Tag Archives: african-american family

Making Our Way Home: The Great Migration and the Black American Dream

Written by: Blair Imani, Foreword by Patrisse Cullors (BLM Co-Founder)

Illustrated by: Rachelle Baker

For ages: YA Middle Grades, 12 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Black Culture & Identity, American History, Enslavement, Reconstruction, Historical Figures, Family, Politics, Love.

Summary: 

This book is meticulously researched and fascinating!  Author Blair Imani takes readers on a journey through the American history that we don’t typically learn in history books, and discusses the Great Migration decade by decade starting with Reconstruction.

Coupled with gorgeous and very realistic illustrations, this is the type of history book I yearned for as a child.  I devoured this book in a single sitting, loving that the historical figures I learned about in college are available to children.  I was riveted, the facts weaving together in a way that was not dry or boring but instead ignited the desire to continue reading past my bedtime.  There is also an extensive (almost 30 pages!) glossary that explains everyone referenced in the text as well as landmark court cases and activist groups.  Seriously, do yourself a favor and read this one as soon as possible!

This book was generously sent to us by our friends at Ten Speed Press, but all opinions are our own.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Ryan+PflugerBlair Imani is a critically-acclaimed historian, outspoken advocate and activist, and dynamic public speaker. The author of two historical books: Modern HERstory: Stories of Women and Nonbinary People Rewriting History (2018) and Making Our Way Home: The Great Migration and The Black American Dream (2020), she centers women and girls, global Black communities, and the LGBTQ community. She serves as the official ambassador of Muslims for Progressive Values, one of the oldest progressive Muslim organizations supporting the LGBTQ+ community, and she dedicates her platform to advocating for the rights of marginalized people around the world.

Hailing from Los Angeles, California, Blair Imani attended Louisiana State University where, in 2014, she founded Equality for HER, a non-profit organization that provided resources and a forum for women and nonbinary people to feel empowered. Her fearless leadership took her to the front lines of anti-police brutality protests and, following her arrest at the protests of Alton Sterling’s murder in Baton Rouge, Blair began building a platform and social media presence to organize and create awareness about injustices in Black, Queer, and Muslim communities.

A highly sought-after public speaker, Blair Imani has appeared on FOX News (“Tucker Carlson Tonight”) and MSNBC (“The Point”), presented at colleges and universities (including Harvard, Yale, and Brown), spoken at progressive conferences around the world, and has delivered powerful talks and speeches for organizations that include GLAAD, TEDx, and LoveLoud. Her viral TEDxBoulder talk, “Queer & Muslim: Nothing to Reconcile”, has sparked important discourse about the intersection of the two identities. In 2019, she was proudly featured in New York City Pride’s campaign honoring the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. She has also been profiled in Teen Vogue, The Advocate, and Variety, on the Today Show, and by Yahoo! News. From the United States to countries like Kenya and the United Kingdom, Blair Imani has inspired audiences around the world.

In 2017, Blair Imani came out as a queer Muslim woman on national television (“Tucker Carlson Tonight”). Since then, she has been a proud public advocate for LGBTQ rights. Her work with the internationally renowned LGBTQ rights organizations Tegan & Sara Foundation, GLAAD, It Gets Better, Trevor Project, and LOVELOUD, continues to elevate the stories of queer people of faith globally.

As an advocate and historian, organizer and public speaker, Blair Imani is dedicated to making the world a better place and amplifying the voices and work of those fighting the good fight.

IMG_9028Rachelle Baker is a multi-disciplinary artist from Detroit, MI with a background in Relief Printing (Screenprinting, Lino/Woodcutting), Illustration, Comic Art, Video Art, and Music. She is inspired by Shoujo manga, anime and comics bad girls, stoic women dancing in the backgrounds of late 90’s/early 2000’s R&B videos, and the sound cats make when they’re yawning. She is a Capricorn with a Scorpio moon.

Granddaddy’s Gift

Written by: Margaree King Mitchell

Illustrated by: Larry Johnson

For ages: 5 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Modern Back Freedom Struggle, Voting Rights, Family, Activism, Racism, Strength, Resilience, Education, Own Voices, Historical Fiction. 

