Books by Rod Brown

GRANDPA STOPS A WAR by Susan Robeson
Released: Jan. 8, 2019

"A story worth hearing about a cause worth fighting. (Informational picture book. 4-10)"
Written by his granddaughter, this biography tells a little-known story of an African-American vocalist who used music to unify people abroad when segregation still ruled in the U.S. Read full book review >
FREEDOM'S A-CALLIN ME by Ntozake Shange
Released: Jan. 1, 2012

"Inspirational pairings of art and verse to read and recite in tribute to those who walked that perilous road. (Picture book/poetry. 12 & up)"
One slave is the poetic voice for those who toil on a cotton plantation and look to the North Star, following the Underground Railroad to freedom. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 2009

Obie Award-winning playwright Shange teams up with illustrator Brown in this roughly linear collection of art and poetry vignettes from the Civil Rights Movement. The first poem's title sets the chronology: "Booker T. Washington School, 1941." Thanks to the abstract nature of the artwork and the ambiguous word choices, the final poem, "Heah Y'all Come," accompanied by an illustration of the Washington Monument, could be about the famed March on Washington in 1963 or any of the gatherings since that time. The lives of everyday people are recounted alongside major figures of the day, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Although the art is rich and the poetry compelling, the lack of contextualization will make this challenging for younger readers. A case in point is the dedication page, which the author offers "to the Little Rock Nine with great appreciation"—yet instead of depicting the Nine, there is an illustration of a creek, and in the lower right-hand corner a dead body floats, face down. Worthwhile but best for older readers. (Picture book/poetry. 10-14)Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 1998

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. Although these musings are both impressionistic and personal, Lester, in an introduction, demands that readers participate: ``I found myself addressing you, the reader, begging, pleading, imploring you not to be passive, but to invest soul and imagine yourself into the images.'' ``Imagination Exercise One—For White People'' asks readers to imagine being taken away in a spaceship by people whose skin color they've never seen, to a place where they are given new names and can be maimed or killed. ``Imagination Exercise Two—For African Americans'' asks readers to examine any shame they have about being the descendants of slaves. Each of Lester's deeply personal commentaries is placed opposite one of Brown's paintings, which depict in brilliant colors and sculpturally molded forms the people who were slaves and stops or landmarks on their journey to freedom. This is a teaching book: Those who seek to understand the experience of slavery will find many questions to grapple with, for the text does not flinch from the horrors of slave ships, whippings, or the selling of human flesh. As is true of Tom Feelings's The Middle Passage (1995), this book needs the key of collaboration with caring adults to understand its treasures fully. Readers who make that effort will be amply rewarded. (Picture book/nonfiction. 10-12) Read full book review >