Thursday, February 5, 2015

LET THE PICTURES DO THE TALKING: Celebrating Diversity and Black History Month ~ by Jackie Wellington and Kathy Halsey

There is a certain fascination with the month of February. Perhaps it's the "Leap Year" concept. Or the celebration of cupid, chocolate, and candy. And Jackie's favorite - BLACK HISTORY MONTH. As teachers and librarians, we're always on the prowl, searching for great books to share with our students. 

Unless you have been buried under snow since last summer, you probably know about the great grassroots movement, We Need Diverse Books. Today, we feature five picture books, showcasing diversity, that should be read this month.

Join us and support diversity.




I have on my book shelf one winner from this year's awards, FIREBIRD by Misty Copeland, illustrated by the amazing Christopher Myers. (Chris and his his father Walter Dean Myers, 1937-2014, wrote an op-ed in the the New York Times which jump-started the diversity conversation.) FIREBIRD won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award. The illustrations blaze and jump off the pages, echoing the theme of a firebird and the energy and determination needed by young people of color to make it in the world of dance, just as Misty Copleand did. This story resonates with the theme of seeing others like us so we can dream and achieve, too. 

The young dancer states, "The space between you and me is longer than forever." She talks to her heroine, the prima ballerina, and Misty Copeland, American Ballet Theatre principal, shares with the neophyte that the space between these two is "not so far away." The  authors's note, a letter to the reader says. "I saw an image of what a ballerina should be, and she wasn't me, brown with tendrils sweeping her face. I needed to find ME."

2. A DANCE LIKE STARLIGHT: ONE BALLERINA'S DREAM
Written by: Kristy Dempsey
Illustrated by: Floyd Cooper 
Summary: In 1950 Harlem, a young girl dreamed of becoming a prima ballerina.

If you have not read this book, you should. I have been an advocate for this book since I picked up an early edition last January. It is my favorite book of 2014. The lyrical prose and the amazing illustrations take my breath away. 


 3. BEAUTIFUL MOON
Written by: Tonya Bolden
Illustrated by: Eric Velasquez
Summary: A little boy forgot to say his prayers before laying down. So he got out of bed, knelt, and prayed while a BEAUTIFUL MOON shines through the window. He prayed for the homeless, the hungry, and the soldiers fighting in the war. 

 I love the simplicity of the prayer and the selflessness of the little boy. I love the text and the beautiful illustrations. And I love that faith is the underlying theme of this book.

4. ALL DIFFERENT NOW: JUNETEENTH, THE FIRST DAY OF FREEDOM
Written by: Angela Johnson
Illustrated by: E.B. Lewis
Summary: A little girl narrates the story of the last set of slaves who learned of their freedom in Texas. June 19, is celebrated as the African-American Emancipation Day. A poetic rhythm paired with amazing illustrations. This book should be read all year long. 

5. MALCOLM LITTLE:THE BOY WHO GREW UP TO BECOME MALCOLM X
Written by: Ilyasah Shabazz
Illustrated by: A.G. Ford
Summary: The biography of Malcolm X told by his daughter. I love Malcolm X. He is my idol. He is a fighter, an activist, and an advocate. Follow his life from a tiny boy to an adult. This book does not disappoint.


There are more books to read. These are only five of the many books published last year. Let us know your thoughts.

11 comments:

  1. Wonderful round-up! Now to get my hands on these! Thanks!

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    1. Jane, we are happy you stopped over here.

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  2. I have read one of these, and hope to get my hands on the others. Great list of excellence in children's books.

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    1. I need to read Jackie's recommendations!

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  3. Floyd Cooper and E.B. Lewis live locally and I've been fortunate enough to meet them. They will be at the Philadelphia African-American children's book festival tomorrow. Bet some of these tremendous titles will be there!

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  4. What gorgeous books. The Beautiful Moon cover grabbed my heart right away. Thanks for these great book ideas.

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  5. Jackie & Kathy: All outstanding titles that I am familar with. Celebrate diversity! ~Suzy

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  6. Thank you for the great recommendations!

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  7. Wonderful list of books, Kathy and Jackie. Looking forward to reading them all. I was really heartened by the diversity in the award winning books this year!

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  8. Kathy & Jackie,
    These all sound/read like luminous titles.
    Appreciations.
    (I'm fortunate to have given to schools E.B. Lewis' books - autographed.)

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