Summary: This story is told from the perspective of a young girl, who everyone calls Little Joe on account of the fact that she follows her grandfather Joe around everywhere. She and her siblings live with their grandparents on a farm in the South.  Little Joe tries to skip school one day, but her grandpa catches her and on the drive to school she complains about the ragged books the school gets handed down from the white schools.

Things change a bit for the family when Granddaddy volunteers to try and register to vote, agreeing to take the test on the state constitution.  He studies and passes, but the community church is set on fire and burns to the ground as retribution for exercising the right to register.  Undeterred, more members of Little Joe’s community vow to study and register themselves to vote.

This story is an introduction to the struggles that African-Americans faced trying to register to vote before the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965.  The violence within the story is light, with no one being injured in the church fire and instead using the arson as reason to have more folks register to vote.  The story is appropriate for children, and we would consider the book a primer about the Modern Black Freedom Struggle for younger audiences, to prepare them later for more complex storylines surrounding the topic of both the struggle and the voting registration activism that took place (ex: SNCC, bussing, boycotts, etc.). Great read with beautiful illustrations!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

FullSizeRender-1-624x468Margaree King Mitchell is the author of Uncle Jed’s Barbershop (Simon & Schuster), Granddaddy’s Gift (Scholastic), When Grandmama Sings (HarperCollins), The People In The Park (Watershed Books), and Woman In The Pulpit (Castlewood Books). From her “about” section of her website:

She has been “featured on the PBS show Reading Rainbow, Uncle Jed’s Barbershop is on a multitude of school lists of required reading throughout the United States. It is also reprinted in several international textbooks.

The team of David Wohl, Kenneth Grimes, and Susan Einhorn has adapted Uncle Jed’s Barbershop into an award-winning musical featuring Broadway veteran Ken Prymus as Uncle Jed.  Uncle Jed’s Barbershop was a featured show in the New York Musical Theater Festival and won the National Music Theater Network’s Directors Choice Award.

In my books for children I use history to encourage students to shoot for the stars with aspirations for their lives.  If they can see the accomplishments of people who lived long ago who achieved their dreams in less than ideal situations, I hope students will be inspired and know they can do even more with their lives.

Several years ago I visited with students who didn’t believe they were special.  They certainly didn’t believe they had special gifts to share with the world.  I was surprised that no one in the entire room thought they had within them the power to change the world.  I asked why.  They said no one had ever told them so.  Therefore, whenever I speak to children, I try to inspire them to dream big dreams for their lives and believe those dreams can come true.

In my teen fiction book, The People In The Park,   I explore what happens in the lives of teens when something devastating happens through no fault of their own.  Teens are blamed for lots of what’s wrong in the world.  But there are teens who are good students and good citizens who  successfully navigate life changing situations.  I thought it would be interesting to show through a story how they work through their issues and return to normal, while becoming better for having gone through the experience.

I hope teens groups use The People In The Park for discussion.

Teens throughout the country are weighing in on Lauren (the main character in The People In The Park) and her situation.  Lively discussions are taking place on whether teens agree or disagree with Lauren and the decisions she makes.

I wrote Woman In The Pulpit after listening to several friends, who are female ministers, talk about their experiences in the pulpit. Through the book I attempt to show the challenges women in the ministry face as they seek to carry out their calling.”

6923840Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Larry Johnson attented The Boston Museum School of Fine Arts.  For over thirty years Johnson was the Editorial Sports cartoonist for The Boston Globe, The National Sports Daily, ESPN’s Quickie page and Weei.com.

Larry has been an illustrator for over twenty five years in book  publishing, magazines and agencies. His work includes assignments for Fortune magazine, Lee Low, Scholastic, Little Brown, The Boston Globe, ESPN.com. Hill Holiday and the Sporting News.  He has illustrated biographies on Jesse Owens, Wilma Rudolph and The Wilt Chamberlain story.  His work has been acknowledged in New York’s Society of Illustrators.

