The list author says: "These beautifully illustrated, quality children's book are perfect gifts for any child--red, yellow, black, or white--who wants to understand what it truly means to be an American. These are first and foremost *American* heroes, and the stories of courage, faith, and quiet dignity will resonate with our common humanity. So enjoy some quality time with the special children in your life as you discover together the people and stories that have helped our nation live out the true meaning of its creed."
"From PW: Levine recounts the true story of Henry Brown, a slave who mailed himself to freedom. Thanks to Nelson's penetrating portraits, readers will feel as if they can experience Henry's thoughts and feelings as he matures through unthinkable adversity."
"From BL: A boy and dog help each other to freedom in this slave escape tale, which is based on a true story. Young James sadly orders hunting dog Zeus to stay behind while he slips away, but Zeus will hear none of it. Good thing, too, for it’s Zeus that comes to the rescue . . ."
"From BL: Written in Henson’s first-person voice, each plain, eight-line poem begins with resistance to the prejudice and false perceptions the narrator experienced (“I did not sail to the tropics just to launder / shirts and cook meals”; “I meant / to prove myself as an explorer”), as step by step he earns Peary’s trust and sails with him to Greenland."
"From BL: In the early 1920s, Julius Rosenwald, the president of Sears Roebuck, was inspired by Booker T. Washington to give millions to build schools for African American children in the rural South, on condition that the local community raised money too. This picture book tells the story from the viewpoint of Ovella, 10, part of a sharecropper family . . ."
"From SLJ: A beautiful collection of black-and-white photographs are matched with the words of the song, which was composed in 1900 by James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson for a special celebration of Abraham Lincoln's birthday. The 22 archival photographs bring readers face-to-face with the power, strength, and dignity of a people."
"From BL:[T]his picture book . . . is a paean to Shange's family home and the exciting men who gathered there, everyone from W. E. B. DuBois and Paul Robeson to Dizzy Gillispie and Duke Ellington. [T]he words here recall, from a child's perspective, what it was like to listen "in the company of men / politics as necessary as collards / music even in our dreams.""
"From SLJ: In this fictionalized memoir, Weatherford has composed nearly 100 first-person narrative poems that detail Holiday's life from birth until age 25, the age at which she debuted her signature song, "Strange Fruit." The poems borrow their titles from Holiday's songs, a brilliant device that provides readers with a haunting built-in sound track."
"From Amazon: Young John Coltrane was all ears. And there was a lot to hear growing up in the South in the 1930s: preachers praying, music on the radio, the bustling of the household. These vivid noises shaped John's own sound as a musician. Carole Boston Weatherford and Sean Qualls have composed an amazingly rich hymn to the childhood of jazz legend John Coltrane."
"From PW: Regardless of whether they've heard of jazz or Charlie Parker, young readers will bop to the pulsating beat of this sassy picture book. In a daring attempt to capture the raw energy of Parker's music, Raschka combines a text that's as lean as a poem and as mean as a blues refrain . . . . [Y]oung and old alike will find this a read-aloud that's hard to resist."
"From Amazon: Richard Wright, African American author of Black Boy and Native Son, grew up in the segregated South of the 1920s. His formal education ended after he completed the ninth grade, but gaining access to the public library with the help of a white coworker opened up a new world of books for him, eventually inspiring him to become a writer."
"From SLJ: A lost piece of American history comes to life in Kadir Nelson's elegant, eloquent history of the Negro Leagues' gifted baseball players. The history of the Leagues echoes the social and political struggles of black America during the first half of the 20th century. There were scores of ballplayers who . . . were almost lost in obscurity because of segregation."
"From Amazon: Undoubtedly one of America's greatest singers, gifted black contralto Marian Anderson was hardly known in her own country because of her race--music schools ignored her applications and even after she began singing professionally, many venues only featured white performers. Ryan's well-paced story becomes especially poignant as she recounts Anderson's overwhelming success in Europe."
"From Amazon: In a stunning metaphor for Jackie Robinson's legendary breaking of the color barrier in Major League Baseball, Sharon Robinson honors her extraordinary father's memory with her warm graceful storytelling. Two-time Caldecott Honor Book artist Kadir Nelson has created richly rendered paintings that radiate with the beauty and spirit of one of America's finest heroes."
"From SLJ: The story of Wilma Rudolph, the prematurely born black child who, despite suffering from polio, became the first woman to win three Olympic gold medals. It is also crisp and matter of fact, very much in the spirit of Rudolph's deep day-to-day determination. However, the real impact of this book lies in the potent melding of powerful prose with Diaz's stunning artwork."
