Blowing the Horn: What Hope Is

When my first picture book was published over two decades ago, I had simply hoped to bring the story of one relatively unknown Negro League baseball pitcher to young readers. I wasn’t a fan of baseball, so I was pretty sure that was the reason I’d never heard of this transformative figure who had turned adversity into advantage and shown baseball fans what happens when you try to shut out and shut down true talent: it can’t help but rise to the top.

But forgotten voices from the past called to me, and Satchel Paige became my first of nearly twenty-five books about the history of Black people in this country and the foes and fights they have faced, revealing their talents for finding hope where none was thought to be found.

Hope is activism. It is a steadfast belief in direct contrast to one’s current existence. Throughout history the lives of Black people have embraced hope as a means of survival. When denied freedom, access, quality education, land, civil rights, and safety, they continued to embrace hope by fighting every day, never giving up, never giving in. For Black people, hope was a means of imagining a future for themselves and the generations that followed.

It is vital to young readers that the children’s literature industry highlights the crucial role that hope plays in the stories they choose to publish. Elevating, expanding, and celebrating a true range of human experiences, stories, and voices means that no story is a forgotten story.

Hope is not just a wish; it’s also a call to action utilized by those who not only demanded change but also devoted their lives to making change happen.

My hope for children’s literature is that it provides readers with accurate depictions of how people survived the truth of history, ultimately changing the course of history.

From the May/June 2024 special issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Our Centennial. For more Horn Book centennial coverage, click here. Find more in the "Blowing the Horn" series here.

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Lesa Cline-Ransome

Author Lesa Cline-Ransome's latest book is Fighting with Love: The Legacy of John Lewis (WisemanSimon, 2024), illustrated by James E. Ransome.

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