THE BOOK ITCH

FREEDOM, TRUTH, AND HARLEM'S GREATEST BOOKSTORE

From the author’s heart to America’s readers: a tribute to a man who believed in and lived black pride.

A man with a mission leaves a memorable mark in Harlem.

The National Memorial African Bookstore and its owner, Lewis Michaux, were vibrant Harlem fixtures for many years. Nelson, who told her great-uncle’s story for teen readers in the award-winning No Crystal Stair, also illustrated by Christie (2012), now turns to the voice of Michaux’s son as narrator in this version for a younger audience. The son is an enthusiastic and proud witness to history as he talks about visits to the bookstore by Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X. Michaux’s commitments to reading, knowledge, and African-American history shine brightly through the liberal use of boldface and large type for his pithy and wise sayings, as in “Knowledge is power. You need it every hour. READ A BOOK!” Christie’s richly textured and complex paintings, created with broad strokes of color, showcase full bookcases and avid readers. His use of a billboard motif to frame both scenes and text evokes a troubled but strong neighborhood. Faces in browns and grays are set against yellow and orange backgrounds and depict intense emotions in both famous and ordinary folk. The Michaux family’s deeply felt sorrow at the assassination of Malcolm X will resonate with all readers.

From the author’s heart to America’s readers: a tribute to a man who believed in and lived black pride. (afterword, author’s note, selected bibliography, photographs) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7613-3943-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

THE CREATURE OF THE PINES

From the Unicorn Rescue Society series , Vol. 1

Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers.

Elliot’s first day of school turns out to be more than he bargained for.

Elliot Eisner—skinny and pale with curly brown hair—is a bit nervous about being the new kid. Thankfully, he hits it off with fellow new student, “punk rock”–looking Uchenna Devereaux, a black girl with twists (though they actually look like dreads in Aly’s illustrations). On a first-day field trip to New Jersey’s Pine Barrens, the pair investigates a noise in the trees. The cause? A Jersey Devil: a blue-furred, red-bellied and -winged mythical creature that looks like “a tiny dragon” with cloven hooves, like a deer’s, on its hind feet. Unwittingly, the duo bonds with the creature by feeding it, and it later follows them back to the bus. Unsurprisingly, they lose the creature (which they alternately nickname Jersey and Bonechewer), which forces them to go to their intimidating, decidedly odd teacher, Peruvian Professor Fauna, for help in recovering it. The book closes with Professor Fauna revealing the truth—he heads a secret organization committed to protecting mythical creatures—and inviting the children to join, a neat setup for what is obviously intended to be a series. The predictable plot is geared to newly independent readers who are not yet ready for the usual heft of contemporary fantasies. A brief history lesson given by a mixed-race associate of Fauna’s in which she compares herself to the American “melting pot” manages to come across as simultaneously corrective and appropriative.

Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3170-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

LOVE IN THE LIBRARY

An evocative and empowering tribute to human dignity and optimism.

This story, inspired by the author’s grandparents, celebrates love blooming in the desert during a time of extreme duress.

In a World War II incarceration camp for Japanese Americans, two young people find respite in one another. In Minidoka, families are crowded together, enduring harsh weather, barbed wire fences, the intimidating scrutiny of White armed guards, and the stress of unjust imprisonment. Book lover Tama finds solace volunteering in the camp library, where she is visited daily by George, a handsome young man with a seemingly insatiable appetite for reading. Tama, who revels in the power of words, struggles to name her overwhelming feelings. George’s reassurance that she is only human opens the door to love, marriage, and the birth of their first child in camp, a bubble of happiness in the midst of struggle. The gentle text shows how, no matter how bleak the outlook, people can find ways to hope, dream, and endure. An author’s note fills in some background on the real Tama and George Tokuda and connects their story to the many other American communities who experience racism but nevertheless claim joy. Imamura’s soft, exquisite illustrations capture the physical locale, using light and shadow in powerful ways. The 1940s setting comes to life with loving care in details of the decor and characters’ clothes.

An evocative and empowering tribute to human dignity and optimism. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0430-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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