Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Dozen Delectable African-American Picture Books

I'm the white parent of a Black and Latino son. It is very important to me to read lots of books to him that reflect the courage and tenacity of people of color, and also to show him lots of kinds of families. Some of these books deal with race issues overtly, and in some it's just not the issue at hand. We also have lots of favorite books that deal with slavery and civil rights. I'll write another post about those.

Good Night, Baby, by Cheryl Willis Hudson, illustrated by George Ford. I memorized this whole story and recited it to my son every night for over a year. Very simple story in a board book. I might be partial to it because of our history with it...

Baby Dance, by Ann Taylor, illustrated by Marjorie van Heerden. Another board book. My favorite. I love the pictures, I love the text (a re-working of ‘Hush little baby, don’t you cry’). When my son was smaller, I danced around with him while I read it.

Joy, by Joyce Carol Thomas, illustrated by Pamela Johnson. Mother tells son: “You are my joy. In every season, summer, fall, winter, spring, You touch my heartstrings.” I read it as a poem, and I tell my son often: You are my joy.

Corduroy, by Don Freeman. Written in 1968. “Corduroy is a bear who once lived in the toy department of a big store. Day after day he waited … for somebody to come along and take him home.” My son loved it when he was younger.

Whistle for Willie, by Ezra Jack Keats. Peter wants to be able to whistle, so he can call his dog Willie.

Bigmama's, by Donald Crews. Every summer the whole family takes the train to go stay at Bigmama’s (grandma’s). The kids love her old-fashioned country house, with its well, chicken coop, fishing pond, and big family meals.

Nappy Hair, by Carolivia Herron, illustrated by Joe Cepeda. Uncle Mordecai gives a sermon, call and response style, on the glory of Brenda’s nappy hair.

Amazing Grace, by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Caroline Binch. Grace loves stories, and loves acting them out. When her class is going to put on Peter Pan, one friend tells her she can’t be Peter because he’s a boy, and another says so because he’s not black. Her mama and her nana help her through. Boundless Grace is great too (on families that don’t have the ‘required’ mother and father).

Pictures for Miss Josie, by Sandra Belton, illustrated by Benny Andrews. A fictional story about a real woman, Josephine Carroll Smith, who helped young Black men in college, providing them a home away from home.

The Patchwork Quilt, by Valerie Flourney, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. Grandma teaches Tanya and her mama the value of memories. They all learn to value old age more.

Smoky Night, by Eve Bunting, illustrated by David Diaz. How do you talk with children about something like riots? The boy in this story is kept safe by his mama, but their apartment building catches fire, and they must stay awhile in a shelter. Two cats who always fought make friends and bring the people together.

Ben's Trumpet, by Rachel Isadora. Ben listens to the music coming out of the jazz club, and pretends to play trumpet. Kids laugh at him, but one day he gets his chance.

Well, that's a dozen, but I still haven't told you about Yo, Jo, or Please, Baby, Please, or Rainbow Joe, or Something Beautiful, or ... I guess we have lots of favorites... : )

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