Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Dozen Delectable African-American Chapter Books

Many of the books listed below are just one in a series, so there's lots more fun where these came from. Choosing just one book per author means I've had to leave out some of my favorites. But it's easy to find more, once you know a good author.

Gloria Rising
, by Ann Cameron. Gloria meets an astronaut, Doctor Grace Street, at the grocery store, and then has troubles in school when her teacher doesn't believe her. My son loves these. There are at least 8 more books about Julian, his younger brother Huey, and their friend Gloria.

Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs: The Buried Bones Mystery
, by Sharon Draper. 4 boys, all friends, all from different sorts of families, decide to form a club, and solve mysteries. They get a big one almost before they start.

The Warm Place, by Nancy Farmer. Ruva, a young giraffe, is taken from her mother and home in the grasslands of Africa, and sold to a zoo. With the help of 2 rats, a chameleon, and a boy, she escapes and heads home. Read everything by Nancy Farmer!

The Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street, by Sharon Flake. Queen is so spoiled and bossy she doesn't have any friends. Then Leroy joins her class. He has stinky clothes and a broken bike, but he says he's from Africa. Somehow the two connect past all their differences. Queen still manages to cause plenty of trouble, and almost loses her chance to solve the mysteries Leroy presents her with.

Missy Violet and Me, by Barbara Hathaway. Viney may be 11, but she still thinks Missy Violet, the midwife, brings women's babies in her bag after finding them in cabbage patches. That summer she gets to work with Missy Violet, and gets quite an education.

Elijah of Buxton, by Christopher Paul Curtis. Buxton is a town of free Blacks in Canada, close enough to Windsor and Detroit for runaways to come their way and settle. (This is true. Here's more information on the town.) Runaway slaves would come to Buxton and settle, and this is the imagined story of Elijah, the first child born free in the town.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor. Set in the deep south, in the 30’s. Cassie Logan’s family owns and farms 200 acres. The Logans have managed to protect their children from the hatred of the whites around them, but this year will be especially difficult.

Darnell Rock Reporting, by Walter Dean Myers. Darnell isn't much into school. But he joins the school paper, and his article on a homeless man gives him and the community lots to think about.

M.C. Higgins, the Great, by Virginia Hamilton. I loved this book, but read it too long ago to remember the details. I remember that M.C. lives on a mountain with his family and is very independent. Amazon says it's called Sarah's Mountain, after his great-grandmother who settled the family there after running away from slavery. Amazon also says he's dealing with nearby strip-mining. I'm going to have to read it again...

If You Come Softly, by Jacqueline Woodson. Jeremiah is Black and Ellie is white. They're both 15, and falling in love. The book was inspired by a poem by Audre Lorde that begins like this:
If you come softly
as the wind within the trees
you may hear what I hear
see what sorrow sees.

Be prepared to see what sorrow sees.

The Friends, by Rosa Guy. Once again, my memory is lacking. I loved this book so long ago, I remember almost nothing. Here's what I got from enotes.com: Phyllisia Cathay has recently moved from the West Indies to Harlem. She's smart but lonely. Edith is much poorer, and would like to be her friend. Phyllisia doesn't think so. Hmm, the class issues in this book and the Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street sound similar...

Small Steps, by Louis Sachar. I loved Sachar's book, Holes, and was excited to read another book with some of the same characters. This book is very different, less mythic, and grittier. I loved it differently. Armpit is back home, and trying to get his life on the right track. His mom is trying (sometimes too hard?) to help. But his friendship with Ginny, his neighbor with cerebral palsy, is a big help too. It's all going pretty well, until X-Ray, a shady dealer from his past at Camp Green Lake, comes into the picture. Lots of action.

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