Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Spotlight on Women’s History: Alma Thomas, Artist

Ablaze with Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas, by Jeanne Walker Harvey/Illustrated by Loveis Wise. (Feb. 2022, HarperCollins), $18.99, ISBN: 9780063021891

Ages 4-8

Growing up in the Jim Crow-era Southern U.S., young Alma Thomas and her siblings weren’t allowed to go to the “white school” nearby; they couldn’t visit the museums or library, but they surrounded themselves with joy, art, and culture. Alma Thomas’s mother designed dresses; her aunts painted; Alma used the red clay near a stream to create bowls and cups. Her parents created a salon in their home, inviting teachers to talk about “people and places around the world, famous stories, and ways of thinking”. And when Alma and her family joined The Great Migration and left Georgia for Washington, DC, Alma was finally able to attend school, graduating from college where she studied art. While DC was still segregated, Alma was determined to bring art to the people in her neighborhood; she taught art at her local school; taught children to make marionettes and perform their own plays at her home; set up an art gallery: the city’s first gallery in a school. When she retired, she went on to create her own art, becoming the first solo show by a Black woman on display at The Whitney Museum in New York City and, posthumously, the first Black woman to have artwork on display in the White House. Ablaze with Color is a gorgeous, vibrant picture book biography of a teacher, an artist, an activist that worked to bring art to everyone. Loveis Wise’s illustrations are stunning, alive with color and movement, inspired by Alma Thomas’s bright palette. Jeanne Walker Harvey brings Alma Thomas’s story to life, describing the natural world that influenced Thomas’s work and using straightforward storytelling to educate her readers. Back matter includes a timeline of Alma Thomas’s life, sources, notes, and references.

There are a wealth of online resources for those who want to learn more about Alma Thomas. Visit The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s page on the artist; The Phillips Collection’s page on their Alma Thomas exhibit, Everything is Beautiful; and ArtNews’s article on Alma Thomas’s importance in art. TeachersPayTeachers has several good activities on the artist, including a coloring sheet from Artful Ideas; a presentation from The Creative Crayon, and an abstract mosaic activity from LessonZest. Finally, don’t forget to visit Jeanne Walker Harvey’s website for more resources!

Ablaze with Color has starred reviews from Booklist, School Library Journal, and The Horn Book.

 

Jeanne Walker Harvey has had many jobs, ranging from working as a roller coaster ride operator to an attorney for high-tech companies to a writer of magazine articles to a teacher of Language Arts and writing workshops at a public middle school. She has also been a longtime docent at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Just like Alma Thomas, Jeanne believes that art brings us joy. Her other picture books include Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines and My Hands Sing the BluesRomare Bearden’s Childhood Journey. Jeanne studied literature and psychology at Stanford University. She lives in Northern California. Visit her online at www.jeanneharvey.com.

Twitter: @JeanneWHarvey

Pinterest: @JeanneWalkerHarvey

 

Loveis Wise is a nonbinary illustrator and designer from Washington, DC, now based in Los Angeles. They have collaborated and imagined with clients such as the New Yorkerthe New York Times, HarperCollins, Google, Disney Hyperion, and Adobe, to name a few. Their work often speaks to themes of joy, mindfulness, and liberation. For more information visit: loveiswise.com.

Instagram: @loveiswiseillu

Posted in History, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads, Women's History

Blog Tour & Giveaway: Speak Up, Speak Out! The Extraordinary Life of “Fighting” Shirley Chisholm

Welcome to the Speak Up, Speak Out! by Tonya Bolden Blog Tour!

To celebrate Black History Month and the release of Speak Up, Speak Out!: The Extraordinary Life of Fighting Shirley Chisholm by Tonya Bolden (January 4th), 5 blogs across the web are featuring posts from the book and author, as well as 5 chances to win!


Two Truths and a Lie about Shirley Chisholm
by Tonya Bolden

When I started on my journey with the life of Shirley Chisholm, I had a pretty good grasp of the outline of her life and the highlights. When I delved into the research I was truly surprised by a lot of what I learned about her.

I knew, for example, that while in Congress Shirley was responsible for legislation that got domestic workers included in the minimum wage law. I knew she fought for the construction of more affordable housing and funds for better public schools, but I had no idea that she fought for funds for research on autism and pushed for the federal government to use recycled paper when printing the Congressional Record. (In 1969, for example, the Congressional Record was more than 40,000 pages long!)