As a Fine Artist, Johnson has had much success selling his original work to celebrity clients such as Oprah Winfrey and Vernon Jordan.  Corporate clients include Pepsi-Cola, Hallmark and The National Football League. His work has been seen on The Cosby Show and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

Johnson works in all mediums.  His ability to capture a likeness as well as draw people of every ethnicity makes him very sought after talent for commissioned assignments. His greatest asset is his ability to work in a plethora of styles from a literal rendering to wonderful children’s books.e to edit.

Little People Big Dreams: Josephine Baker

Written by: Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara

Illustrated by: Agathe Sorlet 

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Biography, Historical Figure, Musician, Women in Music, Trailblazer, Segregation, Racism, Activism, Modern Black Freedom Struggle, WWII. 

Summary: Josephine was a born performer, and found her fame dancing on a chorus line in New York City.  Due to ongoing segregation and general racist American society, she moved to France to work on a new show.  Josephine became incredibly famous, becoming the first African-American woman to star in a film.  She also adopted a bunch of animals and a dozen children!  During WWII, Josephine became a spy in the French Resistance.  She’s really just an overall badass. Josephine eventually moved back to the States and became engaged in activism for the Modern Black Freedom Struggle.

We love Josephine and are so glad this book exists that also talks about all of her achievements besides being an amazing performer!

This book was sent in consideration of the Best Books of 2019 list by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (an imprint of Quarto), but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

maria-isabel-sanchez-vegara-2Mª Isabel Sanchez Vegara was born in Barcelona, Spain, and she is a writer and creative director perhaps best known as the author of much of the Little People, Big Dreams series. Six years ago, she decided to self-publish a book that had been in her mind for a long time. One day, one thousand copies of arrived at her home – she had no idea what she was going to do with them! She opened a little online shop, placed them to some pretty stores in her neighborhood and, one by one, she sold them all. Soon, publishing houses started to approach her to write books, but she was working on another idea of her own: a series about little people with BIG dreams. Each book tells the childhood story of one of the world’s female icons in an entertaining, conversational way that works well for the youngest nonfiction readers, allowing them to identify with the characters in each story.

50.jpgAgathe Sorlet is an illustrator based in Paris, France!

Patina

Written by: Jason Reynolds

Cover Art by: Vanessa Brantley-Newton

For ages: YA Middle Grades

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Family, Grief, Death, Social-Emotional Growth, Sports, Women in Sports, Growing Up, Coping, Friendship, Black Culture & Identity.

Summary: Patina is just trying to do her best at a new school and on a new elite track team that she is now a part of.  Patina, or Patty for short, can run like a flash.  But what is she running from?  A lot of things.  She’s running to deal with the new rich kid school she now attends, ever since her aunt and uncle adopted Patty and her younger sister Maddy. She’s running because her mom doesn’t have legs anymore, and that’s why she can’t care for Patty and Maddy anymore (even though they see her regularly).  She’s running to prove to everyone that she belongs on the team.

This book is fantastic.  It is the second of a four-part series about the track team Patina is a part of, each book profiling a different member of the team in the same friend group.  Patty is dealing with a lot in her life: a new family structure, caring for her sister and both of their hair (since their aunt who they call Momly (mom+Emily) is white), a brand new school AND a crummy group project.

The reader is privy to Patty’s innermost thoughts, and how she just wants to successfully navigate her life and responsibilities.  Her father’s death and her mother developing the diabetes that eventually took her legs is still very raw.  Patina is struggling to understand that her mother developed diabetes because during the grieving process she would bake all of Patty’s father’s favorite treats constantly, eventually losing toes, feet, and legs.  When Momly and Maddy get into a car accident, can Patina imagine life without them both?  The accident and subsequent injuries coupled with a huge track meet for Patty is the culmination of the plot, and leaves the reader wanting to immediately begin the next book in the series!

