Monday, February 2, 2015

10 Fantastic Books for Black History Month

We love history in our family. Here are some good books we've come across over the years that we thought we'd share for Black History Month this month.

Picture Books (all of these picture books are non-fiction)
   1.  The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles, illustrated by George Ford
 Six year old Ruby Bridges was the first black girl at an all white school in New Orleans. Her story is an amazing one of courage and love. I cry every time I read it.
   2.  Rosa by Nikki Giovani, illustrated by Bryan Collier
The inspirational story of Rosa Parks whose refusal to give up her seat to a white man on the bus made her one of the most important people in the civil rights movement.
   3.  Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport illustrated by Bryan Collier
A family favorite. This book takes words and phrases from the actual sermons and speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. and incorporates them into a simple narrative about his life and influence. We make a point to read it every MLK Day, but it is definitely too good to read just once a year. You'll want this one in your home library.
   4.  Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story of the Underground Railroad by Ellen LeVine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Based on the true story of a slave who mailed himself to freedom, this book has beautiful illustrations and an interesting story to keep young readers engaged.
   5.  Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions by Margaret Musgrove, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon
Another favorite. Leo and Diane Dillon's illustrations are gorgeous in this Caldecott-winning cultural primer. You'll love reading the facts about African tribes from A to Z.

Historical/Realistic Fiction:
   6.  The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
We have an audio recording of this book read by LeVar Burton that we listened to on a road trip a couple of years ago and loved his reading of it. It tells the story of a family from Michigan who take their own road trip to Birmingham, Alabama during the civil rights era. The 16th Street Baptist Church bombing plays a major role in the story. The movie by the same name ( released in 2013) is currently available on Netflix.
   7.  The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox
In the spirit of full disclosure, it has been years since I read this, but I remember liking it. It's the Newbery Medal winner for 1974 and tells the story of a young man named Jessie who travels on a slave ship and witnesses the barbaric conditions that the slaves are subjected to.
   8.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
One of my all time favorite novels, To Kill a Mockingbird deals with themes of racial inequality, prejudice and rape. Although the subject matter is quite serious, it is just a delightful book in so many ways. If you haven't read it before, move it to the top of your to-read list.

   9.  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Glad you're immune to polio? You can thank Henrietta Lacks. Henrietta had cervical cancer and her cells (called HeLa cells) were the first cells to be able to be cultured in a laboratory. This immortal cell line has facilitated a myriad of scientific advancements. It is a fascinating book. I have reviewed it before and you can read my review here.
  10. The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois
I read this in college but recently decided to look it over again. It is a compilation of several essays by DuBois reflecting on his personal experience and is considered "a seminal work in the history of sociology, and a cornerstone of African-American literary history". You can find it on Project Gutenberg and read it for free.

I know there are tons of other wonderful books that would be great to read this month in honor of Black History Month; I've just mentioned a few here. Do you have any favorites?

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