I also did not know that when Shirley ran for president in 1972 she spoke up and out about the need to take good care of the environment. And while I knew that Shirley was a staunch advocate for civil rights and women’s rights I did not know that she supported the gay rights movement.

When I started on my journey with Fighting Shirley Chisholm I would have struck out when it came to spotting the following two truths and the one lie about her.

1. Shirley prided herself on her dance skills. The merengue, the tango, and the rhumba were among her favorite dances. She also did a lot of dancing with her fingers—on the piano, that is.

2. When Shirley was young she toyed with the idea of becoming an actress and she later often wore some rather dramatic outfits.

3. Shirley Chisholm was a founder of the National Organization for Women formed in 1966 with the purpose of taking “action to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now, exercising all the privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men.”

So. . .
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.

.

.

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1. Shirley did love to dance. The merengue, the tango, and the rhumba were among her favorite dances at one point. “I come alive on a dance floor,” she told a reporter in the late 1960s. “I’m very creative. I use my hands and my body. Even now I amaze people when I dance.”And she loved playing the piano. When she was young, although here parents didn’t have a lot of money they scraped together enough for her to have piano lessons and to buy a piano on an installment plan.

2. Shirley, who had the gift of mimicry, did toy with the idea of becoming an actress. “My mother always thanked God that I had brains and got to college on scholarship,” she recalled. “Had I not been able to go to college I would have gone to the devil in the theater, [my mother] thought.” And, yes, Shirley was a stylish and at times flamboyant dresser.

3.  Though she later joined NOW, she was not a founder.


Buy | Add on Goodreads

“The strength of Bolden’s skill as a researcher is evident; chapter by chapter, she provides succinct but critical context around the motivations and movements of Chisholm’s political career. An insightful and focused profile of a political trailblazer.”
– Kirkus Reviews

“This lively, detailed look at Chisholm’s personal and political life shines in its portrayal of a strong woman who never backed down…”
– Booklist

“Tonya Bolden brings Shirley Chisholm’s vibrant spirit to life…an engaging and readable style.”
– School Library Connection

From award-winning author Tonya Bolden comes a biography of the first Black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and the first Black woman to run for president with a major political party: Shirley Chisholm.

Before there was Barack Obama, before there was Kamala Harris, there was Fighting Shirley Chisholm. A daughter of Barbadian immigrants, Chisholm developed her political chops in Brooklyn in the 1950s and went on to become the first Black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. This “pepper pot,” as she was known, was not afraid to speak up for what she thought was right. While fighting for a better life for her constituents in New York’s 12th Congressional District, Chisholm routinely fought against sexism and racism in her own life and defied the norms of the time. As the first Black woman in the House and the first Black woman to seek the presidential nomination from a major political party, Shirley Chisholm laid the groundwork for those who would come after her.

Extensively researched and reviewed by experts, this inspiring biography traces Chisholm’s journey from her childhood in a small flat in Brooklyn where she read books with her sisters to Brooklyn College where she got her first taste of politics. Readers will cheer Chisholm on to victory from the campaign trail to the hallowed halls of the U.S. Capitol, where she fought for fair wages, equal rights, and an end to the Vietnam War. And while the presidential campaign trail in 1972 did not end in victory, Shirley Chisholm shows us how you can change a country when you speak up and speak out.

 

Website

Tonya Bolden has authored, edited and co-authored more than 40 books. Her work has garnered numerous awards, including the Coretta Scott King Honor, the James Madison Book Award, the NCSS Carter G. Woodson Honor, the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, D.C.’s Nonfiction Award, the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children, the Virginia Library Association Jefferson Cup Award and the Cleveland Public Library Sugarman Award.  Lauded for her skilled storytelling, impeccable research and lively text, Tonya lives New York City.


GIVEAWAY

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  • One (1) winner will receive a hardcover of Speak Up, Speak Out! by Tonya Bolden
  • US/Can only
  • Ends 3/6 at 11:59pm ET
  • Check out the other stops on the tour for more chances to win!

