Our blog this week is about Black History Month. Last year we recommend some great books about some of the famous people who made Black History Month possible. You can link to last year’s book recommendations here: Black History Books – 2012. This year we’re adding three more books to the collection one of which was co-authored by none other than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Let us know what you think of our selections.
Vision of Beauty: The Story of Sarah Breedlove Walker by Kathryn Lasky is for kids in grade 2-4.-Through a readable text and wonderful illustrations, Lasky brings to life one of the most successful women entrepreneurs in the United States. The author’s research is extremely thorough, including interviews with her subject’s great-great granddaughter. The narrative traces Breedlove’s girlhood as the first free-born child of former slaves in Louisiana to her hard life as a laundress and single mother in St. Louis. The text explains that her interest in natural plants and oils to treat the hair of “colored” women stemmed from her own experience with damaged hair. Working with formulas in her own small laboratory, Breedlove began producing hair products. After her marriage to Charles Walker, she was able to open a factory in Pittsburgh. To sell her products, she enlisted black women of all ages to market them door to door. By 1912, the Mme. C. J. Walker Company was one of the largest companies in America. Lasky emphasizes the contributions of Walker and the company to the well being of black women and the community. Bennett’s full-page watercolors give faces to the characters without overwhelming the text. Their pacing and placement help move the story along. This impressive picture book will delight young readers as it gives a sense of this remarkable woman and the times in which she lived.Barbara Buckley, Rockville Centre Public Library, NY” Review from Amazon.
Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington This multiple award winning book was written by Jabari Asim is for kids in grades 2 through 4. “Booker T. Washington is often attacked for compromising with, rather than attacking, the political establishment, but in this handsome picture-book biography, the focus is on an amazing achievement in his youth, when he walked 500 miles from his West Virginia home “without a single penny in his pocket” to make it to school. Asim tells the story in spare free verse, beginning with Washington as a slave boy whose dream was to learn to read. Even when freedom comes, life is brutally hard: “he shoveled, hauled and packed,” working in a salt furnace and a coal mine. Collier’s dramatic, unframed illustrations in watercolor and collage include the unforgettable image of the young Washington staring through a window at white kids in the classroom. Then there is Washington’s journey; tired, hungry, and alone, he was always struggling to get to school. The climax is a close-up portrait of the adult Washington seated in a classroom with books, dreaming of sharing what his teachers have given him. Extensive back matter includes additional facts, a chronology, and a discussion about his enduring legacy. Grades 2-4. –Hazel Rochman” Review from Amazon.
What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld is for kids in grade 3 and up. “In his first foray into writing for children, basketball superstar Abdul-Jabbar teams with Obstfeld to introduce 16 mostly lesser-known African American inventors through a fictional story told by young twins, who learn that many items in a typical house and used by a majority of Americans were invented or developed by African Americans.
Did you know that James West invented the microphone in your cell phone? That Fred Jones invented the refrigerated truck that makes supermarkets possible? Or that Dr. Percy Julian synthesized cortisone from soy, easing untold people’s pain? These are just some of the black inventors and innovators scoring big points in this dynamic look at several unsung heroes who shared a desire to improve people’s lives. Offering profiles with fast facts on flaps and framed by a funny contemporary story featuring two feisty twins, here is a nod to the minds behind the gamma electric cell and the ice-cream scoop, improvements to traffic lights, open-heart surgery, and more – inventors whose ingenuity and perseverance against great odds made our world safer, better, and brighter.” Review from Amazon.