February is Black History Month, and we are very excited to share some of our favorite titles that serve as great tools to remember and learn from the history and heritage of our country and to introduce the great accomplishments African Americans have made.
In this powerful story of rhythm and craft, written by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk and illustrated with beautiful oil paintings by Anna Rich, the son of an enslaved blacksmith learns that his father is using his anvil to pound out a rhythm to communicate with travelers on the Underground Railroad. Then one day when Pa falls ill, it is up to the boy to help others along the journey—and also lead his family's own escape. Backmatter for Blacksmith's Song includes more information about the Underground Railroad. Read an excerpt here. For more resources, check out our blog post here.
Author Myron Uhlberg pays tribute to the legendary athlete Jackie Robinson with his book Dad, Jackie, and Me. It is the summer of 1947 and a highly charged baseball season is underway in New York. Jackie Robinson is the new first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers--and the first black player in Major League Baseball. A young boy shares the excitement of Robinson's rookie season with his deaf father. See our Teacher's Guide for Dad, Jackie, and Me here.
Deborah Hopkinson brings us a stunning picture book Keep On! The Story of Matthew Henson, Co-discoverer of the North Pole which tells the story of the under-recognized Matthew Henson who joined Robert Peary's great 1909 expedition to reach the North Pole. The team endured storms, shifting ice, wind, injuries, accidents, and unimaginable cold. Finally, on April 1, Peary, Henson, and four Inuit men began the final 133-mile push to the Pole. For more resources, check out our Teacher's Guide for Keep On! here.
In a powerful biography of George Moses Horton, the first southern African-American man to be published, Don Tate tells an inspiring and moving story of talent and determination in Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton. George was forced to work long hours; he could not attend school, but he taught himself to read. Soon, he began composing poetry and reciting it as he sold fruits and vegetables on a nearby college campus. News of the slave poet traveled quickly, and George soon had customers for his poems. But he was still enslaved. Would be ever be free? A Teacher's Guide associated with Poet can be found here.
Author Philip Dray tells the inspirational story of Ida B. Wells, from her birth into a slave family in Mississippi and her early encounters with racism to her lifelong commitment to end injustice. Award-winning illustrator Stephen Alcorn's remarkable illustrations recreate the tensions that threatened to upend a nation a century ago while paying tribute to a courageous American hero.Yours for Justice, Ida B. Wells: The Daring Life of a Crusading Journalist explores how one headstrong young woman could help free America from the "shadow of lawlessness" that was looming. Check out the Teacher's Guide for this wonderful story here.
It is 1864, and twelve-year-old Gabriel loves to help his father care of the thoroughbred racehorses on Master Giles's farm in Kentucky. But the violence of the Civil War breaks out and Gabriel's father leaves to enlist in a Colored Battalion, bringing the arrival of Mr. Newcastle, a white horse trainer with harsh, cruel methods for handling horses and people. Now it's up to Gabriel to protect the horses he loves from Mr. Newcastle and keep them safely out of the clutches of Confederate raiders. Alison Hart mines the complex relationships of the Civil War in Gabriel's Horses, the first book in a gripping historical fiction middle grade series. Read an excerpt here and find the Teacher's Guide here. Continue reading the Racing to Freedom Trilogy with Gabriel's Triumph and Gabriel's Journey.
Cynthia Levinson tells the inspiring story of one of the greatest moments in civil rights history as seen through the eyes of four young people who were at the center of the action. We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March tells how Audrey Hendricks, Wash Booker, James Stewart, Arnetta Streeter and 4,000 black elementary, middle, and high school students succeeded where adults had failed in desegregating one of the most racially violent cities in America. If you are interested in We've Got a Job, also check out our Teacher's Guide here.
Author and Illustrator Krista Russell brings to life the story of fourteen-year-old Jem, who has escaped a cruel master in 1739 St. Augustine, in her book The Other Side of Free. However, as the threat of war between England and Spain becomes more real, and Jem continues to suffer under the custody of a difficult and angry woman, Jem starts to understand the meaning of freedom and the complex connections that make a community. As an additional resource with The Other Side of Free, watch the book trailer, and find our Teacher's Guide here.
Find these titles and more at your local library, indie bookstore, or Barnes & Noble! We hope you enjoy these wonderful and inspirational stories, and feel free to share your favorite books in honor of Black History Month!