Blog Tour Schedule:
February 21st – Pragmatic Mom
February 22nd – The Nonfiction Detectives
February 23rd – Ms. Yingling Reads
February 24th – Daddy Mojo
February 25th – Mom Read It

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

The Faith of Elijah Cummings pays tribute to a giant

The Faith of Eljah Cummings: The North Star of Equal Justice, by Carole Boston Weatherford/Illustrated by Laura Freeman, (Jan. 2022, Random House Studio), $17.99, ISBN: 9780593306505

Ages 6-10

Congressman and civil rights advocate Elijah Cummings left an extraordinary legacy when he passed in 2019. Carole Boston Weatherford, whose numerous awards include a Newbery Medal and two NAACP Image Awards, along with NAACP Image Award winning illustrator Laura Freeman, to create a picture book biography that makes this giant of a man accessible to all ages. Beginning with the Congressman’s impoverished childhood and moving through his civil rights journey, focus on inner-city youth, and government work, we also see how Elijah Cummings’s faith and family was his anchor. Photorealistic illustrations are bold and eye-catching, and quotes from Elijah Cummings inspire readers as Carole Boston Weatherford’s narration concentrates on his humanity, choosing moments in his life like being tutored by librarians when his teachers said he would never be able to read or write well; his mother’s preaching, which inspired him to care for others in need, and the civil rights lawyer from his youth that inspired him to defend kids who needed defending. As a “Washington power broker”, he continued living in his Baltimore inner-city neighborhood and hung a campaign sign in his window so others could find him. Back matter includes an excerpt from the statement from the Congressional Black Caucus made upon the Congressman’s passing; a timeline of Elijah Cummings’s life; a bibliography, and the quote sources. Endpapers show Elijah Cummings, in profile, set against the American flag.

An incredible book for an incredible figure, and a must-add to your picture book biographies. The Faith of Elijah Cummings: The North Star of Equal Justice has starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly.

Carole Boston Weatherford’s author webpage is a treasure trove of information, with resources and links to media related to her books. See more of Laura Freeman’s illustration work at her website. Find a biography, bibliography, and committee assignments for Elijah Cummings at the House of Representative’s website; visit Congress’s website to learn more about the legislation sponsored or co-sponsored by him, along with his remarks in the Congressional Record.

Posted in picture books

The Clothesline Code: A true Civil War spy story!

The Clothesline Code: The Story of Civil War Spies Lucy Ann and Dabney Walker, by Janet Halfmann/lllustrated by Trisha Mason, (Feb. 2021, Brandylane Publishers), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1-951565-58-9

Ages 7-10

Author Janet Halfmann gives us another story about two historic figures that haven’t gotten their full due. The Clothesline Code is about escaped slaves-turned-Union spies, Lucy Ann Walker and her husband, Dabney Walker. At age 52, Dabney was spying for the Union and learned the army’s flag codes, used to communicate across the battlefield. His wife was a laundress in the Union camp, but Dabney approached her with a different idea: how could they adapt the flag codes to help them spy on the Confederate army? The two devised a method using laundry on a clothesline, and Lucy went across lines to blend in with the other washerwomen at a nearby Confederate camp. She went on to create different laundry codes for each Confederate unit, and help keep General Hooker and his troops informed of the enemy’s plans.

Janet Halfmann has a gift for finding little-discussed people in history, primarily enslaved or escaped slaves who contributed to the fight for freedom and education of other Black families. She invests the reader with her storytelling, full of suspense and nail-biting moments: there is a lot on the line here, and Ms. Halfmann makes sure readers understand that. An author’s note at the end includes what little information exists on the Walker family after the War, and some selected references for more research.

Trisha Mason’s colorful artwork throughout brings the Walker family to life for readers. The photorealistic artwork is expressive, with warm closeness between Lucy Ann and Dabney Walker and emotional moments when they are apart.

Solid additions to your picture book biographies and Black History collections. Don’t miss.

Janet Halfmann’s Clothesline Code page on her author website includes links to discussion questions and interviews.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Amazing Middle Grade!

In the interest of holiday season posting: need gifts for the kid who has every video game, or a bookworm who has read everything, and needs something new? Allow me to be your guide through a few fantastic middle grade reads I’ve just finished.

Malcolm and Me, by Robin Farmer, (Nov. 2020, SparkPress), $16.95, ISBN: 9781684630837

Ages 10-14

Where do I even start with Malcolm and Me? This book blew my mind in the best way possible. It’s 1973, and 13-year-old Roberta has a lot of feelings. She’s reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X and discussing Black history and Black Power with her father at home, and clashing with a racist nun at her Philadelphia Catholic school. When she’s sent home after a blowup with Sister Elizabeth, she deep dives into the Autobiography, examining her own feelings and frustrations through Malcolm X’s lenses. Already a writer, she begins journaling her verse and diary entries, guided by Malcolm, and it gives her the strength she needs as her home life and school life begin unraveling.

