Reviews of the 2022 Boston Globe–Horn Book Nonfiction Award Winner and Honor Books

Nonfiction Winner

Black Birds in the Sky: The Story and Legacy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre
by Brandy Colbert
Middle School, High School   Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins    224 pp.    g
10/21    978-0-06-305666-4    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-305668-8    $9.99

On May 30, 1921 — just over one hundred years ago — a young Black man tripped in an elevator and caught his balance on the arm of the elevator operator, a young white woman who screamed in surprise. He was arrested the next day, May 31; as the story spread, an angry white mob started to assemble outside the courthouse. That night, the Tulsa Race Massacre began in earnest and carried over until the evening of the following day, June 1. The mob descended on the prosperous African American neighborhood of Greenwood to destroy property, take lives, and terrorize the Black population. Colbert chronicles each day with immediacy and in detail, with interspersed chapters providing necessary background information: Oklahoma’s journey to statehood; the forced relocation of American Indian tribes; the rush to claim and settle land; the discovery of oil; the KKK and the practice of lynching to intimidate Black people; the rise of Greenwood, the “Black Wall Street,” and its numerous Black-owned businesses; and the social mobility of African Americans during World War I. A foreword describes the author’s personal connection to this story, while the afterword makes universal connections, drawing parallels between historical and contemporary events. A bibliography, source notes, and an index are also appended. Primarily a fiction writer, Colbert (The Only Black Girls in Town; The Voting Booth, both rev. 7/20) extends her range with this excellent nonfiction book, a welcome contribution to the growing literature about this tragedy; see also Carole Boston Weatherford and Floyd Cooper’s picture book Unspeakable (rev. 1/21), a 2021 Boston Globe–Horn Book Nonfiction honoree. JONATHAN HUNT

From the September/October 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Honor Books

The Waiting Place: When Home Is Lost and a New One Not Yet Found
by Dina Nayeri; photos by Anna Bosch Miralpeix
Intermediate, Middle School    Candlewick    64 pp.    g
5/22    978-1-5362-1362-1    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5362-1854-1    $18.99

“When home is lost and a new one not yet found, children are sent to the Waiting Place.” In this powerful photo-essay, the Waiting Place is the Katsikas refugee camp in Greece, which Nayeri and ­Miralpeix visited in 2018. Katsikas is supposed to be a temporary home for refugees from Afghanistan and Iran, but as Nayeri describes in her poetic text, the camp is a “gated mouth” that children pass through and then drift while time slips away. “They forget things: first their sums, their street names, their best books. Then beloved faces, stories.” Miralpeix’s photographs effectively set the “field of shipping crates turned into homes” against a contrasting background of blue skies and misty mountains, highlighting Katsikas’s harsh conditions. Nayeri personifies the Waiting Place as a beast hungry for more lives, and the strength of the volume is its focus on real children, including five-year-old Matin from Afghanistan, his friends Ahmad and Hashmat, and his ten-year-old sister Mobina and her friends. Both text and photos compassionately humanize young refugees who, despite coping with unimaginable trauma, have talents and dreams; readers will come away with a deeper understanding of the refugee crisis, which is addressed more fully in a lengthy afterword. A glossary and an author’s note are appended. DEAN SCHNEIDER

From the May/June 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Your Legacy: A Bold Reclaiming of Our Enslaved History
by Schele Williams; illus. by Tonya Engel
Primary, Intermediate    Abrams    48 pp.    g
9/21    978-1-4197-4875-2    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-1-64700-072-1    $15.54

A message from the African ancestors to today’s African American children. Narrated in the second person, this picture book tells African American youth an uplifting story about the many positive qualities passed down to them: “love, intellect, determination, courage, brilliance, strength, ingenuity, grace, and dignity.” Countering the notion that African American history started with slavery, Williams opens with “Your story begins in Africa,” and says that Africans, “the first people on the earth,” lived in thriving societies, speaking many different languages, for thousands of years before slavery. The narrative progresses through their kidnapping and enslavement, their sharing music as a common language, the vital connection between literacy and freedom, and the contributions of so many who made America successful. Readers meet well-known and lesser-known historical figures, some named, others only pictured, giving young people opportunities to learn more about them all. Engel’s (Rise!, rev. 11/19) mixed-media illustrations, which include acrylic, collage, and printmaking on wood and paper, capture the historical settings well, while her inclusion of flowers and trees throughout symbolizes growth and the potential of the next generation. (She illustrates Africans boarding slave ships unchained and fully clothed in their cultures’ colorful garb and ­jewelry — perhaps to downplay the trauma of the Middle Passage.) An inspirational story that instills hope and encourages today’s African ­American children to consider what they will give to their own descendants. Pair with recent similarly themed titles The People Remember and The 1619 Project: Born on the Water (both rev. 11/21). MICHELLE H. MARTIN

From the January/February 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


The 2022 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winners and honors were announced on June 22nd, 2022. For reviews of the other winning titles and more, click on the tag BGHB22.

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