An anthology of poetry, essays, short stories and art designed to lift children up, especially children from traditionally marginalized communities, during difficult times.
This collection encourages America’s children to remember their history, learn from it, and choose to be kind in the face of hatred, racism, and oppression. “Throughout history, kids like you / were right there. / With picket signs and petitions….They changed this world for the better. / And you will too,” Kelly Starling Lyons tells readers in her poem “Drumbeat for Change.” Featuring contributions from such writers as Jacqueline Woodson, Ellen Oh, and Hena Khan, and an equally august lineup of illustrators, including Rafael López, Vanessa Brantley-Newton, and Javaka Steptoe, every work packs an emotional punch. In his poem “A Thousand Winters,” Kwame Alexander wonders “if words, sentences, and books aren’t enough, anymore” as he reflects on the state of the world and hard conversations with his daughter. A stunning collage by Ekua Holmes accompanies Alexander’s poem; in it, a vivid, violet sky surrounds a sleepy black girl sitting atop her father’s shoulders. Every work in this beautiful collection feels personal and is meant to inspire and comfort.
A love song from children’s literature’s brightest stars to America’s Indigenous children and children of color, encouraging them to be brave and kind.
(contributor biographies, index)
A fresh approach to exploring interracial communication.
In an unusual, long-distance collaboration, poets Latham and Waters have crafted a collection of poems that explore the intersection between race and childhood friendships. Each poet reveals his or her individual perspective on shared experiences by imagining their childhood selves existing in the current day of complex racial realities. Their interactions, expressed through poetic verse, navigate the ambiguous and often challenging feelings that children encounter as they grapple with identity and race—a process forced on them when they are paired for a classroom poetry project. The story takes readers through school days, interludes with concerned parents, and polarizing peer interactions. In one scene, young Irene, who is white, feels ostracized when she isn’t invited to play freeze dance with the black girls on the playground. At the beach, young Charles, who is black, is teased by white kids who wear dreadlocks and cornrows, appropriating the culture of black people, while bullying and spewing hate toward Charles. In between the uncomfortable moments are lighter, universal childhood scenarios, as when Charles asserts his choice to be vegan at a traditional soul-food dinner or when Irene describes the solace she finds in her love of horses. Interracial couple Qualls and Alko contribute graceful illustrations that give the feelings expressed visual form.
A brave and touching portrayal worthy of sharing in classrooms across America.
(Picture book/poetry. 8-12)
In elegant tanka verse, veteran poet Medina focuses the spotlight on the beauty of black boys with the help of an all-star cast of illustrators.
A premier slate of illustrators, including Kesha Bruce, Floyd Cooper, Javaka Steptoe, Ekua Holmes, and more, give the poems life. The poems “celebrate the preciousness and creativity” of black boyhood, when the author finds that “Black boys are alive with wonder and possibility / With hopes and dreams.” The collection of tanka flows through topics such as family, spirituality, self-confidence, and the stressors of working-class life. While emphasizing their universal appeal, Medina cites that these collected poems were originally inspired by photographs of the residents of Anacostia, a historically black neighborhood threatened by gentrification in the southeast section of Washington, D.C. The title has its own genealogy, emerging from Wallace Steven’s 1952 poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” and Raymond Patterson’s 1969 “Twenty-Six Ways of Looking at a Black Man,” a classic of the 1960s-era Black Arts Movement. The standout introduction, “Thirteen Ways,” attunes readers to the “three dimensions” of beauty inspired by these Anacostia black boys: “Black boys be bouquets of tanka / Bunched up like flowers / They be paint blotched into a myriad of colors / Across the canvases of our hearts.”
The fascinating illustrations matched with the dazzling imagery of Medina’s tanka make this a captivating release.
The multiaward-winning Pinkneys’ requiem lovingly explains in a set of “docu-poems” the events surrounding Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, particularly the Memphis sanitation workers’ strikes that brought him to the city where he eventually died.
The author humanizes King through the love he has for his family and movement comrades (including an April 4, 1968, pillow fight with his brother, Andrew Young, and Ralph Abernathy) as well as the viral bug he suffers with as he gives his last, prescient, and momentous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. The illustrator, blending influences of Marc Chagall and Norman Lewis, gives the story a loosely drawn, vibrantly warm, watercolor haze, which, with halos of yellows and oranges and even wings, give King and his family an almost beatific, if not saintly, glow, even in their sorrows. The character of Henny Penny, who is a blend of the fabled chicken and a wise black grandmother, provides the Greek-chorus narration in a device that is understandable if sometimes-distracting. Catholicism creates hagiographies to explain their martyrs’ and other saints’ deaths, whether history concurs with their feats for the faith or, in some cases, their very existences. Even as U.S. black communities wrestle with Dr. King’s personal foibles, media-glossed images, and complex messages, here readers have a children’s book in which adults may also find succor, if not inspiration, considering the current reverting-to–pre–Civil Rights administration.
Lil Hardin, dubbed “the first lady of jazz,” gets a loving ode in this biography in free verse.
Raised by “Mama and Grandma / in Memphis, Tennessee, / two blocks from / wild, wailin’ Beale Street,” Lil was a precocious musician from childhood. But the night life of Beale Street with its “devil’s music” pulled her away from the proper, ladylike college life her mother wanted for her. She got a job at a music store and then won a place in an all-male band, an exceptional feat at the time. She met Louis Armstrong, a shy trumpet player, when they played in the same band. She told him he couldn’t stay playing second trumpet and was behind much of his success. “Dang, they were musical royalty— / inventing / a new kind of sound— / makin’ / jazz.” As she earlier demonstrated in Josephine (illustrated by Christian Robinson, 2014), Powell is a die-hard fan of jazz, and it shows in the hum of her lines. She writes in her introduction that she hopes this biography inspires readers “to explore early jazz—and makes you want to get up and dance.” On both counts, her writing succeeds. Himes’ ink-and-graphite illustrations are inspired by the time period and add to the immersive feel of the work.
Brimming with a contagious love of jazz and its first lady, this work brings down the house.
(notes, timeline, glossary, resources, sources, index)
(Verse biography. 8-14)