Wednesday, February 03, 2010

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When the kids are in school, head over to your local library and check out a bunch of books for them. Then, when you get home, spread them all out over the living room floor and when they step in the door they'll dive in like you've exposed buried treasure.

That's a tip from my mother-in-law. I've been doing it for years now, and my kids love it. They can't help plopping themselves down and thumbing through whatever I've laid out there.

AWESOME BOOK TIP #2: Keep a basket or bin just for library books. Make sure other books don't go in there; make sure all library books get returned to your library-only bin. This makes it SO easy to keep track of your library books and avoid lost or overdue fines. I keep one in the kids' bedroom and one in the living room.

AWESOME BOOK TIP #3: If your library has free requests and holds, do your "shopping" online and pick up your books on-hold the next week. Unless you're on a long hold list, this should save you time if you're in a pinch and can't spend time browsing during your library visit.

AWESOME BOOK TIP #4: Take a book idea or two from a book list. Since it's Black History Month, here's a fabulous list of book ideas to broaden understanding of African American history and culture. I got it from a Horizons eFamily newsletters. It's divided up by age groups, so scroll to the one(s) you need and have fun!

For Preschool and Young School-Age Children

Shades of Black, written by Sandra L. Pinkney, illustrated by Myles Pinkney. The many shades of black are beautifully illustrated in this photo album of the many characteristics of blackness; available in board and hard copy versions. (Ages 2–6)

Oh Lord, I Wish I Was a Buzzard, written by Polly Greenberg, illustrated by Aliki. A gentle, universal story about wanting to be “anywhere but here.” A little girl picks cotton, wishing she was something and somewhere cooler and doing something less back breaking like “a snake curved up cold and cool or a dog under a bush.” A great read-aloud that easily turns into a joyous call and refrain. Aliki’s bright, expressive illustrations are unforgettable. (Ages 3–5)

Goin’ Someplace Special, written by Patricia C. McKissock, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. Newbery medal-winning author Patricia C. McKissock and Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney bring the reality of segregation to life in Nashville through the eyes of a 9-year-old girl. (Ages 3–7)

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King Jr., written by Jean Marzollo, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. Pinckney’s stunning and beautiful illustrations and Marzollo’s spare text make this a terrific book to introduce preschoolers to Martin Luther King and the civil rights struggle. (Ages 3–7)

No Mirrors in My Nana's House (Musical CD and book), written by Ysaye M. Barnwell, illustrated by Synthia Saint James. A young granddaughter's joyful tribute to her Nana composed by Barnwell and sung by world renowned "Sweet Honey in the Rock" on the CD. The CD also has a spoken-word recording of the book. (Ages 3–8)

The Baby on the Way, by Karen English, illustrated by Sean Qualls. A warm and evocative book about grandparents and family traditions based on African American traditions. (Ages 4–8)

Show Way, written by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Hudson Talbott. In this Newbery Honor Book, Woodson uses a “Show Way,” a quilt sewn with secret meanings, to tell her family’s history of African American women from slavery and to trace the history of the civil rights movement to the present. Talbott’s exquisite illustrations will inspire readers to explore their own family history. (Ages 4–8)

Mr. Williams, written and illustrated by Karen Barbour. A beautifully illustrated retelling of one man’s oral history of the hardships of African American rural life in the '30s and '40s. (Ages 4–8)

Sky Sash So Blue, written by Libby Hathorn, illustrated by Benny Andrews. The special sky-blue sash that a young slave girl offers to give her older sister for her wedding dress becomes a lifelong tie between them. This inspiring book depicts a slave family story from the perspective of a child who turns fabric into art and uses hope and joy to transcend sorrow and oppression. Hathorn’s simple rhyming narrative story of a slave who secretly makes a wedding dress out of scraps and patches and the extraordinary bright fabric collage illustrated by Andrews will captivate children. (Ages 4–8)

Visiting Langston, written by Willie Perdomo, illustrated by Bryan Collier. This is an inspiring, poetic book about an African American girl anticipating a visit to the Harlem brownstone of Harlem Renaissance poet, Langston Hughes. Perdomo’s poetry and Collier’s watercolor and collage bring to life the first half of 20th-century Harlem. (Ages 4–8)