About the Author & the Cover Artist:

180314_FastCompany_JasonReynolds-7Jason Reynolds is one of the most important YA authors right now, he has such finesse and talent with words.  Here is the About section from his website, because we can’t say it any better than he already has:

“Well, if you’ve made it here, that means you’ve survived the huge picture of my face! Congrats! And to reward you, I’m going to tell you all about…me. Sorry. No cake. No confetti. No money falling from the ceiling…this time.

So, I’m a writer. And when I say I’m a writer, I mean it in the same way a professional ball player calls himself an athlete. I practice everyday and do the best I can to be better at this writing thing, while hopefully bringing some cool stories to the world. The stories are kinda like my slam dunks. Except, I’m dunking words. In your FACE! Ha!

I graduated from the University of Maryland (where I spent about 65% of my time writing and reciting poetry all over campus…yeah, that was me) with a B.A. in English, then packed my bags and moved to Brooklyn because somebody told me they were giving away dream-come-true vouchers.

And if I ever find the person who told me that… let’s just say, no one was giving away anything. ANYTHING. Lucky for me I had all these crazy stories to keep me going. Ten years later, here I am, doing my best to string together an “ABOUT” section on my own website about my own books. Crazy.

Here’s what I know: I know there are a lot — A LOT — of young people who hate reading. I know that many of these book haters are boys. I know that many of these book-hating boys, don’t actually hate books, they hate boredom. If you are reading this, and you happen to be one of these boys, first of all, you’re reading this so my master plan is already working (muahahahahahaha) and second of all, know that I feel you. I REALLY do. Because even though I’m a writer, I hate reading boring books too.”

vanessa-new-225x300-2Vanessa Brantley Newton was born during the Civil Rights movement, and attended school in Newark, NJ. She was part of a diverse, tight-knit community and learned the importance of acceptance and empowerment at early age.

Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats was the first time she saw herself in a children’s book. It was a defining moment in her life, and has made her into the artist she is today. As an illustrator, Vanessa includes children of all ethnic backgrounds in her stories and artwork. She wants allchildren to see their unique experiences reflected in the books they read, so they can feel the same sense of empowerment and recognition she experienced as a young reader.

​Vanessa celebrates self-love and acceptance of all cultures through her work, and hopes to inspire young readers to find their own voices. She first learned to express herself as a little girl through song. Growing up in a musical family, Vanessa’s parents taught her how to sing to help overcome her stuttering. Each night the family would gather to make music together, with her mom on piano, her dad on guitar, and Vanessa and her sister, Coy, singing the blues, gospel, spirituals, and jazz. Now whenever she illustrates, music fills the air and finds its way into her art.

The children she draws can be seen dancing, wiggling, and moving freely across the page in an expression of happiness. Music is a constant celebration, no matter the occasion, and Vanessa hopes her illustrations bring joy to others, with the same magic of a beautiful melody.

Going Down Home With Daddy

Written by: Kelly Starling Lyons

Illustrated by: Daniel Minter

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, AAVE, Black Culture & Identity, Family, Recitation, Reunion, Love, Humor, Enslavement.

Summary: This book is genuinely amazing, it was one of our favorite from the entire year!  This book is beautiful because of both the storyline and the artistry that Daniel Minter created.  It is a future classic without a doubt, and a stunning example of a culturally African-American book.  There are some common themes that both author are illustrator touch upon that make this a fantastic example of an Own Voices text.  The emphasis on the formality of recitation at a family event, the intertwining of the past and present (especially in the illustrations) and the lilting dialogue are some symbols of the rich literary tradition that is Black culture.

The story opens with a family getting ready to go down south for a family reunion, and all the kids are preparing recitations for the event.  Lil Alan doesn’t know what he’ll perform though, and is anxious about it.  He’s really excited to see his family and cousins, but worries that he won’t be able to come up with a performance in time.  Being on the farm, Lil Alan experiences everything that his family has for generations, and listens closely to the memories that others share.  Lyons does a lovely job of getting across how close the family is, adding in jokes and light teasing between characters.  When Lil Alan does figure out what he will perform for his family at the reunion, it is heartfelt and emotional.  This book is a fantastic read, and sounds particularly beautiful read out loud.