There is such power in this book and in the characters. Roberta emerges as an incredible heroine; a self-aware 13-year-old coming of age in the aftermath of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, during Watergate, she questions her own faith in God and in organized religion, in family, and in color. Inspired by an event in the author’s life, Malcolm and Me is essential reading that hits that often hard-to-reach middle school/high school age group. Please put this on school (and adult) reading lists, and talk about this book with your tweens and your teens. Talk this up to your Angie Thomas fans, Nic Stone fans, and – naturally! – Ilyasah Shabazz, Malcolm X’s daughter. Author Robin Farmer’s author website has more information on the author’s articles, her books, and a link to her blog.

 

The Clockwork Crow, by Catherine Fisher, (Sept. 2020, Walker Books US), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536214918

Ages 9-13

Orphan Seren Rhys thinks she’s being rescued from the orphanage when her mysterious godfather, Captain Jones, sends for her. His country mansion, Plas-y Fran, is just going to be wonderful, Seren knows it! She’ll be the apple of Captain Jones and his wife, Lady Mair’s eyes, have wonderful parties, and play with the couple’s young son, Tomos. She realizes things are very different when she’s picked up at the train station and arrives, late at night, at Plas-y Fran, which looks rundown and all but abandoned; Mrs. Villiers, the cold housekeeper, tells her that the family is in London for the foreseeable future. Seren turns to the mysterious package entrusted to her at the train station and discovers a mechanical crow. Upon assembly, the crow can talk, fly, and complain. A lot. But when Seren learns that Tomos has been taken by fairies, she decides to rescue him and restore life to Plas-y Fran: and the crow will help her do it.

A fun fantasy with a bit of steampunk, which I always enjoy, this is a quick read with adventure and a warm family story at its heart. Seren is the hopeful orphan, and the cantankerous Crow is a great foil, making this a fine buddy comedy. Fairie lore amps up the action and the tension, and adds some dark fantasy and magic to the plot. A good choice for readers who loved the Nevermoor/Morrigan Crow series by Jessica Townsend.

 

The Sisters of Straygarden Place, by Hayley Chewins, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212273

Ages 10-14

Hayley Chewins is back! Her 2018 novel, The Turnaway Girls, was one of the best books I’d read that year, so I was excited to read her newest, The Sisters of Straygarden Place. The Ballastian Sisters – Winnow, Mayhap, and Pavonine – have lived in the house by themselves after their parents left seven years before, only a note telling them to “sleep darkly” left behind. The house takes care of their basic needs – food, clothing, shelter – but they cannot leave the house, lest the tall silver grass take them. Winnow grows tired of waiting and ventures outside, leaving 12-year-old Mayhap to take care of their youngest sister, Pavonine, and figure out how to heal 14-year-old Winnow. As Mayhap discovers more about the house and the history of the magic within it, the mystery deepens. Readers will love this gorgeous, dark fantasy written with prose that’s almost lyrical, magical. Hayley Chewins writes like Neil Gaiman, where the words just caress you, wrap themselves around you, and when you’re fully under their spell, tell you stories that will leave you wondering. In a world where dogs crawl into your mind to help you sleep and the grass tempts you to come outside so it can take you away, The Sisters of Straygarden Place is truly magical reading.

The Sisters of Straygarden Place is is one of Kirkus’s Best MG Fantasy & SF Books of 2020.

 

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Black Lives, Black History

The Big Day, by Terry Lee Caruthers/Illustrated by Robert Casilla, (Oct. 2020, Star Bright Books), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-59572-913-2

Ages 5-8

This celebration of suffrage and Black women voters is a fictionalized story of Agnes Sadler, the first Black woman to legally vote in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1919. Agnes, called Big Mama here, wakes her daughter Tansy up and urges her to get moving; today is a “big day”, after all. Tansy and Big Mama dress in their finest, get on the bus, and head to the polls; it’s voting day and women have the vote! A lovely tribute to Black women’s suffrage, Agnes and the other women voters proudly wear sashes; the Black women belong to the “Colored Women’s Political League”, and the white women wear “Votes for Women” sashes. The artwork is colorful, soft, and carries a beautiful, historic feel to it. Endpapers are made up of newspaper articles about women’s suffrage, and back matter provides more information about Agnes Sadler, women’s suffrage and Black women’s role in suffrage, and sources for further reading. A great introduction to Black women’s history, and a good picture book biography on a little-known figure in Black suffrage.