For Young School-Age Children

I Saw Your Face, illustrated by Tom Feelings, text by Kwame Dawes. Feelings is a widely acclaimed illustrator who illustrates history “through the multiplication of faces” while Dawes creates stories around the faces Feelings sketches. (Ages 5–10)

A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr., written by David A. Adler, illustrated by Robert Casilla. A beautifully illustrated, easy-to-read biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Also worth reading by Adler: A Picture Book of Rosa Parks and A Picture Book of Harriet Tubman. (Ages 5–8)

The Village That Vanished, written by Ann Grifalconi, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. A folklore tale of quick-witted African villagers who draw on the spirits of their ancestors to hide from approaching slavers. This is a story of community solidarity and resourcefulness overcoming evil. (Ages 6–10)

For Older School-Age Children

Elijah of Buxton, by Christopher Paul Curtis. Narrator 11-year-old Elijah is the first child born into freedom in Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway slaves. Elijah ends up on a journey and becomes exposed to the horrors of slavery. This Newbery Honor book is at times funny, exciting, thrilling, suspenseful, and deeply moving; a subtle, original story by a wonderful writer. (Age 9-12)

A Friendship for Today, by Patricia C. McKissack. Rosemary, who is black, develops an unlikely friendship with mean Grace Hamilton, considered "white trash" by classmates, after school integration in 1955. Rosemary is a plucky character with wry observations on life and people and the book offers a great view of life in the 1950’s. (Age 9-12)

Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters, written by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Stephen Alcorn. An engaging and inspiring look at the contributions of 10 women from former slave and abolitionist Sojourner Truth to the first black congresswoman, Shirley Chisholm. Pinkney tells the stories of Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, and others — stories of hardship and struggle, determination and strength. Alcorn's beautiful and exciting oil painting illustrations bring life to each story. This is a good read aloud for kindergarten and young school-age children. (Ages 8–12)

There are several good source books that help children explore and understand the history and contributions of African Americans. Good sources are Black Books Galore’s Guide to Great African American Children's Books and Black Books Galore!: Guide to More Great African American Children's Books, written by Donna Rand and Toni Trent Parker.

Below are additional good choices about African American lives, history, and culture:

For Preschool Children and Young School-Age Children

Rap A Tap Tap, written and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. Through beautiful watercolor illustrations and bouncy, captivating text in Rap a Tap Tap, Leo and Diane Dillon tell the story of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, an extraordinary, groundbreaking dancer who brought tap from the streets to the world. He was one of the most popular entertainers of the first half of the 20th century. This is a beautiful, terrific, and joyful book on dance and music and a springboard for discussion on an important period in American history. (Ages 3–6)

Mr. George Baker, written by Amy Hest, illustrated by Jon Muth. George is a 100-year-old jazz musician who has decided to learn to read. Everyday he waits for the school bus along with his young neighbor, Harry. At school, while Harry learns to read, so does George with a group of grown-ups. Harry narrates the story and the extraordinary watercolor illustrations depict the warm relationship between the white boy and the African American man. (Ages 4–8)

My Dream of Martin Luther King, written and illustrated by Faith Ringgold, the award-winning creator of Tar Beach and Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky. Ringgold provides an extraordinarily powerful picture of King's childhood and experiences of segregation, prejudice, and protest. (Ages 4–8)

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr., written by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier. This picture book biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. uses King’s words along with paper collages and watercolor artwork to tell an age-appropriate version of the civil rights leader’s life story. (Ages 4–8)

Yesterday I Had the Blues, written by Jeron Ashford Frame, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. This is a beautifully illustrated, wonderfully quirky book about everyday life and having the blues. An African American boy laments his blue day and goes on to describe his other days and moods and the feelings of the people around him using the colors of the rainbow.(Ages 4–8)

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, written by Carle Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. A beautifully dramatic picture book about Harriet Tubman and her religious inspiration, using the words of spirituals. (Ages 4–8)

For Younger School-Age Children

Henry's Freedom Box, written by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. The true story of Henry "Box" Brown, a runaway slave from Virginia who "mailed himself to freedom" in a cramped wooden crate. This is an amazing story of courage and ingenuity. (Ages 5–8)

