by Selina Alko, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko
Grades 1- 5
Arthur Levine Books, 2015
Society of Illustrators Original Art Show 2015 * NAIBA Carla Cohen Free Speech Award 2015 * Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2015 * Book Links 2015 Lasting Connection * A New York Public Library Notable Book for Reading and Sharing
Author-illustrator, husband-wife duo Selina Alko and Sean Qualls collaborate to present this celebratory portrait of a bi-racial family in The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage. Through intimate, simple language readers follow the courtship of Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred “String Bean” Jeter, a woman of African American and Cherokee descent.
The two fall in love, but according to Virginia law in 1958 interracial marriage is illegal, so they exchange vows in D.C. Soon after the newlyweds return home, the police raid their bedroom in the night and arrest them both. “Tell the court I love my wife, and that it’s just unfair that I can’t live with her in Virginia,” Richard told his lawyers.
Their legal battle rose all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, after which Richard and Mildred returned to Central Point, having won the right for themselves and other interracial couples to marry. This book gives young readers the opportunity to reflect upon racial justice, self-identity, and ways in which historical narratives shift over time. A mixed medium of paint and collage contrasts bold, stark images of injustice against whimsical, uplifting panels that leave no doubt about it: love will prevail.
by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Brian Floca
Neal Porter Books, Roaring Brook Press 2010
Picture book, non-fiction, ages 7 and up
Robert Silbert Honor Award * NCTE Orbis Pictus Award * ALA Notable Books 2010 * Numerous best books lists for 2010
Additional formats: ebook and audio
This historical picture book is about how Appalachian Spring, one of the most famous dances of all times, came to be. It is a dance about the pioneer movement, and it was a collaboration between Martha Graham, Aaron Copland, and Isamu Noguchi. Martha had to persevere through audiences who didn’t necessarily understand the new language she was crafting in American dance. Martha Graham Dance was the first integrated dance company in the US. Appalachian spring, which earned Copland the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1944.
by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrated by Frank Morrison
Lee & Low Books, 2014
Picture book, non-fiction
Aages 7 and up
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Honor * Notable Children’s Book, American Library Association (ALA) * Listed on multiple “best books” lists
This is the story of how a little girl born in 1926 fights racism and sexism to become one of our country’s most accomplished musicians.
Melba Loretta Liston was a famed jazz trombone player and arranger who created gorgeous rhythms, harmonies, and melodies in songs for jazz greats like Randy Weston, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, and Quincy Jones, to name just a few.
The illustrations are delicious. I’d pair this with Acoustic Rooster by Kwame Alexander for a summer study on jazz.
by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes
Candlewick Press, 2015
Picture book, non-fiction, poetry
Ages 9 and up, Grades 4-7
Caldecott Honor illustration 2016 * Coretta Scott King New Talent award for Illustration 2016 * Silbert Informational Book Award 2016 * Marion Vannett Ridway Award Honor * NCTE Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts * Bank Street College Flora Steiglitz Straus Award * Amelia Bloomer List * CCBC Choices and multiple best books lists of 201
The first-person poetry of Carole Boston Weatherford and tactile collage of Ekua Holmes combine for a perfect-pitch picture book biography of Civil Rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer.
Voice of Freedom transports readers to the Mississippi Delta of Hamer’s childhood and into the heart of Hamer’s own journey, a sometimes harsh journey at the mercy of discriminatory, oppressive policies and practices in America. Hammer quit school at sixth grade to pick cotton with her family. She was later sterilized by a doctor (without her knowledge or consent) while undergoing tumor surgery, Hamer not only survived, she rose up to become a driving force in the fight for equality.
