From The Guide: Books to Fill the Gaps

ashburn_i had a favorite hatIn Vaunda Micheaux Nelson’s Horn Book at Simmons keynote address, “Mind the Gaps," she laments the shortage of good children’s books featuring African American protagonists. What is there consists largely of books about the African American historical experience, not “books with black characters experiencing what children of any culture might.” As Nelson asserts, though, “we need both,” and these current Horn Book Guide–recommended picture books offer younger readers just that.

—Katrina Hedeen
Associate Editor, The Horn Book Guide

Ashburn, Boni I Had a Favorite Hat
32 pp.     Abrams     2015     ISBN 978-1-4197-1462-7

Gr. K–3 Illustrated by Robyn Ng. A stylish little girl plucks her favorite sun hat from the “Summery Things pile” and, “with a little of this...and a little of that,” repurposes it throughout the year. Ashburn’s peppy text with (irregular) internal rhymes matches the levity and frilliness of Ng’s mixed-media art. A lively offering for young fashionistas and DIY-ers.

Bolden, Tonya Beautiful Moon: A Child’s Prayer
24 pp.     Abrams     2014     ISBN 978-1-4197-0792-6

Gr. K–3 Illustrated by Eric Velasquez. By the light of a full moon, a young boy says his bedtime prayers. In addition to praying for his family members, he prays for the sick to be well, food for the hungry, and an end to war. Velasquez’s large full-bleed paintings portray a diverse if static urban setting. There is much sadness here, but this quiet book does offer some hope.

Dempsey, Kristy A Dance like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream
32 pp.     Philomel     2014     ISBN 978-0-399-25284-6

Gr. K–3 Illustrated by Floyd Cooper. A young African American girl longs to be a ballerina, but in the segregated 1950s, she doubts her dream is possible. Seeing ballerina Janet 
Collins — the first African American dancer to perform at New York’s Metropolitan Opera — gives the young dancer hope for her own future. Soft mixed-media paintings, capturing the girl’s joy, optimism, and dedication, accompany the spare, lyrical text.

Grimes, Nikki Chasing Freedom: The Life Journeys of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony, Inspired by Historical Facts
56 pp.     Scholastic/Orchard     2015     ISBN 978-0-439-79338-4

Gr. K–3 Illustrated by Michele Wood. In this lengthy picture book, best for mid-primary graders, Tubman and Anthony sit down for tea. In a chatty imagined narrative, the women discuss their own lives in the context of major historical events. Inspired by a series of dramatic monologues written by Grimes in 1988, this ambitious project is both intimate and illuminating. Wood’s colorful, folksy paintings convey much emotional nuance. Extensive back matter adds value. Bib.

McQuinn, Anna Lola Plants a Garden
24 pp.     Charlesbridge     2014     ISBN 978-1-58089-694-8
ebook ISBN 978-1-60734-745-3

PS Book-loving Lola (Lola at the Library) wants to plant a garden. Naturally, she and her mom go to the library to research flowers before planting the seeds. When the flowers are finally blooming, Lola invites her friends to enjoy their beauty as well as her mom’s homegrown strawberries. Good-natured Lola’s latest story, with its gentle art and appropriately simple text, will appeal to her fans.

Meyer, Susan Lynn New Shoes
32 pp.     Holiday     2015     ISBN 978-0-8234-2528-0

Gr. K–3 Illustrated by Eric Velasquez. After Ella Mae isn’t allowed to try on shoes in Johnson’s store because she is black, she and her cousin Charlotte gather others’ outgrown shoes and open their own resale store, where “anyone who walks in the door can try on all the shoes they want.” Velasquez’s dramatic paintings capably illustrate this touching, inspiring historical-fiction picture book. An author’s note adds context.

Nolen, Jerdine Irene’s Wish
32 pp.     Simon/Wiseman     2014     ISBN 978-0-689-86300-4
ebook ISBN 978-1-4424-9323-0

Gr. K–3 Illustrated by AG Ford. An oft-told fable about swallowing seeds comes to life in this whimsical original tale of a wish coming too true. Irene wishes her busy father would “just stay home and play.” When he swallows some apple seeds and they germinate inside him, he’s (temporarily) transformed into a tree, giving the family more time with him. Ford’s rich paintings grant Papa-Tree gentle features and a loving semblance.

Schofield-Morrison, Connie I Got the Rhythm
32 pp.     Bloomsbury     2014     ISBN 978-1-61963-178-6
LE ISBN 978-1-61963-179-3

PS Illustrated by Frank Morrison. An African American mother and daughter stroll through their neighborhood, and the young girl feels rhythm all around her with all her senses. The patterned, onomatopoeic text attempts to create a rhythm of its own, but it can’t beat the energy and movement captured in the lively oil paintings, which pulse with the girl’s contagious enthusiasm.

From the March/April 2015 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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