This book was sent to us by Peachtree as an entry for the Best of 2019 Book List, but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

starling-lyons_kelly-photo-by-lundies-photography-2Kelly Starling Lyons began her journey to become a children’s book author in her hometown of Pittsburgh. She learned the art of storytelling from her mom who took her to productions at a children’s theater, wrote plays and made up bedtime tales. Her grandparents, who showed their imagination through cooking and gardening, taught her to honor the magic of history and home. Surrounded by creativity, Lyons began to write. Now a children’s book author, her mission is to transform moments, memories and history into stories of discovery.

Her books include chapter book, NEATE: Eddie’s Ordeal; CCBC Choices-honored picture book One Million Men and Me; Ellen’s Broom, a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award Book and Junior Library Guild and Bank Street Best selection; Tea Cakes for Tosh and Hope’s Gift, Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People and One More Dino on the Floor, a Scholastic Reading Club pick. Her chapter book series debuted in September 2017 with two titles – Jada Jones: Rock Star and Jada Jones: Class Act. Forthcoming 2019 titles include: Jada Jones: Sleepover Scientist, Jada Jones: Dancing Queen, Going Down Home with Daddy and Sing a Song.

CMSMinterDaniel Minter is a painter and illustrator. His paintings, carvings, block prints and sculptures have been exhibited both nationally and internationally at galleries and museums, including the Seattle Art Museum, Tacoma Art Museum, Bates College, Hammonds House Museum, Northwest African American Art Museum,  Museu Jorge Amado and the Meridian International Center.

Minter lived in Chicago and Brooklyn before moving to Portland, Maine where he now resides with his wife, Marcia, and their son, Azari.  From his base in Maine, Minter uses his art as a tool for dialogue with his community.  He is the co-founder and creative visionary of the Portland Freedom Trail. Minter serves on the board of The Ashley Bryan Center, The Illustration Institute and teaches at the Maine College of Art.  He serves as board chair of The Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations.

Minter has illustrated 11 children’s books, including Step Right Up; How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World about Kindness, and Ellen’s Broom which won a Coretta Scott King Illustration Honor; Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story, winner of a Best Book Award from the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio; and The Riches of Oseola McCarty, named an Honor Book by the Carter G. Woodson Awards.

He was commissioned in both 2004 and 2011 to create Kwanzaa stamps for the U.S. Postal Service.

Freedom over me; Eleven slaves, their lives and dreams brought to life

Written & Illustrated by: Ashley Bryan

For ages: 10-12 years (grades 4-6)

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Enslavement, Enslaved People, Historical Figures, Historical Events, Poetry, Historic Narratives, Narratives of Enslavement. 

Summary: This book is comprised of poems telling the stories of 11 enslaved people.  Records of these individuals were found in a historical document owned by the author himself, who developed free verse poetry and personal details of the people who were merely listed with their price on a document.

In Athelia’s poem, the last stanza reads “As slaves, we do what our owners expect and demand of us. As human beings, our real lives are our precious secret.” Bryan brings to life the harsh realities of enslaved life in a way that humanizes and reveals the multi-faceted nature of these enslaved peoples.  After a poem that corresponds with each of the people: Peggy, John, Athelia, Betty, Qush, Jane, Stephen, Mulvina, Bacus, Charlotte & Dora;  another poem tells of their dreams.  While their real jobs and dreams are unaccounted for in written historical documents, they are probably not far off from the dreams of many of the millions of enslaved peoples throughout the history of the United States.  America is a country that was founded with and built on the backs of enslaved people.

These poems are beautiful, and have even more beautiful illustrations paired with them. Bryan does a fantastic job memorializing these 11 people that history all but forgot.  We particularly love the colorful illustration of Bacus’ dreams, showing him blacksmithing and singing a song of freedom.

Reflection Questions:

  • Why do you think that personal details of these and other enslaved people weren’t recorded?
  • How can we memorialize the lives lost through enslavement, if we don’t know so many of the people who were enslaved?
  • What other questions do you have about the process of creating poetry based on just a few simple details?
  • Why do you think Ashley Bryan felt the need to not only write these stories, but also make a book about them?
  • How is this helping our current day viewpoint about the lives of enslaved peoples?