Often on Girls of Summer, we celebrate stories of those who have changed history as children. This book shows us a woman whose childhood and life unfolded to prepare and strengthen her voice to boom forth, at middle age, in a song of protest and triumph and remembering.
by Duncan Tonatiuh
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2014
Picture book, ages 5 – adult
Honors: Pura Belpré Honor book 2015 * Robert Seibert Honor Book, 2015 * Amèricas Book Award, 2015
When we think of Civil Rights in this country, it’s easy to overlook the role of Latinos in that struggle. Yet in 1944, when California schools were still segregated, Sylvia Mendez and her siblings were forced to enroll in a school for Mexicans. Despite the fact that they were natural American citizens, the Mendez children were required to attend a school that was farther from home and lacking in the same amenities as the school designated for white students.
Thus began the Mendez family fight to integrate schools for Latinos.
Separate Is Never Equal by award-winning author/illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh is the perfect blend of picture book, history, and a strong-girl story. It’s about everyday people fighting injustice with conviction. Readers can follow the court proceedings and meet the essential people who joined the lawsuit. It’s a revealing look at the thinking of the time, such as the ideas that Mexicans had deficient language skills, poor social skills, head lice, impetigo, and other illnesses.
With distinctive art based on the Mixtec Codex, an excellent glossary, photographs, and list of resources, this is a rich picture book for all ages. I love this book for Girls of Summer in particular because strong girls do, in fact, help change history. ~MM
by Yuyi Morales
Roaring Brook Press, 2014
Picture book, ages 4 – 8
Additional formats: bilingual edition
Awards: Caldecott Honor 2015 * Pura Belpré Award 2015 for illustration
I can’t stop looking at the pictures in this lovely book that earned Yuyi Morales a Caldecott honor, the first for a Latino illustrator, this year.
It’s the story of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo whose life has been well covered. However, that has made absolutely no impact on this book’s originality and freshness. Each page is a beautifully photographed tableau of Kahlo’s life—in painting, in puppets, in collage. There are sophisticated references to her husband, Diego Rivera, and images that would find themselves into her art, which make it especially fun for adult readers, too. The details are charming—everything from those signature eyebrows down to the jewelry and embroidered skirts. Most impressive, though, is that the simple words capture how an artist discovers her voice and passion—two essentials for strong girls everywhere. Bravo! ~MM
By Teri Kanefield
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2014
Middle grade non-fiction, Ages 10-14
Honors: Junior Library Guild Selection
The Girl from the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement introduces young readers to one of the earliest and youngest Civil Rights pioneers. In 1950, Barbara Johns attended Robert R. Moton High School, an all-black high school. In then-segregated Prince Edward County, Virginia, while white students enjoyed a new school, black students were forced to endure makeshift buildings with leaky roofs and poor heating.
“I’m sick and tired of it all,” Johns complained to her favorite teacher, Inez Davenport.
In return, Davenport challenged her student: “Why don’t you do something about it?”
In October, Johns began recruiting student leaders to join her in a non-violent protest. On the morning of April 23, 1951, they commandeered the PA system, convened a school-wide assembly, and asked teachers to leave. Johns took the podium and gave the speech of a lifetime, imploring the student-body to strike until the school board agreed to improvements. She issued instructions, walked out of the building, and all four hundred fifty students followed.
Ultimately, the NAACP filed a petition demanding that Prince Edward integrate the school system. Students returned to Moton, and their case went before the Supreme Court, where it joined with four others as Brown v. Board of Education.
The Girl from the Tar Paper School is the first biography in any genre of Barbara Rose Johns. I love the aspects of teen-aged Barbara that author Teri Kanefield chose to reveal. By focusing on her subject’s interior life, Kanefield shows us a young woman who drew strength and resolve from her faith, her family, and the natural world. Readers learn that the Johns family valued and instructed its younger members on the importance of speaking truth to power. Family study of African-American history was important to them, as was attending church and retreating to the woods to pray privately.
I think everyone should study this book not only in order to learn about the life of a confident young woman but to gain insight into Johns’ process of imagining, planning, and executing a courageous act and finding a clear voice. The Girl from the Tar Paper School is also a critical addition to our understanding of how children participate in and shape history. – Gigi