Books by Julius Lester

THE GIRL WHO SAVED YESTERDAY by Julius Lester
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 10, 2016

"A powerful tale that should help children of all ages embrace the fact that dead does not have to mean gone. (Picture book. 4-9)"
In this age of automaticity, electronic immediacy, and carpe diem, this book delivers a rare exultation: remember the Ancestors.Read full book review >
THE HUNGRY GHOSTS by Julius Lester
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 1, 2009

"Not just for Halloween, it's a solid, not-too-scary ghost story for any season. (Picture book. 5-9)"
When a sudden cold breeze wakes Malcolm David out of a sound sleep, he suspects ghosts and asks his ringring bird to wake him the next night "between Not-Yet-Yesterday and Almost-Tomorrow" to investigate. Read full book review >
GUARDIAN by Julius Lester
FICTION
Released: Nov. 1, 2008

"Eminently moving and highly recommended, especially as an alternative to To Kill a Mockingbird for less able teen readers. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)"
This slim yet essential new tale of the Jim Crow South unfolds primarily through the eyes of Ansel Anderson, only son of the storekeeper in the small town of Davis. Read full book review >
CUPID by Julius Lester
FAIRY TALES, FOLKTALES AND MYTHS
Released: Jan. 1, 2007

"Useful for analyzing the original tale's moral sketchiness, but a sluggish read. (author's note) (Fiction. YA)"
This novelization of Cupid and Psyche has too little flavor and too much ego. Read full book review >
TIME’S MEMORY by Julius Lester
FICTION
Released: April 3, 2006

"Dedicated to a white civil-rights worker, this is a tribute to those who 'act in ways history does not condone and, by doing so, begin to change that history.' (author's note) (Fiction. YA)"
Ekundayo is a spirit inside an African woman on a slave ship coming to America. Read full book review >
THE OLD AFRICAN by Julius Lester
Released: Sept. 1, 2005

"Lester's prose is powerful and poetic, and Pinkney outdoes himself in hauntingly expressive, often wordless double-page paintings that masterfully capture the strength and suffering of the African people. (Illustrated fiction. 12+)"
Whips sink into bare flesh and red blood glistens in Lester's painfully vivid, four-part story of the horrors of slavery that evolves into a fantastical escape myth. Read full book review >
DAY OF TEARS by Julius Lester
FICTION
Released: April 1, 2005

"Powerful theater and one of Lester's finest works. (cast of characters, author's note) (Fiction. 12+)"
On a day when rain came down "hard as sorrow," George Weems sets out to sell more slaves at one time than anyone ever had. Read full book review >
LET’S TALK ABOUT RACE by Julius Lester
CHILDREN'S
Released: Jan. 1, 2005

"It's an effort that could easily founder under its own earnestness, but the lighthearted, avuncular tone and vivid art combine to make a surprisingly effective package. (Picture book/nonfiction. 5-10)"
A comforting direct address asks readers to think of themselves as stories, and to consider the elements of their stories: families, favorite foods, hobbies, etc.—"Oh. Read full book review >
ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN AND OTHER PEOPLE by Julius Lester
NONFICTION
Released: Oct. 1, 2004

"A must for anyone who lives a life immersed in books and stories. (Nonfiction. YA, adult)"
Author of the Newbery Honor-winning To Be a Slave (1968) and many other fine works—sometimes funny, sometimes forceful, always thought-provoking—Lester tells his own story here. Read full book review >
SHINING by Julius Lester
by Julius Lester, illustrated by John Clapp
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2003

"Like a piece of sophisticated music, this will engender profound emotional responses—but younger readers may have trouble grasping its subtler themes. (illustrator note) (Picture book. 9-12)"
Lester looks to the silence that gives meaning to the noise all around us in this powerfully told original tale, as deep-eyed faces alive with character peer from Clapp's sweeping, shadowy accompanying art. Read full book review >
WHY HEAVEN IS FAR AWAY by Julius Lester
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 2002

"Furthermore, they'll always be looking for that one last ladder—after all, it leads straight to heaven. (author's note) (Picture book. 3-9)"
Shaniqua, Bruce, Mrs. God, and, of course, God, return after What a Truly Cool World (1999), to reveal the answer to a question children are bound to wonder about. Read full book review >
THE BLUES SINGERS by Julius Lester
BIOGRAPHY
Released: May 1, 2001

"Excellence wears many faces: this works as biography, as source material for school reports, and as compelling storytelling. (bibliography, recommended listening) (Collective biography. 7-10)"
What is clearly a labor of love creates quite an extraordinary collective biography for young people, from a veteran observer. Read full book review >
WHEN DAD KILLED MOM by Julius Lester
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: May 1, 2001

