Written & Illustrated by:
Rio Cortez & Lauren Semmer
For ages: 5 years and up
As soon as I saw this book, I had an inkling it would be phenomenal. I don’t think I was prepared for just how beautiful it is. Alphabet books can be hit or miss, and also a turnoff for older readers who might feel they’re “for little kids” and not for them. The ABC’s of Black History combines effortless rhyme, alliteration, and history to bring readers on a journey of learning and empowerment.
Rather than have one or a small list of words that go with the particular alphabet letter, author Rio Cortez has created a whole scene that gives context and names to various events that often go untaught in schools. There are so many tiny details, like the bookshelf filled Black writers (surely lengthening anyone’s reading list) and the extra information about Kwanzaa.
The illustrations by Lauren Semmer are gorgeous, matching perfectly with the powerful text. The blending of joy and history walks a line that doesn’t sugarcoat the past and emphasizes achievement. You know I’m always interested in extra info in the back pages, and this doesn’t disappoint. There is further information about each letter in the alphabet and a beautiful surprise under the book jacket! I can’t emphasize enough how brilliantly done this Own Voices book is, and how much of a requirement for every shelf it will remain for the foreseeable future.
This book was kindly sent by Workman, but all opinions are my own!
Rio Cortez is the author of I Have Learned to Define a Field as a Space Between Mountains (Jai Alai Books, 2015) and The ABCs of Black History (Workman, 2020). Born and raised in Salt Lake City, she now lives, writes, and works in Harlem.
Lauren Semmer is an artist, children’s book illustrator, and designer. She studied drawing at St. Paul College of Visual Arts and art history at New York University. Lauren’s bright and charming work is featured on everything from kid’s wall art to children’s apparel. She lives in Manhattan with her family.