Reviews of the 2022 CSK Illustrator 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

Nina: A Story of Nina Simone
by Traci N. Todd; illus. by Christian Robinson
Primary, Intermediate    Putnam    64 pp.    g
9/21    978-0-06-291564-1    $19.99

Pianist, singer, and composer Nina ­Simone was born Eunice Waymon in rural North Carolina in 1933, a child “who had music on the inside.” Treated by turns as a prodigy, curiosity, and nuisance, after high school Eunice left North Carolina for NYC and Juilliard. After a series of indignities and disappointments, she began performing at a nightclub in Atlantic City; her growing fame led Eunice to change her name to Nina Simone in an attempt to hide her “unholy” music from her mother. At the same time, the momentum of the ongoing civil rights movement was a “relentless, demanding” drumbeat that proved impossible to ignore; and as Simone felt more pressure (internal and external) to speak out against racism, she decided she was done playing nice, as politeness “had gotten her people nothing.” Robinson (You Matter, rev. 9/20; Milo Imagines the World, rev. 3/21) punctuates this section with flame-like cut paper and sooty smudges symbolizing the “steady, rising roar” of injustice, culminating in a double-page spread showing Nina and her band playing against a fiery backdrop. Todd ends her unflinching narrative with a perfectly placed, direct-address line: “And when she sang of Black children — you lovely, precious dreams — her voice sounded like hope.” This unexpected, yet needed, outpouring of love is the perfect end to a stunning book. An author’s note “About Nina Simone” and a bibliography are appended. SAM BLOOM

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


We Wait for the Sun
by Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Katie McCabe; illus. by Raissa Figueroa
Primary    Roaring Brook    40 pp.    g
2/21    978-1-250-22902-1    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-250-82195-9    $10.99

Dovey Johnson Roundtree (1914–2018) would grow up to be a civil rights warrior; this picture-book biography focuses on a pivotal moment in her childhood. One pre-dawn summer morning in North Carolina, her grandmother takes her blackberry picking, joined quietly by other women from their community. Intimidated by the dark, Dovey gains courage from Grandma Rachel, who tells her she need not fear it. “If you wait a little, your eyes will learn to see, and you can find your way.” Awash in blues and purples and then pinks, reds, and golds as the sun rises, Figueroa’s stunning illustrations, many of which depict a view from above the woodland scenes, illuminate the landscape, the diligent work of the women, and the lessons Dovey learns from her loving grandmother, which feed her tenacity and determination as an adult. Several pages of back matter, which include family photographs, detail the remarkable life of this unsung hero, who graduated from Spelman College, served in the Women’s Army Corps, earned a degree from Howard ­University Law School, and fought diligently for civil rights throughout her long career and life. An author’s note by McCabe explains that the book was “adapted from the final chapter of the autobiography Dovey and I wrote together.” Inspiring and exquisitely illustrated, this well-researched true story will spark conversations that prompt young readers to learn more about Roundtree. MICHELLE H. MARTIN

From the May/June 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Soul Food Sunday
by Winsome Bingham; illus. by C. G. Esperanza
Primary    Abrams    48 pp.    g
11/21    978-1-4197-4771-7    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-64700-042-4    $15.54

A dinner to remember! An unnamed African American boy describes a Sunday dinner at Granny’s with extended family. Granny decides that it’s time for her grandson to learn to cook macaroni and cheese; mixed greens (collard, turnip, and mustard); and grilled chicken, ribs, and sausage. As he prepares to grate three kinds of cheese, wash and tear greens, and prepare meat for the grill, Granny models each task, asking: “Did you see that, baby?” Doing his best, he says: “My hand hurt. My arm aches. But I don’t quit.” After the completion of each task comes Granny’s affirmation: “That’s the best grated cheese [or greens, or meats] I’ve seen in all my life.” While Bingham’s writing captures the sound and cadence of this African American family’s speech, Esperanza’s oil paintings effectively portray the lively characters’ perpetual motion and reveal each person’s style, from Granny’s maroon cornrows and colorful apron displaying an African mask, to the protagonist’s blond-tipped high-top twists with lightning bolts shaved into the sides of his hair, to the barbecue master’s dreadlocks and flip sunglasses. In the end, the young cook adds one more tasty delight to the meal and radiates pride as the family sits down to dinner. A gustatory and olfactory family feast that will evoke strong memories for some and make others wish they had them. MICHELLE H. MARTIN

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


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

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