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February 15, 2016 BOOKLIST
Find more Top 10 Black History Picture Books
As you read through the list below, you’ll probably notice that E. B. Lewis has illustrated several of our selections for this Top 10 list. We may seem to be suckers for his art, but it’s really more the case that he does a spectacular job, whether he’s illustrating the goings-on in an African village or taking us back to a rural America gone by. The books below were selected from reviews appearing in Booklist from the February 15, 1999, through February 1, 2000, issues.
Cline-Ransome, Lesa. Satchel Paige. Illus. by James Ransome. Simon & Schuster, $16 (0-689-81151-9).Gr. 2–4. This energetic picture book for older children introduces the “King of the Negro Leagues” to a new generation. Ransome’s vivid pictures reinforce the rollicking narrative, reflecting Paige’s ebullient personality, mythic stature, and recognition as one of baseball’s best players.
Daly, Niki. Jamela’s Dress. illus. Farrar, $16 (0-374-33667-9).Ages 3–7. Playing dress up like a queen was on Jamela’s mind when she put on the brightly patterned fabric her mother bought to make a dress. Daly’s sunny double-page pictures show Jamela’s joyous travels wrapped in the beautiful pattern, as well as the street commotion in the lively South African black township, the ruined fabric, and the story’s ending—when all is forgiven.
Obinkaram. The Magic Tree: A Folktale from Nigeria. Illus. by E. B. Lewis. Morrow, $16 (0-688-16231-2).Ages 4–8. This folktale from Echewa’s Nigerian homeland tells of orphaned Mbi, bullied and teased by the villagers, who discovers both his worth and his influence thanks to a magical udara tree.
Havill, Juanita. Jamaica and the Substitute Teacher. Illus. by Anne O’Brien. Houghton, $15 (0-395-90503-6).Ages 4–8. A particularly touching entry in a series about Jamaica and her friend Brianna explores a moral problem that may sound familiar: Jamaica tries to impress her new teacher by cheating on a test. O’Brien catches both setting and characters with remarkable depth.
Hesse, Karen. Come on, Rain! Illus. by John J. Muth. Scholastic, $15.95 (0-590-33125-6).Ages 5–7. In languid blank verse, Hesse conjures up vivid pictures of a city in the throes of sweltering heat. A loving child spots the rain clouds and spreads the joyous news to her mother and her friends and their moms, who, together, enjoy the welcome shower. The text is strong and lyrical, and Muth’s watercolors perfectly catch the hazy yellows and grays of a stormy sky and a cityscape bathed in heat and downpour.
Howard, Elizabeth Fitzgerald. Virgie Goes to School with Us Boys. Illus. by E. B. Lewis. Simon & Schuster, $16 (0-689-80076-2).Ages 5–7. A message about the value of learning distinguishes this sweet tale of ebullient young Virgie, whose desire to learn to read and write like her brothers makes even the difficult seven-mile walk to school worthwhile.
Lester, Julius. What a Truly Cool World. Illus. by Joe Cepeda. Scholastic, $15.95 (0-590-86468-8).Ages 4–8. Cepeda’s bright, flamboyant pictures work beautifully with Lester’s hip take-off on the traditional African American folktale “How God Made the Butterflies.” Here, God’s world doesn’t get moving until the angel Shaniqua steps in. Lively, rhythmic, and altogether fun.
Littlesugar, Amy. Tree of Hope. Illus. by Floyd Cooper. Philomel, $16.99 (0-399-23300-8).Ages 4–8. It’s the depths of the Depression in Harlem, and Florrie’s father is working as a fry cook. Having once acted at the Lafayette Theater, he yearns for another role. When an all-black production of Macbeth is being cast, Florrie wishes on the actors’ Tree of Hope for him to get a part. Cooper’s paintings are both socially realistic and intimate.
Mollel, Tololwa M. My Rows and Piles of Coins. Illus. by E. B. Lewis. Clarion, $15 (0-395-75186-1).Ages 4–8. A selfless Tanzanian boy, Saruni, saves his precious coins to buy a bicycle for his mother, only to find he hasn’t nearly enough. Lewis’ artwork here details the busy village landscape and the emotions of the characters with equal vitality.
Siegelson, Kim L. In the Time of the Drums. Illus. by Brian Pinkney. Hyperion/Jump at the Sun, $15.99 (0-786-80436-X).Gr. 2–5, younger for reading aloud. Based on a Gullah legend of a slave rebellion at Ibo’s Landing in the Sea Islands, this stirring picture book for older children tells the story from the viewpoint of an African American child. Pinkney’s handsome, colored scratchboard illustrations, with swirling, rhythmic lines reflecting the drums that beat in the story.
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