cover image The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illus. by R. Gregory Christie. Lerner/Carolrhoda, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7613-3943-4

Nelson and Christie bring the story of Harlem’s storied National Memorial African Bookstore to picture book readers in this companion to their 2012 YA collaboration, No Crystal Stair. The shop was opened in the 1930s by Nelson’s great-uncle, Lewis Michaux, who “started out with five books... and a mission.” Writing in the voice of Michaux’s admiring son, Nelson illuminates Lewis’s generosity (he invited those who couldn’t afford books into his shop to read) and his fervent belief in the power of words and books to change lives. Michaux’s love of words comes through in his catchy aphorisms and sales pitches (“Knowledge is power. You need it every hour. Read a book!”), which appear throughout, as well as his nickname for the shop, “The House of Common Sense and Home of Proper Propaganda.” Christie’s paintings powerfully contrast the idea of the bookstore as a refuge with the tensions of the day, particularly during a section of the book about Michaux’s friendship with Malcolm X and his anguish following the activist’s assassination. It’s an emotive tribute to Michaux’s personal and professional legacy. Ages 7–10. Author’s agent: Tracey Adams, Adams Literary. (Nov.)