Reviews of the 2022 CSK Author Award Winners


Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre
by Carole Boston Weatherford; illus. by Floyd Cooper
Primary, Intermediate    Carolrhoda    32 pp.    g
2/21    978-1-5415-8120-3    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-7284-1738-7    $27.99

In 1921, over the course of sixteen hours, the Black community of Greenwood, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was all but destroyed, with most of its residents left homeless, injured, or dead. In picture-book form, Weatherford and Cooper skillfully present this history to young people. Great care is taken to describe the Greenwood community as it once was: known as “Black Wall Street” and home to Black professionals and working-class folk alike, “where some say Black children got a better education than whites.” Small details add to the authenticity of the narrative, such as Miss Mabel’s Little Rose Beauty Salon, where “maids who worked for white families got coiffed on their day off and strutted in style.” Far from romanticizing history, Weatherford is equally descriptive in explaining how a false accusation of assault brought simmering racial tensions to a violent end, with a white mob “looting and burning homes and businesses that Blacks had saved and sacrificed to build.” Many survivors left the area, and those who stayed “did not speak of the terror.” Not until 1997 was the little-known incident investigated and discovered to be not a “riot” but a massacre — ­abetted by both police and city officials. ­Cooper’s illustrations (“oil and erasure”) are the perfect partner to this history, the sepia-toned images resembling historical photographs. The portraits of Black residents are particularly moving, seeming to break the fourth wall to implore the reader to remember their story. The author’s and illustrator’s notes provide additional information, including their individual connections to the topic. EBONI NJOKU

From the January/February 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Honor Books

Home Is Not a Country
by Safia Elhillo
Middle School, High School    Make Me a World/Random    224 pp.    g
3/21    978-0-593-17705-1    $17.99
Library ed.  978-0-593-17706-8    $20.99
e-book ed.  978-0-593-17707-5    $10.99

Elhillo’s strikingly original novel in searingly honest, staccato verse, nearly all in lowercase, showcases the difficult realities of working-class immigrant families. Nima is a sensitive Muslim teenager, daughter of an immigrant mother, whose life is marked by the absence of a father she never knew, of friends (except one), and of belonging and feeling at home. Haunted by “sepia”-tinted memories “of a country i’ve never seen / outside a photograph,” bullied at school, and excluded by her Arabic-speaking peers, she grapples with a series of what-ifs. A “nostalgia monster” hungry for old photographs and retro Arabic music and films, Nima yearns for a different life, one lived in her imagination as her “ghost self,” Yasmeen. When her only friend is hospitalized after a hate crime, she goes into a tailspin. In a magical realism sequence, she encounters corporeal Yasmeen and travels through space and time to see her parents together, uncovering truths that help recalibrate her life. While Elhillo’s novel draws on her Sudanese heritage, she leaves the family’s country of origin unnamed. Her richly imagined settings bring into sharp focus the nuances of a fractured identity in many diasporic communities. An immersive experience of the intersectionality of gender, class, race, religion, and identity. SADAF SIDDIQUE

From the July/August 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People
by Kekla Magoon
Middle School, High School    Candlewick    390 pp.    g
11/21    978-1-5362-1418-5    $24.99

In October 1966, in Oakland, California, Black college students Huey Newton and Bobby Seale began to organize in reaction to rising police brutality in Black communities. Those plans birthed the Black ­Panther Party, established as a response to an unjust system and one of the most misunderstood political parties/movements in modern history. “The Panthers played several roles: they were civil rights and human rights activists, militant revolutionaries, and community organizers, and they were also a political party.” Magoon (Light It Up, rev. 11/19; The Highest ­Tribute, rev. 1/21) has produced a comprehensive and all-encompassing account of the group. Initially formed with the intent to monitor the police — legally — the Party created and expanded multiple social programs that served their communities. Providing, in the first four chapters of the book, an overview of centuries of enslavement, torture, oppression, lies, and aggression, Magoon likens the treatment of Black Americans to an earthquake, noting that “the major turning points of history are seismic, born of eons of slightly shifting geologic plates. They do not emerge from nowhere. They are born of deep unrest.” Her history of the Black Panther Party is ­meticulously detailed, from the creation of its Ten-Point Platform and Program to the eventual divide in leadership ­following sabotage by the FBI’s covert ­counterintelligence program, ­COINTELPRO. Magoon goes beyond the dissolution of the Party to discuss life for Black Americans from 1982 to 2020, expertly drawing parallels between the Black Panther Party and the Black Lives Matter movement. A wealth of quotes, photos, and sidebars enriches the book. Complete with an author’s note, an annotated list of key players in the Black Panther Party, a timeline of important events, a glossary of terms, a bibliography for further reading, and source notes, this compelling work would be invaluable for both individual and classroom reading. EBONI NJOKU

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


The People Remember
by Ibi Zoboi; illus. by Loveis Wise
Primary, Intermediate    Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins    
64 pp.    g
9/21    978-0-06-291564-1    $19.99

Through art and words, with the framework of the seven principles of Kwanzaa, Zoboi (American Street, rev. 3/17; Black Enough, rev. 1/19) and Wise beautifully “sew together a tapestry of / their stories / one fine quilt / a blanket for the children / to keep them warm, protected, and safe.” Each brightly colored spread tells of important moments and people in African American history. Author and illustrator first bring readers back to Africa and remind them that before there was Africa and African Americans, there were the Fulani, the Hausa, the Ashanti, and the Akan, who lived in Mali, Kongo, and Songhai. As they move along, readers are reminded of the Middle Passage, enslavement, the Civil War, and the Great Migration. Despite the hardships and struggles, the people remember their Kuumba (creativity), Imani (faith), Nia (purpose), Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), and Ujamaa (cooperative economics) to survive and thrive. Wise’s sumptuous digital illustrations are reminiscent of the patches created by African American quilters to remind future generations of their past. The bright colors reflect the hope and optimism that African Americans have carried with them. Along with history, readers are introduced to the principles of Kwanzaa in an informative and heartfelt appended author’s note and timeline. NICHOLL DENICE MONTGOMERY

From the November/December 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Read reviews of the 2022 CSK Illustrator Awards here. For more, click on the tag ALA LibLearnX 2022.

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