Visually charming, enjoyable, and educational

READ REVIEW

FOLLOW ME DOWN TO NICODEMUS TOWN

BASED ON THE HISTORY OF THE AFRICAN AMERICAN PIONEER SETTLEMENT

A little girl and her family join the Kansas land rush.

The cover welcomes readers into this story about Dede Patton and her family. Both of Dede’s parents work extra jobs, and Dede shines shoes at the train station, all in hopes of paying off their sharecropping debt so they can move west. But no matter how much they work, they don’t make enough (context on the sharecropping economy is provided in a note). An act of providence changes their fortunes when honest Dede returns a customer’s wallet and receives a monetary reward. Though not remarked upon, the fact that without this windfall the Pattons might never have realized their dream is chilling. The lovely, warm watercolor illustrations highlight the beauty of the prairie, particularly the wide expanse of grass and sky. In Kansas, the Pattons stake their land claim, but winter is harsh. Thankfully, when food and fuel run low, Ni-u-kon-ska (Osage) neighbors lend aid. Eventually more people arrive, African-American like the Pattons; their settlement becomes a town, and the Pattons’ dream of holding the deed for their land is realized. The closing note acknowledges the displacement of the Ni-u-kon-ska people—another opportunity for exploration. That the many all-black settlements on the prairie have been whitewashed out of U.S. history makes this book an important one.

Visually charming, enjoyable, and educational . (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8075-2535-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A beautiful portrayal of a historic and arduous family journey northward

OVERGROUND RAILROAD

One family’s experience of the Great Migration.

Cline-Ransome and Ransome, a husband-and-wife author-and-illustrator team, have again collaborated on an important story from African American history. Narrator Ruth Ellen, Mama, and Daddy awaken early to travel to New York without the permission or knowledge of the landowner on whose land they sharecrop. (The author’s note mentions that landowners often used threats and violence to keep sharecroppers on the land and perpetually in debt.) The family boards the train with luggage, tickets, and food in a shoebox—since black folks cannot eat in the dining car and must sit in the colored section of the train. The conductor calls out the cities as they progress North. When the conductor removes the “whites only” sign near Baltimore, African Americans can sit wherever they want—though it takes some time before Ruth Ellen and her family find white riders who smile a welcome. Ruth Ellen reads Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass aloud to Mama on the train ride, a gift from her teacher that parallels her own family’s journey. Ransome’s watercolor-and-collage illustrations effectively capture both the historical setting and the trepidation of a family who though not enslaved, nevertheless must escape as if they were. Cotton bolls throughout the images accentuate cotton’s economic dominance in the sharecropping system.

A beautiful portrayal of a historic and arduous family journey northward . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3873-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Both a beautiful celebration of black culture and an excellent first black history book for young children.

BLACK IS A RAINBOW COLOR

A young black child ponders the colors in the rainbow and a crayon box and realizes that while black is not a color in the rainbow, black culture is a rainbow of its own.

In bright paints and collage, Holmes shows the rainbow of black skin tones on each page while Joy’s text describes what “Black is” physically and culturally. It ranges from the concrete, such as “the braids in my best friend’s hair,” to the conceptual: “Black is soft-singing, ‘Hush now, don’t explain’ ”—a reference to the song “Don’t Explain” made popular by Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, the former depicted in full song with her signature camellia and the latter at her piano. Joy alludes throughout the brief text to poetry, music, figures, and events in black history, and several pages of backmatter supply the necessary context for caregivers who need a little extra help explaining them to listeners. Additionally, there is a playlist of songs to accompany reading as well as three poems: “Harlem,” by Langston Hughes, and “We Wear the Mask” and “Sympathy,” by Paul Laurence Dunbar. The author also includes a historical timeline describing some of the names that have been used to describe and label black people in the United States since 1619.

Both a beautiful celebration of black culture and an excellent first black history book for young children. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62672-631-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more