"From SLJ: [A] succinct, visually handsome presentation of the youth and the career highlights of the history-making Marshall. The early family years, with the strong influence of Thurgood's waiter father, who loved attending courtroom trials, and his teacher mother are perhaps the most interesting part of the story."
"From PW: Set in Mississippi during the summer of 1964, Wiles's affecting debut children's book about two boys--one white and the other African-American--underscores the bittersweet aftermath of the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Rather than opening public pools, roller rinks and shops to African-Americans, many towns and private owners boarded up the doors."
"From PW: Rappaport relays the wrenching yet ultimately uplifting story of one brave black family in rural Mississippi in the 1960s. . . . At once spare and hard-hitting, the narrative exposes the prejudice the young Carters endured from peers and adults alike. Yet guided by their parents, the siblings persevered."
"From Amazon: Surrounded by federal marshals, 6-year-old Ruby Bridges became the first black student ever at the all-white William Frantz Public School in New Orleans, Louisiana, on November 14, 1960. Perhaps never had so much hatred been directed at so perfect a symbol of innocence . . ."
"From BL: In this story based on an incident from the life of astronaut Ron McNair, nine-year-old Ron walks into his local public library with a mission—to secure a library card for himself so that he can take books home to read. Because it’s 1959 and segregation laws prohibit African Americans from borrowing books, Ron is at first declined. The police arrive, but Ron refuses to be deterred."
"From BL: Set in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1960, this picture book tells a story of desegregation from the viewpoint of one little girl. . . . When her brother's friends sit down at a dime-store lunch counter that refuses them service, their act of peaceful protest starts a wave of similar demonstrations that brings better times to their community and throughout the South."
"From SLJ: This quiet, gentle story pays tribute to the many unnamed children who participated in the African-American struggle for civil rights. . . . Without going into much detail, this book nonetheless drives home the fact that children were involved in the movement and makes the experience more real for those just learning about this chapter of American history."
"From Amazon: [The] author combines her spare, lyrical text with King's own words for an effective, age-appropriate portrayal of one of the world's greatest civil rights leaders. From King's youth, when he looked up to his preacher father and vowed one day to "get big words, too," to his death at a garbage workers' strike. Rappaport imbues the story with reverence."
"From BL: Unflinching verse and elegant imagery combine in a powerful, evocative, picture-book portrait of Coretta Scott King. . . . Shange uses poetry to recount Coretta Scott’s life, from her childhood to her marriage with Martin Luther King, Jr. . . . [P]oet and painter have joined forces to offer an indelible, emotional expression of the strength, beauty, and joy of one woman’s character."
"From SLJ: A compelling account of the life of one of the most controversial, misunderstood men of the 20th century. From the troubled childhood of Malcolm Little to the assassination of Malcolm X, Myers shows the influences on and the personal strengths of this fiery leader."
"From SLJ: A chronicle of the Civil Rights movement presented through lyrical verses and distinguished illustrations. Ransome juxtaposes collaged archival photographs and newspaper clippings with his paintings. Segregated buses, lunch counters, libraries, and schools are followed by a series of paintings of the civil rights heroes who partook in nonviolent protests and boycotts."
"From Amazon: This book follows a day in the life of the Obama family: President Barack, First Lady Michelle, First Daughters Malia and Sasha, and even First Pup Bo. From moving in on inauguration day to making important decisions, hosting state dinners, planting a garden, exploring the historic house, and leading around the Secret Service, the First Family is very busy."
"From BL: Winter’s book focuses on Obama’s upbringing, his travels between Hawaii and Indonesia, and how he was shuttled between parents and grandparents. The book’s refrain consists of two questions Obama keeps asking himself: “Who am I?” and “Where do I belong?” The nitty-gritty of politics are ignored; Winter instead focuses on inspiring messages of hope and change."
"KR: [A] stunning history of African-American music. They begin 500 years ago, on the African continent, chronicle the slave trade, and document the work songs and spirituals of American slaves. The blues, ragtime, jazz, gospel, R&B, rock, funk, rap, and hip hop all come under scrutiny in free-verse poems that incorporate lyrics about and the rhythms of every style."
"From PW: In this stunning collection, Rochelle's 20 pairings of painting and poems, culled from 19th- and 20th-century African-American artists and poets, are nearly as inspired as the works themselves. Elegant and thoughtful design elements shape the volume into a unified whole."