Books: Black History Month
10 inspirational reads in honor of Black
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
Kadir Nelson Illustrator, A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis
What is your research process before you start work on a new book?
I begin with loose sketches of each spread in the book. Then I create more detailed sketches and amass a collection of visual references. I also research the story and the life history of my subject. When
I have everything in place, I’ll create the finished paintings.
Why is a book on Joe Louis important for kids today?
Joe Louis is an example of someone who overcame great odds to achieve a goal. He followed his own path by doing what he loved.
Besides Joe Louis, your subjects have included Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., and Jackie Robinson. Do you have a favorite, one subject whose story you became particularly enmeshed in?
I love any story about transformation, stories that speak to the hero inside all of us.
1 | Africa Is My Home: A Child of the Amistad
By Monica Edinger, illustrated by Robert Byrd. $17.99.
A fictionalized story of the Amistad slave rebellion and a return to Africa, as seen through the eyes of a young girl. Grades 3–5.
2 | The Port Chicago 50
By Steve Sheinkin. $19.99.
Discrimination in the armed forces is the topic of this book about the Port Chicago explosion of 1944, told in a fast-paced reportorial style with archival photos. Grades 5–9.
3 | Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X
By Ilyasah Shabazz, Illustrated by AG Ford. $17.99.
A charmingly illustrated look at the childhood of the resilient boy who became Malcolm X. Grades 1–3.
4 | The Sittin’ Up
By Shelia P. Moses. $16.99.
This rich, humorous story is set in a sharecropping community during the Depression, where two young boys are mourning the death of “the last slave man around.” Grades 5–8.
5 | Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker
By Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Christian Robinson. $17.99.
A story-in-verse looks at the life of the iconoclastic dancer who wowed Paris and marched with MLK. Grades 2–5.
6 | The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond
By Brenda Woods. $16.99.
A biracial teen who sometimes feels “like a brown leaf on a pile of snow” reaches out to the family of a father she never knew. Grades 3–7.
7 | The Freedom Maze
By Delia Sherman. $6.99.
The stakes are high in this time-travel adventure when a teen meets her ancestors on a Louisiana sugar plantation in 1860—and finds she herself is a slave. Grades 5–8.
8 | Jump Into the Sky
By Shelley Pearsall. $7.99.
When a courageous 13-year-old Chicago boy goes south in 1945 to search for his soldier father, he discovers dangerous secrets and a world of prejudice. Grades 4–7.
9 | A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis
By Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. $8.99.
A country cheered as the Brown Bomber sank German boxer Max Schmeling on the eve of WWII. Grades 1–3.
10 | Back of the Bus
By Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Floyd Cooper. $8.99.
A fictional account of a young boy watching Rosa Parks take her historic stand in 1955—an action that set off the civil rights movement. Grades 1–4.