About the Author & Illustrator:

ashleyAshley Bryan doesn’t speak his stories, he sings them, fingers snapping, feet tapping, his voice articulating. His entire body is immersed in the tale. Born in 1923, Ashley was raised in the Bronx, NY. At seventeen, he entered the tuition-free Cooper Union School of Art and Engineering, having been denied entry elsewhere because of his race. Encouraged by supportive high school teachers, Ashley was told, “Apply to Cooper Union; they do not see you there.” Admission was based solely on a student’s exam portfolio. Drafted out of art school into the segregated US army at age nineteen, Ashley preserved his humanity throughout World War II by drawing, stowing supplies in his gas mask when necessary. After the war, Ashley completed his Cooper Union degree, studied philosophy and literature at Columbia University on the GI Bill, and then went to Europe on a Fulbright scholarship, seeking to understand why humans choose war. In 1950, renowned cellist, Pablo Casals, agreed to break the vow of silence he had taken after Franco came to power in his native Spain. Ashley was permitted to draw Casals and his fellow musicians during rehearsals in Prades, France, where Casals was in exile. Through the power of Casals’ music sessions, something “broke free” for Ashley: “I found the rhythm in my hand.” Ashley returned to the United States, teaching art at several schools and universities, retiring in the 1980s to Maine’s Cranberry Isles as professor emeritus of Dartmouth College.

Grandpa Cacao

Written & Illustrated by: Elizabeth Zunon

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Family, African Culture & Traditions, Love, Farming, Agriculture, Chocolate, Community, Cooking.

Summary: This story follows tangential plot-lines of a little girl making her favorite chocolate birthday cake recipe for herself, and also learning about her grandfather who is a farmer, owning a cacao farm.  The book is set up to show the parallels between the main character and her grandfather, because they have never met.  As her father guides her through the cake making process, we learn about both the steps in the cacao harvesting and drying process as well as the characteristics the two share.  They both word hard and have “boat-wide feet”, along with several other important skills like smelling rain or cold weather.

As the cake gets closer to being done, so does the cacao drying process, and the main character learns about how her grandfather and father would go to the market to sell the  dried cacao to chocolate processors.  Afterwards, the pair would surprise her grandmother at her fruit stand!

Now that the cake is finished, our birthday girl is really wondering where her mother could have gone, and when they can eat the cake.  Suddenly the door opens, it’s her mother and an older man she’s never met before.  She studies him for a moment…they both have the same ears, eyes, and smile.  It’s her grandfather, all the way from Africa!  He brings her a cacao fruit, and the book ends with their embrace.

This is a great book, very informative!  In the back is information about cacao and the cacao trade, including information about how to support businesses that do not exploit child labor.  There is also a map and the history of chocolate, as well as the cake recipe mentioned in the book.

Reflection Questions:

  • What is something you learned when reading the book?
  • Do you have any family that lives far away?
  • How would you feel if they surprised you on your birthday?
  • What do you think would be the most fun part about the chocolate-making process?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Watch a video about the chocolate-making process.  Are there other places in the world besides Africa that cacao grows?

About the Author & Illustrator:

71zhtxpjlql._us230_Elizabeth Zunon was born in Albany, NY and spent her childhood in a hot, sunny, tropical country in West Africa called the Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire), where people speak French (and many other languages). Elizabeth’s Mom read Elizabeth’s little brother and Elizabeth a lot of bedtime stories in English after they came home from speaking French all day at school. As a little girl, she loved to draw, paint, make up dances and play dress-up, and as Elizabeth grew up, that didn’t really change! After returning to the United States, Elizabeth attended the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and graduated in June 2006 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration.  She’s now back in Albany, where every day she might draw, paint, collage, sew, silkscreen, make jewelry, purses, and ponder the endless possibilities of chocolate! Her work is largely influenced by the people, places, and things from her childhood in the Ivory Coast as the product of two cultures.  You can also follow her blog-Lizzie Blogs!