Great Kids’ Books for Black History Month
by Beth Reynolds
A few weeks ago I saw some news online featuring a young girl who started an initiative to get 1000 books featuring black girls as the protagonists. She was tired of reading about white boys and their dogs. It got me thinking about the books we offer in the Children’s section at the library. Here are a few inspiring biographies—both in honor of Black History month, and for kids like Marley who want to feel a spark of recognition and encouragement when they read.
Firebird by Misty Copeland
Illustrated by Christopher Myers
In spare text, Copeland gives us the story of a young girl struggling to become a ballerina. In her afterword, she explains that she wants to expand the idea of beauty and art by creating a book for all dancers, but especially for girls of color. Myers’s unique artwork expresses movement, struggle, and the grace that is dance.
A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Horace was an artist who got hurt in the war, but he didn’t let his injuries stop him. He found a way to strengthen his hand, took up painting, and captured the attention of artist N.C. Wyeth. Bryant and Sweet have created another memorable portrait of a creative individual who persevered against the odds.
Josephine by Patricia Hruby Powell
Illustrated by Christian Robinson
Powell takes the life of Josephine Baker and breaks it down into its most basic form. Told in spare prose with simple, distinct artwork, we see her struggles and her triumphs—from her groundbreaking work as a dancer to her adoption of twelve children, known as the Rainbow Tribe.
Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews
Illustrated by Bryan Collier
Trombone Shorty grew up in Treme, New Orleans. His biggest wish was to make music like his brother and his friends. Once, when he was four, he found a broken trombone. The trombone was even bigger then he was, but he began to play it—he even slept with it. Today, he helps kids realize their dreams through music. Collier’s use of imagery and integration of photographs make this portrayal of a life one to return to again and again.
Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Illustrated by Eric-Shabazz Larkin
Will Allen spent time as a professional basketball player before realizing that he wanted to spend his life with his hands in the dirt, planting food for people. Since then, Allen has been all over the world showing people how to farm the land they live on and how good it is to eat food that you grow yourself. Larkin’s stylistic portrayal of Will adds to the charm and appeal of this current and timely issue.
Taking Flight by Michaela DePrince
Michaela was an orphan in Sierra Leone who knew that she wanted to be a ballerina. Adopted by an American family at age four, Michaela narrates the journey from country to country, and her struggle to work hard and realize her hopes. Pictures from different stages of her childhood include a photo of the magazine cover that inspired her to be a dancer, and shots from First Position, the movie documenting her career-launching experience at the prestigious Youth American Grand Prix.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
William grew up in a tiny village in Malawi. Forced to leave high school to help his family grow food, he discovered a passion for science by borrowing books from the library. Inspired by what he read, William created a windmill that generated electricity, which got the attention of people everywhere. Since then, William has come to Dartmouth to earn a degree and has spoken to audiences all over the world.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Woodson’s immensely readable novel in verse tells the story of her childhood and how she came to be an award-winning author. It’s abundantly clear that books were an important part of her childhood and helped her to realize her dreams. For her, words were the way through to the other side and to her salvation.