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Evicted! The Struggle for the Right to Vote

Alice Faye Duncan, illus. by Charly Palmer. Calkins Creek, $18.99 (64p) ISBN 978-1-68437-979-8

In this absorbing collection of profiles—including of parents and children, farmers, students, and the ghost of a lynched Black man, Thomas Brooks—Duncan illuminates the grassroots Fayette County Tent City Movement in late-1950s Tennessee, which opposed racial terror aimed at Black voters and eventually helped lead to the 1965 Voting Rights Act. As the Black residents of Fayette County take a stand and register to vote, white citizens do all they can to discourage them, denying them groceries, gas, and shelter. Duncan follows the Black activists in quietly compelling prose: about schoolteacher Minnie Jameson, “while Harpman bellowed over bowls of steamy collards and yams about Negro voting rights, Minnie would declare, ‘That school board can take my job, but they cannot take my self-respect.’ ” Palmer’s abstract spreads, rendered in surreal-colored acrylic, offer mesmerizing visual accompaniment. An empathic tribute that will resonate amid present-day conversations about voter suppression. Back matter includes a timeline and author’s and illustrator’s notes. Ages 9–12. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/26/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Seeking Freedom: The Untold Story of Fortress Monroe and the Ending of Slavery in America

Selene Castrovilla, illus. by E.B. Lewis. Calkins Creek, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-63592-582-1

Castrovilla spotlights the actions of a little-known contributor to the end of slavery: a Black freedom seeker named George Scott, who assisted white Maj. Gen. Benjamin Franklin Butler “to track down the Confederates” who threatened Fortress Monroe, a Union military base in Virginia, in 1861. Scott’s heroic feat led Butler to write a letter to President Lincoln “arguing for Scott’s liberty—and for that of all the contrabands,” or the freedom seekers who sought refuge at the Fortress. Bolded headings track time as action-centered diction moves the plot forward: “Scott peered at the bridge to Fortress Monroe. He’d arrived to see eight more Negroes headed inside.” Immersive watercolor art by Caldecott Honoree Lewis presents realistic portraits and natural landscapes with dramatic use of light and shadow in this well-paced historical narrative. Extensive back matter includes further historical context as well as a bibliography. Ages 7–10. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/26/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Faith of Elijah Cummings: The North Star of Equal Justice

Carole Boston Weatherford, illus. by Laura Freeman. Random House Studio, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-593-30650-5

Interspersing direct quotations throughout, Weatherford offers a thoughtful biography of Black civil rights advocate and congressman Elijah Cummings (1951–2019), who represented Maryland’s seventh congressional district from 1996 until his death. This thorough profile traces formative influences in Cummings’s life in straightforward prose, from former sharecropper parents who moved the family to Maryland (“They had faith that God was leading them to a place where their children would have a better chance in life”) to supportive librarians and employers who assisted Cummings along his journey toward becoming an influential lawyer, politician, and advocate for social justice. Freeman’s stylized, photorealistic art, rendered digitally in a bold color palette, emphasizes interpersonal communication in clear vignettes, immersing readers in this edifying survey of Cummings’s life and the events that shaped him from childhood. Front matter includes 2019 remarks by Nancy Pelosi; back matter includes a timeline, bibliography, and quote sources. Ages 6–9. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/26/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Because Claudette

Tracey Baptiste, illus. by Tonya Engel. Dial, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-593-32640-4

Emphasizing cause and effect, Baptiste follows activist Claudette Colvin (b. 1939), who, at age 15, refused to relinquish her bus seat for a white person. After her arrest, she met Rosa Parks thanks to her lawyer, Fred Gray; subsequently, Colvin began attending NAACP meetings. Featuring the word because in most clauses, the text highlights mounting support for the civil rights movement, and how Colvin’s actions helped lead to the Montgomery bus boycott. “Because she had studied Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass at school, she learned how they worked hard and caused trouble so Black people would be treated fairly,” one spread reads, richly enlivened by Engel’s portraits, rendered in acrylic underpainting and oils on textured vellum paper. A powerful narrative that showcases generative energy of acts of resistance both big and small. Back matter includes an author’s note and further reading. Ages 6–8. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/26/2021 | Details & Permalink

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When the Schools Shut Down: A Young Girl’s Story of Virginia’s “Lost Generation” and the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Decision

Yolanda Gladden, as told to Tamara Pizzoli, illus. by Keisha Morris. HarperCollins, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-301116-8

Acknowledging the importance of oral history in African diasporic traditions, this nonfiction account by Gladden (b. 1954), transcribed by Pizzoli, offers an engaging, community care–centered examination of segregation in the Virginia school system before and after Brown v. Board of Education. Four years after the decision was handed down, when Gladden was to begin school, officials closed every public school in her county to avoid integrating the institutions. The community reacted by creating its own schools. Pizzoli’s rhythmic prose drives the narrative forward: “When Yolanda’s mama and Aunt Dorothy graduated from high school in 1953, the conditions of public schools in Prince Edward County were still separate, still unequal, and still unfair.” Collaged tissue paper and digital media art by Morris offers a lushly layered backdrop to the events, emphasizing the expressions and closeness of the Black community portrayed in this informative, warmly personable autobiography. Back matter features notes from the authors, a timeline of desegregation of the American school system, and sources and further reading. Ages 4–8. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/26/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Sweet Justice: Georgia Gilmore and the Montgomery Bus Boycott

