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Journey of discovery: new books explore African American triumphs.

In celebration of Black History Month, we offer titles that represent the diversity and richness of African American culture and the strides made over time.

Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story by Ellen Levine Illustrated by Kadir Nelson Scholastic Press, January 2007 $16.99, ISBN 0-439-77733-X Ages 4-8

Levine recounts the amazing story of Henry "Box" Brown, who was so determined to obtain his freedom that he hides himself in a cramped wooden crate and mails himself North. Children and adults will be captivated by Henry's harrowing journey and his will to survive; the story is enhanced by Nelson's glorious paintings.

MLK: Journey of a King by Tonya Bolden Abrams Books for Young Readers/Amulet Books, February 2007 $19.95, ISBN 0-810-95476-1 Ages 10-14

A child of nine when Dr. King was assassinated, Bolden calls her book, "My soul's journey into why that teacher at my elementary school cried, and why I sometimes wept as I listened to his sermons and speeches...." Indeed, King's legacy is lovingly told through her eyes and illustrated with powerful and touching photographs.

Jesse Owens: Fastest Man Alive by Carole Boston Weatherford Illustrated by Eric Velasquez Walker Books for Young Readers January 2007 $16.99, ISBN 0-802-79550-1 Ages 6-11

Jesse Owens was one of the world's most famous Olympic athletes, and he was the first American track-and-field contestant to win four gold metals in a single Olympics. Weatherford takes us back to Owen's triumphant victory at the 1936 games in Germany, which shattered Adolf Hitler's claim of German superiority. Children will be reminded of pride he instilled in all Americans.

Letters From a Slave Boy: The Story of Joseph Jacobs by Mary E. Lyons Atheneum Books for Young Readers January 2007 $15.99, ISBN 0-689-87867-1 Ages 12 and up

Harriet Jacobs was the brave woman who hid in an attic for seven years, unbeknownst to her family, to avoid capture from her master. Letters From a Slave Boy focuses on Joseph Jacobs, Harriet's son, and his adventures on the road to freedom. Told through letters imagined by Lyons, this book will present young readers with an interesting vantage point on slavery.

John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson Illustrated by Benny Andrews Lee & Low Books, October 2006 $17.95, ISBN 1-584-30250-X Ages 7-12

The authors engagingly illustrate the life and accomplishments of the great leader who helped African Americans obtain the right to vote during an arduous time in this country's history. A son of sharecroppers, he went on to become a United States Representative. It is a reminder to children of what the right to vote and be counted really means. The late Benny Andrews's handsome paintings capture the power and dignity of our struggles.

From Slave to Soldier: Based on a True Civil War Story by Deborah Hopkinson Illustrated by Brian Floca Atheneum Books for Young Readers January 2007 $3.99, ISBN 0-689-83966-9 Ages 6-8

During the Civil War, the Union Army was a means of escape from slavery. This is the story of 11-year-old John McCline, who left his beloved uncle behind on a Tennessee plantation to take control of his destiny by becoming a mule-team driver's helper for the Union.

Wednesday at Weeksville by Edward Mapp, illustrated by Nigel Potter Airleaf Publishing, December 2005 $14.95, ISBN 1-594-53784-4

It's 1863 and the North and South are in the grips of war; this period serves as backdrop for a story about the life of 11-year-old Andrew Sampson and his family in Brooklyn, New York. In this self-published book, Mapp delivers an interesting story with thoughtful dialogue accompanied by Potter's illustrations painted in warm, colorful tones.

Other Noteworthy Titles

Let It Shine: Three Favorite Spirituals by Ashley Bryan Atheneum Books for Young Readers January 2007 $16.99, ISBN 0-689-84732-7 Ages 4-8

Bryan uses bold, colorful cutouts to accompany the lyrics of favorite spirituals.

Shouting! by Joyce Carol Thomas Illustrated by Annie Lee Jump Sun/Hyperion at the Books for Children February 2007 $16.99, ISBN 0-786-80664-8 All Ages

When the "good spirit" moves a mother and her daughter, as well as the other churchgoers, from their seats during a Sunday service, the shouting, clapping and dancing means that it's a time for spiritual celebration. Amusing drawings capture the spirit of the experience.

Sweet Thang by Allison Whittenberg Delacorte Press, March 2006 $15.95, ISBN 0-385-73292-9 Ages 8 to 12

Fourteen-year-old Charmaine Upshaw, who struggles to find her own identity and deal with boys, hair and teen angst, has just lost her favorite aunt and gained her naughty little cousin. Set in Philadelphia in 1957, the story masterfully captures the voice of the young heroine.

Lily Brown's Paintings by Angela Johnson Illustrated by E.B. Lewis Orchard Books/Scholastic, January 2007 $16.99, ISBN 0-439-78225-8 Ages 4-8

When young Lily Brown paints, she goes to another dimension, where trees wear hats and apples sing. Johnson and Lewis show the wonderful transporting capabilities of art.

Michael's Golden Rules by Deloris Jordan with Roslyn M. Jordan Introduction by Michael Jordan Illustrated by Kadir Nelson Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, January 2007 $16.99, ISBN 0-689-87016-7 Ages 6-10

This is an ode to teamwork, friendship and how you play the game, by the mother and sister of Michael Jordan.

Porch Lies: Tales of Slicksters, Tricksters and Other Wily Characters by Patricia C. McKissack

Schwartz & Wade Books/Random House Children's Books, August 2006 $18.95, ISBN 0-375-83619-0 Ages 8-12

A little exaggeration goes a long way in McKissack's celebration of the front-porch storytelling that helps make African American culture so rich and colorful.

Zhakanaka: The Word Written by Sheree Brown, Douglass Johnson Sr. and Pixote Hunt Illustrated by Pixote Hunt Sara Revels Books March 2006 $24.95, ISBN 0-976-64960-8 Available online at

This is a big book with a positive message. In the story, a young girl becomes discouraged by the unkind treatment from her schoolmates. A teacher shares a story drawn from the folklore that black people could fly. Large-scale, striking illustrations make Zhakanaka a special book, which also includes a musical DVD.

Suzanne Rust is the editor of CHILDREN'S BOOKSHELF for Black Issues Book Review.
COPYRIGHT 2007 Cox, Matthews & Associates
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Black History Month 2007
Author:Rust, Suzanne
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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