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Celebrating Black History 2019

February is Black History Month. The following nonfiction titles present informative, inspirational, and moving stories about notable African American people and events, to be shared with readers all year long. See also our Five Questions interview with Claire Hartfield, winner of the 2019 Coretta Scott King Author Award for A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919 (Clarion, 12–16 years). The Coretta Scott King Awards celebrate their fiftieth anniversary this year; see our upcoming May/June 2019 Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: CSK at 50. For more on Black History Month visit hbook.com/tag/black-history-month.

In The Undefeated, Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson honor the achievements, courage, and perseverance of ordinary black people as well as prominent black artists, athletes, and activists. Alexander’s free-verse poem conveys a sense of pride at what his “unflappable” and “unafraid” predecessors have accomplished and what people continue to do today. Nelson’s realistic oil paintings depict racial oppression in the past and present — demonstrating that racism remains deeply entrenched in America today. (Houghton/Versify, 8–14 years)

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices, the timely and powerful anthology compiled by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson, was created to help young people cope with the hate currently being unleashed against, among others, people of color, people with disabilities, and those of different faiths. More than thirty essays, poems, and letters are presented on beautifully designed and illustrated spreads by fifty-two contributors in all. The accessible presentation will pull kids in; the wisdom inside will keep them engaged — and, hopefully, motivate them. (Crown, 10–14 years)

In 1956 Clinton, Tennessee, twelve African American students integrated the all-white high school. Jo Ann Allen Boyce, one of the “Clinton 12,” relates (with coauthor Debbie Levy) her first-person account in This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality. The book consists of free-verse passages that often include rhyme and employ various poetic forms. Newspaper headlines and clips, excerpts from the Constitution, and more appear throughout this fine addition to books about the integration of public schools during the civil rights era. (Bloomsbury, 10–14 years)

So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth’s Long Walk Toward Freedom is a hauntingly beautiful and uncompromisingly direct picture-book biography. Gary D. Schmidt’s straightforward primary narrative takes Truth from childhood to old age. Daniel Minter’s accompanying watercolor and mixed-media art is stunning; most striking are the left-hand pages that include tall, slender vertical panels alongside Schmidt’s secondary verses about “Slavery Time.” (“In Slavery Time, when Words seemed weaker than whips…”) An essential text for studying Civil War–era American history, with art that will draw readers back again and again. (Roaring Brook, 8–12 years)

From the February 2019 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and a BA from Oberlin College.

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