Mara Rockliff, illus. by R. Gregory Christie. Random House Studio, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-5247-2064-3

This mouthwatering motivational picture book centers Georgia Gilmore (1920–1990), a Black cook in Montgomery, Ala., who raised money through food sales to help support transport costs and cover fines for those participating in the Montgomery bus boycott. Rockliff relays the narrative in a smooth, easy-to-read style: “And if they couldn’t find a seat—well, even standing up, they found the spare ribs and the stuffed bell peppers tasted just as good.” Caldecott Honoree Christie offers realistic portraits of figures, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Gilmore herself, rendered in saturated gouache hues. This food-related profile (“A boycott! Something was cooking in Montgomery, and not just Georgia’s black-eyed peas”) succeeds in spotlighting a force who helped fuel the civil rights movement. Back matter includes more about Gilmore, an author’s note, and sources. Ages 4–8. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/26/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth

Alice Faye Duncan, illus. by Keturah A. Bobo. Thomas Nelson, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4002-3125-6

Duncan introduces Opal Lee (b. 1926), a Black activist and storyteller known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth” because of her work to make Juneteenth a nationally recognized holiday, including—per back matter—her cross-country U.S. walk to collect petition signatures. The picture book’s framing features Lee telling stories “of yesteryear” to her great-grandson Buddy and a group of children with varying skin tones. Lee first relays the history of slavery and the Emancipation Proclamation, then tells about Juneteenth when she was a child in the Jim Crow era, when “an angry mob with flaming sticks burned my family’s brand-new house.” Throughout, multiple refrains remind readers to “Remember my words for safekeeping. Remember what I say. Juneteenth is bigger than Texas, singing, or dancing bands. Juneteenth is freedom rising. And freedom is for everyone.” Though there are some outmoded word choices (including slave as a noun), Bobo’s art focuses on expressive figures, portrayed against largely simple backgrounds, in this paean to Juneteenth and oral tradition. Back matter includes more about Lee, a recipe for Juneteenth “Red Punch” Strawberry Lemonade, a Juneteenth timeline, and sources. Ages 4–8. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/26/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Ida B. Wells, Voice of Truth: Educator, Feminist, and Anti-Lynching Civil Rights Leader

Michelle Duster, illus. by Laura Freeman. Holt/Godwin, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-250-23946-4

Duster, the great-granddaughter of Ida B. Wells (1862–1931), narrates this biography of Wells, “an educator, a journalist, a feminist, a businesswoman, a newspaper owner, a public speaker, a suffragist, a civil rights activist, and a women’s club leader,” as well as a cofounder of the NAACP. Straightforward prose highlights instances of Wells’s persistence against injustice, while Freeman’s multilayered digital illustrations enrich the text with cinematic vignettes. Spreads include scrapbook-style layouts and portraits filled with light, hues, patterns, and textures. If some of the diction is a bit elevated for the stated age range (“lynching was used to keep the Black community in an economically and socially inferior position”), Duster’s profile succeeds in celebrating an accomplished, outspoken innovator, introducing a clear icon of justice, equality, and determination. Back matter includes a timeline and a note about Wells’s legacy. Ages 4–8. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/26/2021 | Details & Permalink

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A History of Me

Adrea Theodore, illus. by Erin K. Robinson. Holiday House/Porter, $18.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8234-4257-7

In this poetic debut informed by Theodore’s own life as well as that of her daughter, the author traces the alienation that one Black third grader, “the only brown person in class,” experiences while their white teacher instructs the otherwise all-white students on topics including slavery and the civil rights movement. The narrative ties the protagonist’s lessons back to their family history, wherein their relatives display resilience and persistence when faced with racism and oppression: after being subjected to pointing and laughing on the playground, the child recalls, “My mom had told me before/ that her grandmother... only got to go to school for a little while.” Refrains emphasize the child’s isolation and resolve, punctuated by Robinson’s textured digital illustrations, before an affirmative ending. Back matter includes notes from the author and illustrator. Ages 4–8. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/26/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Augusta Savage: The Shape of a Sculptor’s Life

Marilyn Nelson. Little, Brown/Ottaviano, $18.99 (128p) ISBN 978-0-316-29802-5

In a rich biography in verse, Nelson (A Is for Oboe) gives voice to the Black sculptor Augusta Savage (1892–1962), a key Harlem Renaissance figure. Written primarily in the first person, moving poems convey Savage’s artistic “hunger/ to pull something out of yourself” while tracing her Florida childhood as the seventh of 14 children (“beaten for making art”), her three marriages, her endeavors to make a living as an artist in New York and Europe, and her final quiet years in a Catskills town. Graceful descriptions of sculptures such as Gamin—“looks with a bemused, level/ gaze/ at the ridiculous/ and cruel stupidity/ this world abounds in/ his lips half curved, knowingly”—pay homage to her work, while concrete poems, including “The Figure of a Frog,” describe art as representation (“A figure of a frog is not a frog”). The appearance of several Black historical figures ground the poems in their era; photographs of Savage’s sculptures serve as a useful introduction to the artist’s art and legacy. Back matter includes a straightforward biographical afterword by Tammi Lawson, curator of the NYPL’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Ages 14–up. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/26/2021 | Details & Permalink

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