For more information about African American Women and the suffrage movement, visit the Suffragist Memorial, the Black Women’s Suffrage Digital Collection, and National Geographic.

A Voice Named Aretha, by Katheryn Russell-Brown/Illustrated by Laura Freeman, (Jan. 2020, Bloomsbury Kids USA), $17.99, ISBN: 9781681198507

Ages 5-8

All hail the Queen of Soul! This picture book biography on Aretha Franklin starts from her beginnings, singing in her father’s church choir through her singing for President Barack Obama (and bringing him to tears). Covering Aretha’s social justice work, Katheryn Russell-Brown notes that Aretha refused to perform for “whites only” audiences and her work with civil rights groups and philanthropy. Laura Freeman’s artwork brings Aretha Franklin to life with rich colors and passionate renderings; Aretha’s head thrown back as she sings and plays the piano at 12; clasping her hands to her chest as she belts out a song in the choir, and Barack Obama wiping a tear away as he listens to a lushly garbed Franklin sing onstage. Endpapers are a feast of vinyl and gold records on a deep purple background. Back matter provides more information about Aretha Franklin’s life and music and some of her hit songs. A must-have in your picture book biography section, this is an excellent introduction to a music and civil rights icon.

A Voice Named Aretha has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal.

 

William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railroad, by Don Tate, $18.99, ISBN: 978-1-56145-935-3

Ages 5-8

Written in free verse, Don Tate’s biography of William Still, abolitionist, member of the Underground Railroad, and archivist of stories that reunited families, is simply incredible. Born to former slaves living in New Jersey, William Still grew up with a desire to learn and a desire for justice. He moved to Philadelphia and worked with the Anti-Slavery Society, where he took on greater roles, ultimately becoming part of the Underground Railroad. When he reunited his long-lost brother with his family, Still began keeping extensive notes on the people he spoke with, leading to more reunions. The verse is concise but packs emotional punches, like this moment where he meets his brother, Peter: “The man was middle-aged. / Stooped back. Furrowed brow. / Threadbare clothes. / His name was Peter. / He was looking for his mother, his family.” Endpapers include excerpts from Still’s observations. Digital illustrations are emotional and expressive. Another must-have picture book biography. Publisher Peachtree has an excerpt, teacher’s guide, and poster on their website.

William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railroad has starred reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist, and Publisher’s Weekly.

 

 

Mary Seacole: Bound for the Battlefield, by Susan Goldman Rubin/Illustrated by Richie Pope, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763679941

Ages 8-11

This intermediate picture book biography on Crimean War figure Mary Seacole, born in Kingston, Jamaica, begins with her childhood in Kingston, watching her healer mother care for soldiers with herbal remedies and hoping to be like her one day, through her own healing work with soldiers during the Crimean War and cholera patients in Panama. The book deep dives into the racism she encountered as a biracial woman, including a run-in with Florence Nightingale, who scoffed at her remedies and cures and refused her services. Drawn from Mary Seacole’s own writing, this biography is comprehensive for younger readers, with richly colorful and evocative illustrations. Back matter includes sources notes and a bibliography. An important biography for younger readers.

 

Northbound: A Train Ride Out of Segregation, by Michael S. Bandy & Eric Stein/Illustrated by James E. Ransome, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763696504

Ages 6-8

Inspired by author Michael S. Bandy’s memories of taking the train as a child of color during segregation, Northbound tells the story of a boy of color and a white boy becoming friends on a train ride from Alabama to Cincinnati, amid the shifting segregation seating on the train. Young Michael boards the train and goes to the “colored only” section, but when the train leaves Atlanta, the signs come down and he’s free to roam the train. He meets Bobby Ray, a boy his own age and from his own town, and the two become instant friends. Once the train approaches Chattanooga, though, the signs go back up and the new friends are separated. A heart-rending story of separation and segregation, Northbound ends with a spark of hope. The story explains segregation in its most basic terms to children, and encourages discussion about how the story – and our past – parallels with our present. James A. Ransome’s watercolor and collage artwork creates splendid scenery as the train speeds along and the two boys become friends over the course of a train ride; moments of racism, as when the conductor leads Michael out of the “whites only” car when the train approaches Chattanooga, are emotional; the “whites only” harsh white sign stands out like an ugly scar across a lovely painting. An author’s note explains the Interstate Commerce Act and how segregation played into it.

Northbound: A Train Ride Out of Segregation has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.