by Robyn Gioia
Where can we experience different cultures, meet new personalities, visit old friends, drop by for a minute, or stay for as long as we want? Where can we learn about things we never knew existed or explore things on a new level? Where can we look through the eyes of another and suddenly understand the pain and sorrow of their emotions? Or the happiness that comes through accomplishment and success? Books speak directly to the soul. The following books come highly recommended by classroom teachers.
Celebrating Black History Through Books
Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine
Henry Brown doesn’t know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves’ birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: he will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday — his first day of freedom. Henry “Box” Brown became one of the most famous runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad. Scholastic Teacher Guide
The Kidnapped Prince: The Life of Olaudah Equiano adapted by Ann Cameron
Kidnapped at the age of 11 from his home in Benin, Africa, Olaudah Equiano spent the next 11 years as a slave in England, the U.S., and the West Indies, until he was able to buy his freedom. His autobiography, published in 1789, was a bestseller in its own time. Cameron has modernized and shortened it while remaining true to the spirit of the original. It’s a gripping story of adventure, betrayal, cruelty, and courage. In searing scenes, Equiano describes the savagery of his capture, the appalling conditions on the slave ship, the auction, and the forced labor. . . . Kids will read this young man’s story on their own; it will also enrich curriculum units on history and on writing. Scholastic Teacher Guide
One Last Word by Nikki Grimes
“Through a chorus of contemporary voices–including proud parents, striving children, and weary but determined elders–Grimes powerfully transposes the original poems’ themes of racial bias, hidden inner selves, beauty, and pride into the here and now.” – starred review, Publishers Weekly Bloomsbury Teacher Guide
A 2017 New York Public Library Best Kids Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2017, Middle Grade
A School Library Journal Best Book of 2017, Nonfiction
The Hero Two Doors Down by Sharon Robinson
Steven Satlow is an eight-year-old boy living in Brooklyn, New York, which means he only cares about one thing — the Dodgers. Steve’s love for the baseball team is passed down to him from his father. The two of them spend hours reading the sports pages and listening to games on the radio. Aside from an occasional run-in with his teacher, life is pretty simple for Steve.
But then Steve hears a rumor that an African American family is moving to his all-Jewish neighborhood. It’s 1948 and some of his neighbors are against it. Steve knows that this is wrong. His hero, Jackie Robinson, broke the color barrier in baseball the year before.
Then it happens — Steve’s new neighbor is Jackie Robinson! Steve is beyond excited about living two doors down from the Robinson family. He can’t wait to meet Jackie. This is going to be the best baseball season yet! How many kids ever get to become friends with their hero? Scholastic Teacher Guide
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
Eleven-year-old Elijah lives in Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway slaves near the American border. Elijah’s the first child in town to be born free, and he ought to be famous just for that — not to mention for being the best at chunking rocks and catching fish. Unfortunately, all that most people see is a “fra-gile” boy who’s scared of snakes and tends to talk too much. But everything changes when a former slave steals money from Elijah’s friend, who has been saving to buy his family out of captivity in the South. Now it’s up to Elijah to track down the thief — and his dangerous journey just might make a hero out of him, if only he can find the courage to get back home. Scholastic Teacher Guide
Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout; Dance, Spin & Turn It Out! Games, Songs, and Stories from an African American Childhood
Patricia C. McKissack, Illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Educator’s Guide: This engaging treasury of games, songs, and stories reflects the rich tapestry of the author’s African American childhood. Along with an array of activities, award-winning author Patricia C. McKissack weaves in anecdotes from growing up and facts about black history. The collection will appeal directly to students while also tying into the curriculum. Children will recognize hand claps like “Patty-Cake,” jump rope rhymes like “Hot, Hot Pepper,” and songs like “Amazing Grace.” Many children will have learned games and songs from their families that are similar to those in the book but not exactly the same, reflecting our diverse cultural heritage. These connections will draw in students and create enthusiasm for the meaningful curricular activities suggested in this guide. Students can share what they’ve learned with younger children as service projects, performing for them or making them books. Educator’s Guide
Chains (The Seeds of America Trilogy) by Laurie Halse Anderson
If an entire nation could seek its freedom, why not a girl?
As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight…for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom. (Amazon website) Teacher’s Guide