Friday, February 13, 2015

BROWN GIRL DREAMING OF CROSSOVER: Middle Grade Books for Black History Month ~ by Jackie Wellington

It is Black History Month.
A month to celebrate the life of people who look like me.
A month to acknowledge the contributions of African-Americans.
The SHORTEST month of the year, with the LONGEST impact on our lives.
And in its honor, we're celebrating BOOKS!
Who should we celebrate? All the African-American authors who found the courage to tell their stories.

Last week we showcased picture books with "POC" (People of Color) or "diverse" main characters or written by an author of color. This week, we shift our focus to Middle Grade books. Five books everyone - men, women, and children - should read this February.

Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen
Word count: 30318
Summary: Raised in South Carolina and New York, author Jacqueline Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. Through vivid free verse, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s. 

This is my favorite Middle Grade book of 2014. This book resonated with me. Since I grew up in the 1970s, I was able to relate to the times. Moving from a Caribbean island to America, I was able to make the same comparisons Jackie made. I remember reading this book and thinking, "That is so true." Or mumbling, "Yep, I remember that." And snapping my fingers when I felt the connection to her family, repeating, "Everybody has someone like that in their family." The honesty in this book kept me turning the page. I read it at least five times already. And since I was writing this post, I decided to listen to it via audio (thanks Marcie Flinchum Atkins for this recommendation.) This book is special. I can see why it won the National Book Award. I was praying that this book took the top three - NBA, Newberry, and CSK (Coretta Scott King). But it was not disappointing. It received a Newberry honor and my favorite, an NAACP Image Award.

Author: Kwame Alexander 
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Word Count:16888
Summary: Fourteen-year-old twin basketball stars Josh and Jordan wrestle with highs and lows on and off the court as their father ignores his declining health. 
This book should be on every middle schooler's night stand. This book was a quick read. I read it in less than two hours. I love the poetic feel. And I was able to connect to "Filthy-McNasty," one of the main characters. This book is funny and real. It reminded of teaching middle schoolers. Kwame nailed these boys. He nailed the strong African-American mother who held her family down. The woman who kept her husband in check. And the mother who her boys grounded. I love this book. And did I mention, it won the 2014 NEWBERRY AWARD. Yes, Honey! It slayed the competition. 

Author: Chris Farley

School Library Journal said it best: " here (finally!) is a middle-grade action novel that showcases West Indian mythology and features protagonists of color: an Afro-Caribbean boy, Hispanic-Caribbean boy who also is a wheelchair user, and a Korean girl."

I checked this book out from the library after reading about the author on The Brown Bookshelf . This book is PHENOMENAL. A mix of mystery, adventure, and humor. It is appealing to the gamers of the world, the video-playing-dreamers. It is THE HARDY BOYS meet PERCY JACKSON.

Author: Crystal Allen
Publisher: Balzer & Bray, Scholastic
Word Count: 54705
Summary: When thirteen-year-old, bowling-obsessed Lamar Washington finds out that his idol is coming to town, he finds himself involved in some unsavory activities as he tries to change his image to impress people. The plot contains violence. 

If you want to laugh....THIS IS IT. This book is funny. I love this book so much. Whenever, I want a break from writing, this is one of my go-to books. The main character is funny and he talks trash, a whole-lotta-trash. Lamar is the "Harry Potter" of comedy. With his quick wit, he always have a comeback. I love this book. 

Author: Christopher Paul Curtis
Publisher: Yearling
Word Count:50225
Summary: The ordinary interactions and everyday routines of the Watsons, an African American family living in Flint, Michigan, are drastically changed after they visit Grandma Sands in Alabama in the summer of 1963.

I had to add this book here. I have read this book for years. And every year, during Black History Month, I revisit the Watsons. This book is a history lesson balled into humor. I cry and laugh at the same time. It addresses social injustices, but because the family is hilarious, the social issues is second nature. I will never stop reading this book. 

Here are the five books on our list...There are a whole lot more. But what books are you reading this February. Comment and let us know.


  1. Glad you added a classic - I love the Watsons, Jackie. I need to read Crossover yet and want to read Lamar's Bad Prank. Great info, book queen.

  2. Jackie, thank you for these great reviews and recommendations. I have to get reading right now!

  3. Fabulous reviews! I'm off to the library right now! :)

  4. Great book choices. I have lots to catch up on. My daughter & I are reading an older book, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.

  5. Thank you for the list of great books to read, Jackie! I have library holds placed for Brown Girl Dreaming and The Crossover, but now I will add the others to my list.

  6. A very glorious post Jackie W. Thank you.
    Since you asked I'm tackling THE GOOD LORD BIRD, about a child (who is black & kept in slavery) who is taken from his situation in a wild saloon job by John Brown to go along with Browns "army," leading the child into the events at Harper's Ferry. It is a difficult book to read but an important one, winning accolades including the National Book Award for author James McBride.
    I feel fortunate to have heard Ms. Woodson read her poetry at a Florida event & she uplifted me & ever'one in that room.
    Thanks for sharing these great titles.
    And very YAY! about the Newbery for Kwame Alexander. Those announcements were a joyful time.

  7. All excellent titles and outstanding authors to celebrate diversity during the month of February. I read Wheels of Change during the month of February. The main character, young Emily Soper, 12 years old, finds courage in the face of life-altering changes during the turn of the century. She believes in equality for all. ~Suzy Leopold