finished drawing I use Photoshop to colour and tweak things around.