Children's Books for Parents and Teachers - book reviews and suggestions for parents and teachers.
African Americans

For centuries, Africans brought to America as slaves and their descendents who were born into slavery were forced to keep their stories alive by telling them aloud. If slaves were caught writing–or teaching others–they were punished by law. Going to school was illegal. This Black History Month (February), in honor of African American storytellers of the past, celebrate today’s black authors whose words create powerful and beautiful literature. At the same time, be sure to take a closer look at the work of black illustrators whose art enhances the printed page. In this column, you’ll find a selection of newly published books and old favorites, written and/or illustrated by black authors and artists. These are only a sampling of titles to share with students. Look in your library for scores of others.

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Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

By: Doreen Rappaport
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH
Level: 8-9

This picture-book biography is an excellent and accessible introduction for young readers to learn about one of the world’s most influential leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Doreen Rappaport weaves the immortal words of Dr. King into a captivating narrative to tell the story of his life. With stunning art by acclaimed illustrator Bryan Collier, Martin’s Big Words is an unforgettable portrait of a man whose dream changed America—and the world—forever.

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One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference

One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference

By: Katie Milway
Publisher: Kids Can Press, Limited
Level: 8-9

Loosely based on an actual success story, this tale of a Ghanaian lad who parlays one hen into a major poultry farm highlights the way microloans are helping to break the cycle of poverty in many third-world communities. Young Kojo and his mother are barely getting by gathering firewood to sell in the local market, but with a few leftover coins from a group loan, he is able to buy a chicken, sell the eggs and with the extra money slowly build up a flock. Milway follows Kojo through years …

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In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers

In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers

By: Javaka Steptoe
Publisher: Lee & Low Books, Inc.
Level: 8-9

Fatherhood is celebrated with honor, humor, and grace in this intergenerational collection of poetry by new and established African-American writers. The book testifies to the powerful bond between father and child, with a profound message to people everywhere that family is the greatest gift and that fathers are among the most influential heroes. Twelve outstanding poems come to life through the spirited artwork of Javaka Steptoe.

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Barack Obama

Barack Obama

By: Stephen Feinstein
Publisher: Enslow Publishers, Incorporated
Level: 8-9

Barack Obama had a childhood full of adventure. He grew up to be a senator and run for U.S. president. This inspiring biography tells the exciting life story of this African-American hero.

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Barack

Barack

By: Jonah Winter
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Level: 6-7

This is a journey that began in many places. It began in Kansas, home of Barack’s mother. It began in Africa, home of Barack’s father. It began in Hawaii one moonlit night, the night that Barack was born. Sometimes it was a lonely journey. Sometimes it was an enchanted journey. But throughout this most unusual ride, this boy often wondered: Who am I? Where do I belong?

Jonah Winter and AG Ford re-create the extraordinary story behind the rise of the inspirational icon Barack Obama in this stunning picture book. …

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Yes We Can: A Biography of Barack Obama

Yes We Can: A Biography of Barack Obama

By: Garen Thomas
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Level: 12-13

In third grade, Barack Obama wrote an essay titled, “I Want to Become President”—and he is, to this day, determined to show the world that, yes, he can. Born in the U.S.A., the son of an African father and an American mother, a boy who spent his childhood in Indonesia and Hawaii, Barack Obama is truly a citizen of the world. His campaign for the presidency is powered by a fierce optimism, an exuberant sense of purpose and determination, and, above all, a belief that change can happen.

Garen Thomas takes …

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Barack Obama: Our 44th President

Barack Obama: Our 44th President

By: Beatrice Gormley
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Level: 12-13

President Barack Obama’s early involvement with politics was inspired by his mother’s interest in the controversial social issues of her times — a passion that she passed on to her son. As the first African American editor of the Harvard Law Review, the first African American presidential nominee of a major political party, and eventually the first African American president of the United States, Barack Obama has consistently shattered barriers — barriers that some people thought could never be overcome.

However, life has not always been easy for President Obama. Born …

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Barack Obama: An American Story

Barack Obama: An American Story

By: Roberta Edwards
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Level: 8-9

Of mixed race and cultures, Barack Obama struggled for years with his identity and place in society. Having found his niche in public service, he has made history as the fifth African American U.S. senator ever to be elected. Now “the skinny kid” continues his political journey and strives to become the nation’s first black president. From Hawaii to Chicago to Washington, D.C., Senator Obama’s life has been interesting and inspiring.

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Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope

Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope

By: Nikki Grimes
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Level: 8-9

Ever since Barack Obama was young, Hope has lived inside him. From the beaches of Hawaii to the streets of Chicago, from the jungles of Indonesia to the plains of Kenya, he has held on to Hope. Even as a boy, Barack knew he wasn’t quite like anybody else, but through his journeys he found the ability to listen to Hope and become what he was meant to be: a bridge to bring people together.

This is the moving story of an exceptional man, as told by Nikki Grimes and illustrated …

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The Egypt Game

The Egypt Game

By: Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Level: 10-11

The first time Melanie Ross meets April Hall, she’s not sure they’ll have anything in common. But she soon discovers that they both love anything to do with ancient Egypt. When they stumble upon a deserted storage yard behind the A-Z Antiques and Curio Shop, Melanie and April decide it’s the perfect spot for Egypt Game. Before long there are six Egyptians instead of two. After school and on weekends they all meet to wear costumes, hold ceremonies, and work on their secret code. Everyone thinks it’s just a game, …

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