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From The Guide: #goodtrouble

Congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis, coauthor of the March graphic novel memoir trilogy, preached to his chickens as a child (see right); in the July/August 2017 issue, Lewis’s March coauthor Andrew Aydin describes their mission to keep “preaching” to a new generation. The following nonfiction picture books about the civil rights movement and black history may help inspire budding young activists to make #goodtrouble, too.

—Cynthia K. Ritter
Associate Editor, The Horn Book Guide

Bass, Hester  Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama
32 pp.     Candlewick     2015     ISBN 978-0-7636-6919-5

Gr. K–3  Illustrated by E. B. Lewis. In this welcome story of nonviolent protests in the early-1960s Jim Crow–era South, black residents of Huntsville, Alabama, organize Blue Jean Sunday — a boycott of shops that sold traditional expensive Easter outfits; students plan a sit-in at a lunch counter; schools are integrated through persistence and peaceful methods. Bright watercolors backdrop the relevant, calmly told story.

Golio, Gary  Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday and the Power of a Protest Song
40 pp.     Millbrook     2017     Library ed. ISBN 978-1-4677-5123-0
e-book ISBN 978-1-5124-2837-7

Gr. K–3 Illustrated by Charlotte Riley-Webb. Jazz pillar Billie Holiday pushed racial boundaries throughout her career, most notably with her first soul-piercing performance in 1939 of the anti-lynching song “Strange Fruit.” A dense but age-sensitive text ably handles the topics of racism and trauma, while whirlwind acrylic and tissue-collage illustrations deftly capture the emotional upheaval of Holiday’s life. The song lyrics and additional background information are appended. Bib.

Meltzer, Brad  I Am Martin Luther King, Jr.
40 pp.     Dial     2016     ISBN 978-0-525-42852-7

Gr. K–3 Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos. Ordinary People Change the World series. From childhood anecdotes through the March on Washington, the scope of King’s struggles and accomplishments is conveyed. There’s some gentle moralizing (“it’s better to have more love in your life than more hate”), but it’s well delivered via this biography series’ child-friendly setup: a chatty first-person narrative and cartoon art with occasional comics-style frames. Photos are appended. Reading list, timeline. Bib.

Mulholland, Loki and Fairwell, Angela  She Stood for Freedom: The Untold Story of a Civil Rights Hero, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland
40 pp.     Shadow     2016     ISBN 978-1-62972-176-7

Gr. K–3 Illustrated by Charlotta Janssen. Joan, a white girl from Virginia, became curious about social stratifications in her grandmother’s Georgia town; she grew into an adult committed to ending discrimination against black people in the South. Each spread of the informative book, coauthored by Mulholland’s son, focuses on a different event or anecdote of her civil rights activism. The blend of photographs and collaged art creates a scrapbook feel. Timeline.

Murphy, Claire Rudolf  My Country, ’Tis of Thee: How One Song Reveals the History of Civil Rights
48 pp.     Holt     2014     ISBN 978-0-8050-8226-5

Gr. K–3 Illustrated by Bryan Collier. A variety of groups — American colonists, slaves, suffragists, civil rights advocates, and more — have invoked this familiar tune to comfort and exhort their followers. Collier’s signature watercolor and collage illustrations gently extend the evolving lyrics and add historical details. Teachers will enjoy sharing this book as it encourages youngsters to write a new verse “for a cause you believe in.” Reading list, websites. Bib.

Watkins, Angela Farris  Love Will See You Through: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Six Guiding Beliefs
32 pp.     Simon     2015     ISBN 978-1-4169-8693-5

Gr. K–3 Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport. Colorful mixed-media art illustrates Martin Luther King Jr.’s six guiding beliefs, focusing on peace-filled love over violence. Watkins, King’s niece, cites specific examples of victorious actions, including the desegregation of Montgomery, Alabama, buses and his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” explaining with “love and respect” the importance of the fight for equality. The foundation of King’s philosophy will resonate with all ages.

Weatherford, Carole Boston  The Legendary Miss Lena Horne
48 pp.     Atheneum     2017     ISBN 978-1-4814-6824-4
e-book ISBN 978-1-4814-6825-1

Gr. K–3 Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon. Despite a difficult childhood and the entertainment industry’s racism, actress, singer, and performer Lena Horne rose to Hollywood stardom and became a vocal civil rights advocate. Weatherford straightforwardly but persistently emphasizes the injustices Horne faced, celebrating her triumphs in the face of them. Zunon’s evocative illustrations, in cut-paper collage and oil paint, take readers back in time to Horne’s era. Reading list, websites. Bib.

From the March/April 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. These reviews are from The Horn Book Guide and The Horn Book Guide Online. For information about subscribing to the Guide and the Guide Online, please click here.

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