Review of Go Forth and Tell: The Life of Augusta Baker, Librarian and Master Storyteller

Go Forth and Tell: The Life of Augusta Baker, Librarian and Master Storyteller Go Forth and Tell: The Life of Augusta Baker, Librarian and Master Storyteller
by Breanna J. McDaniel; illus. by April Harrison
Primary    Dial    40 pp.
1/24    9780593324202    $18.99
e-book ed.  9780593324219    $11.99

Few people have had more of an impact on African American children’s literature than griot, educator, and librarian Augusta Baker (1911–1998). Her path to becoming a master storyteller began in Baltimore with listening to her grandmother’s folktales. A class on folklore in college further inspired her, and she became a children’s librarian in Harlem. It became apparent that while most of the children in the library were Black, most books available to them had no Black characters, and the ones that did “were RUDE, MEAN, and JUST PLAIN WRONG.” Baker created a book collection that showcased realistic and positive depictions of African Americans and shared her knowledge with other educators and librarians. Her work carried her to becoming the first Black coordinator of children’s services for all of New York Public Library, hosting radio shows, teaching classes, and traveling the country as the “Mistress of Storytelling.” McDaniel gives an account of Baker’s life that is as celebratory as the heroes in her folktales, attesting that Baker internalized the message that “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Harrison’s exuberant mixed-media-collage illustrations capture the vibrancy of both the storyteller and her stories, creating worlds and words that leap off pages. Back matter includes a timeline, citations, and an author’s note, where McDaniel celebrates her own childhood librarian.

From the January/February 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Eboni Njoku
Eboni Njoku is a children’s librarian at the Anacostia Neighborhood Library Branch of the DC Public Library.

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