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Reading Suggestions for Black History Month

A wonderful single-artist biography is the beautiful Romare Bearden: Collage of Memories, which recounts the life of this African-American artist with photographic reproductions of his groundbreaking paintings and collages.

Eternally fascinating
The Tuskegee Airmen have been a source of fascination for adults and children alike. This brave group of fliers are celebrated in Wind Flyers, a book by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Loren Long. We had watched the TV specials on PBS about this incredible group, but we learned a lot we didn't know from this book. It takes us from the dusty Alabama roads to the skies over Europe during World War II. The Tuskegee Airmen never lost a plane that they protected.

The language is poetic; "But Uncle says the clouds still sound the same." Really lovely imagery throughout the book. This is sure to hook those boys and girls fascinated with flight.

Three Favorite Spirituals
Everyone's favorite artist and author, Ashley Bryan, has selected three well-known and favorite spirituals to illustrate in Let it Shine: Three Favorite Spirituals, a picture book. Using a cut-paper technique, Ashley brings to life This Little Light of Mine, Oh, When the Saints Go Marching In and He's Got the Whole World in His Hands. The art is exquisite and the second verses to these well-known songs are moving. A great book to own. For ages 4-8.

Rich World,/Poor World (What's Your View?)
This is one of a series of books developed under the umbrella, "What's Your View?" On each spread a different topic related to the title is discussed. There are actual examples of the topic and the necessary information to encourage children to discuss, take sides or to further research the topic.

This particular title seemed to us to be exceptionally relevant since so many African nations, the plight of their poorer classes and the resulting unrest have been in the news in recent years.

We really like the way these books have been developed. There are six books in the series covering world peace, protecting habitats, looking at the question of crime – all real-world topics for kids to explore. Although the publisher, Smart Apple Media, levels these for grades eight and beyond, we'd use them at junior high levels. Each of the topics in any one of the books can be made on target for the curriculum.

M.L.K. – Journey of a King
When this book arrived, we thought, "Ho, hum; another Martin Luther King book." However, as we opened M.L.K.: The Journey of a King, the surprises started on page one. Author Tonya Bolden chose to start the book with his death. She hypothesizes as to his last thoughts and in so doing gives the reader a great deal of information not generally known. It's a must-have.

There are three parts to this 128-pager: Part I: "How Could I Love a Race of People Who Hated Me?", Part II: "I Hope Thousands Will Join Me." and Part III: "I've Got To March." There are also great photos.

We're not usually fans of celebrities as children's book authors, but the book by Spike Lee and his wife, Tonya Lewis Lee, is really worth a look. Please, Baby, Please takes the reader through a toddler's day with a parent wheedling, as parents do, for little ones to eat, stop dropping their food, stop running in the house, dawdling...well, you get the idea. The repetition of the title words provides terrific practice for emerging readers and comprehension success is assured.

Doreen Rappaport has completed the last book in her trilogy on the Black experience in America. Nobody Gonna Turn Me 'Round: Stories and Songs of the Civil Rights Movement is a gem. In spartan prose, this former teacher brings us to Emmett Till's coffin, dead at 14 because he was Black. She takes us to the bone-weary Rosa Parks and to frightened teenager, Elizabeth Eckford, walking into a high school in Little Rock. The skill of the reporter lets us feel each of the emotions of the individuals being remembered. Martin Luther King, Jr. appears in this 59-page book, as does Malcolm X, but it is the little girls in Birmingham and Fanny Lou Hamer trying to vote that we – and the children – will remember. The songs in the book are now the folk songs of freedom for all. Be sure to buy this one.

And one more...Bessie Smith and the Night Riders by Sue Stauffacher is a terrific recounting of an actual event involving the famous blues singer, Bessie Smith, and the Ku Klux Klan.


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