"Almost ridiculously contrived, it's nevertheless a compelling story suffused with raw and honest emotion, the heightened nature of which will naturally appeal to teens. (Fiction. 12+)"
A brother and sister try in their separate ways to cope with the ultimate family cataclysm. Read full book review >
ANIMALS
Released: March 1, 2001

"Readers who find Aesop's fables stodgy and Jon Scieszka's incomprehensible might want to have a go at these. (Illustrated fiction. 9-11)"
The author of What a Truly Cool World (1999) twangs his silly bone again, producing six fables that are well south of serious, though carrying kernels of truth. Read full book review >
ALBIDARO AND THE MISCHIEVOUS DREAM by Julius Lester
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 2000

"Pinkney's mixed-media illustrations are colorful, spirited, and as gorgeous as anything he's ever done, but fail to save this story. (Picture book. 5-8)"
Lester's original fable is clever, but ultimately disappointing. Read full book review >
WHAT A TRULY COOL WORLD by Julius Lester
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 1, 1999

"A truly cool book about how—perhaps—things came to be. (Picture book. 3-9)"
Lester (Black Cowboy, Wild Horses, p. 661, etc.) has conceived a creation story that proves even God needs to have a little fun. Read full book review >
BLACK COWBOY, WILD HORSES by Julius Lester
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 1998

"Lemmons may not have the name recognition of Nat Love or Bill Pickett, but his exploits were no less spectacular. (Picture book. 8-10)"
The creators of Sam and the Tigers (1996) proffer this fact-based tale of a black cowboy named Bob Lemmons, famed for his ability to track and capture herds of wild mustangs. Read full book review >
FROM SLAVE SHIP TO FREEDOM ROAD by Julius Lester
CHILDREN'S
Released: Jan. 1, 1998

"Readers who make that effort will be amply rewarded. (Picture book/nonfiction. 10-12)"
In a stirring picture book for older readers, Lester (Sam and the Tigers, 1996, etc.) creates meditations on the journey of Africans to slavery, on the lives of people held as slaves, and on runaways, the Civil War, and the meaning of freedom. Read full book review >
SAM AND THE TIGERS by Julius Lester
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

"As usual, Lester's prose is fine and funny read-aloud, but the creative interplay of text and pictures doesn't reach the heights of this team's John Henry (1994). (Picture book. 6-8)"
A sassy retelling of Little Black Sambo, set in the imaginary land of Sam-sam-sa-mara, where animals are people, too, and all the humans are named Sam. Read full book review >
OTHELLO by Julius Lester
CLASSICS
Released: April 1, 1995

"Lester revitalizes what for many would remain an unread text, through the all-too-fashionable concepts of notoriety and controversy, and the familiar old process of sedition. (Fiction. 10+)"
Lester has taken on an immensely ambitious task, rewriting Shakespeare's tale and making a bridge to the play. Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 17, 1994

"They're powerful minimalist landscapes with figures on the surrealist edge—paintings that have you turning the pages for more. (Folklore/Picture book. 6-10)"
While working in the fields, a mother lays her child in the shade of a tree. Read full book review >
JOHN HENRY by Julius Lester
adapted by Julius Lester, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
Released: Oct. 1, 1994

"Amen. (Folklore/Picture book. All ages)"
Onto the page bounds the colossus John Henry, man of legend, man of myth (though the preface keeps things off balance on that point). Read full book review >
AND ALL OUR WOUNDS FORGIVEN by Julius Lester
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: June 27, 1994

"A forceful and startling look into the minds and hearts of those involved in the civil rights movement, this novel raises compelling questions about the successes and failures of that movement."
Lester (The Last Tales of Uncle Remus, 1994, etc.) offers a potentially controversial and intimate account of the life and death of a black civil rights leader as told 25 years later by the leader himself and the people who loved him. Read full book review >
THE LAST TALES OF UNCLE REMUS by Julius Lester
Released: Feb. 1, 1994

"Essential. (Folklore. 7+)"
The fourth volume of a landmark retelling completes the roster, with Lester's witty contemporary voice ("I reckon I should push the pause button on this story 'cause you want to know how the axe could see her coming," or, "she did the laundry and...the colored clothes stood up and started singing a commercial") still serving the original tales' subversive humor with splendid originality. Read full book review >
TO BE A SLAVE by Julius Lester
Released: Oct. 31, 1968

"Possibly the concision and flavor will increase the book's attractiveness to those who need it most, and the list of sources is valuable for further study."
From the man who is usually "On the Other Side of the Tracks," a judicious selection of quotations from runaways and emancipated men revealing the texture of the slave experience. Read full book review >