When Marian Sang, written by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated by Brian Selznick. About the 20th-century life of Marian Anderson and how she overcame racial barriers with a voice heard and loved worldwide. We follow Marian from her childhood, singing in church in Philadelphia, through her rejection from a music school that refused to take "coloreds," to her success in the concert halls of Europe, and back to America, where she finally receives acclaim, despite the challenges of racism. Brian’s Selznick's carefully researched, sepia-toned, acrylic illustrations are extraordinary and capture Marian’s soulful determination. (Ages 5–8)

Li’l Dan, The Drummer Boy: A Civil War Story, written and illustrated by Romare Bearden. This extraordinary book is based on the stunning collage illustrations of famed African American artist Romare Bearden; and tells the powerful story of a slave boy dealing with his new-found freedom. Included is a CD with Maya Angelou reading this poignant story. (Ages 5–10)

Ellington Was Not a Street, written by Ntozake Shange, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Poet and playwright Ntozake Shange offers a lyrical reflection on her childhood and the many noted African Americans who often gathered in her home, from Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie to W.E.B. DuBois and African leader Kwame Nkrumah. Beautiful full-page paintings capture the times and the "men who changed the world.” (Ages 5–10)

Love to Langston, written by Tony Medina, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Harlem poet Tony Medina offers a poem of loving biographical tribute to one of America's most cherished poets, Langston Hughes. The bold, beautiful illustrations by R. Gregory Christie complement the text. (Ages 5–10)

For Older School-Age Children

Through My Eyes, written by Ruby Bridges, illustrated by Margo Lundell. Bridges gives voice to her innocent 6-year-old self who every day walked through a mob of howling, angry protestors to integrate the New Orleans public schools in 1960. Bridges recounts how she innocently thought at the time that, "Two, four, six, eight, we don't want to integrate" was a jump rope chant, even while the mob was carrying a black doll in a coffin. Many sepia-toned period photographs and excerpts from newspaper articles, comments by her teacher, and a timeline place her story within the context of the larger Civil Rights Movement. This book is a 1999 Parents' Choice® Gold Award Winner. (Ages 8–12)

The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963, written by Christopher Paul Curtis. The Watson family heads from Michigan to the deep south of Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 to straighten out fourth grader Kenny by depositing him at the home of his strict grandmother. This Newbery Medal-winning book is both funny and moving. Kenny narrates his family’s trip into the pivotal time and place in civil rights history — the bombing of a Baptist Church with four little girls inside. (Ages 8–12)

Only Passing Through, written by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. A powerful picture book biography of one the most remarkable women of the 19th century. Sojourner Truth was a slave sold three times by age 13 and watched her parents die of cold and hunger. She became one of the abolitionist movement’s strongest voices. Christie’s dramatic impressionist illustrations complement Rockwell’s moving storytelling. (Ages 9–11)

A Dream of Freedom: The Civil Rights Movement from 1954 to 1966, by Diane McWhorter. This is a brilliant, well-illustrated history of the Civil Rights Movement centered on Birmingham, based on McWhorter's prize-winning book, Carry Me Home. (Age 9 and up)

The Old African, by Julius Lester, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. Lester, with Pinkney’s powerful illustrations, has done a wonderful job chronicling the African American experience of slavery to young readers. Other notable books by Lester are To Be a Slave and Day of Tears. (Age 9 and up)


Jennie Englund said...

Those are such great and thorough suggestions!

I'm definitely going to use those tips.

You're such a good mom, Anjie.

Oh, and we also love THE GREAT MIGRATION with Jacob Lawrence's prints. Clean lines with super color juxtapose the tragedy they tell.

anjie said...

Going online to request Great Migration right now, Jennie. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Anjie, I'll have to take the computer to the library and pull up this blog and lengthy list of Black History literature and check out a few of these books.
I just read Shiloh yesterday. A great quick read. So many emotions are brought to the forefront. Looking forward to seeing how Dane's class responds to your quilting project.
I, too will look up the Great Migration, thanks to Jennie.