Juneteenth: Our Day of Freedom (Step into Reading) by author Sharon Dennis Wyeth and illustrator Kim Holt

Reading Age: 5 – 8

Grade Level: Preschool – 3

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: May 10, 2022

Abraham Lincoln presented the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 freeing slaves in southern confederate states. Many slaves did not realize they were free. Unlike today, communications in the 1800s travelled slowly. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865 when Major General Gordon Granger presented General Order No.3 in Galveston, Texas that slaves were notified of their freedom. This early reader discusses the history of Juneteenth for children learning to read. Illustrations are filled with emotion and events pre and post Juneteenth’s beginning.

Moving Forward: From Space-Age Rides to Civil Rights Sit-Ins with Airman Alton Yates by author Chris Barton and iillustrator Steffi Walthall

Age Range: 6 – 10 years

Grade Level: 1- 5

Publisher: Beach Lane Books

Publication Date: January 11, 2022

When Alton Yates was a youngster in Florida, his neighbor, Mr. Jeffcoat talked to him about his days serving his country in World War I. When Alton got to junior high school, Air Force Captain Daniel James visited Alton’s school and discussed being an American warrior. Alton was impressed with the fact that the Air Force was the first armed forces to be integrated. He enlisted and met Lieutenant Colonel John Paul Stapp who was involved in research. This captivated Alton. Alton became one of the subjects who rode in machines to find out their impact on humans. After 4 years in the Air Force Alton’s family needed him at home. When Alton returned to Florida, he found that overt racism still existed. Jim Crow thrived. Alton got involved with the NAACP Youth Council and participated in lunch counter sit-ins. This picture book biography is another fascinating perspective to add to a libraries collection. It is beautifully illustrated with large illustrations which are wonderful to view when in a group. Range of emotions are easily understood. Included at the end of this book are a timeline, author and illustrator notes and selected sources.

Stitch by Stitch: Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley Sees Her Way to Freedom by author Connie Schofield -Morrison and illustrator Elizabeth Zunon

Reading Age: 7 – 10 years

Grade Level: 2 – 5

Publisher: Holiday House

Publication Date: November 9, 2021

In this picture book biography, we follow the life of Elizabeth Hobbs from her birth into slavery in Virginia until her death. Elizabeth learned to sew from her mother Agnes. This book unveils harsh realities of slave life i.e. Being beaten for grieving instead of hiding feelings behind smiling faces or being sold and having to do the work of three people. As a slave, Elizabeth and her son were sent to live in St. Louis where she made clothes for the wealthy. She became popular. Her clients raised money for Elizabeth to buy freedom for both her and her son. Elizabeth repaid her clients and moved to Washington, D.C. She made dresses for the wives of leaders including Mrs. Lincoln. Over time Elizabeth became instrumental in helping former slaves who came to DC. She founded the Ladies Relief Contraband Association which gave food, clothing and shelter. Elizabeth had a dress shop that provided jobs for women. She wrote a book about her life as a slave as well as her years working in the White House. She worked at Wilberforce University teaching sewing. Mixed media illustrations depict lovely gowns and artistry throughout the book.

The People Remember by author Ibi Zoboi and illustrator Loveis Wise

Reading Age: 4 – 8 years

Grade Level: Preschool – 3

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Publication Date: September 28, 2021

A poetic telling of the history of African Americans from their tribal life in Africa through slavery, the Great Migration to today. The author discusses sorrowful times as well as times marked by African American achievements and achievers i.e. Madame CJ Walker, Garrett Morgan, Aretha Franklin and Barak Obama to name a few. Within this thorough nonfiction picture book, the author shows how events are tied to the seven principles of Kwanzaa which are: umoja, kujichagulia, ujima, ujamaa, nia, kuumba, and imani. Illustrations beautifully assist in revealing events of this book.

Pigskins to Paintbrushes: The Story of Football-Playing Artist Ernie Barnes by Don Tate

Reading Age: 6 – 10 years

Grade Level: 1 – 5

Publisher: Harry N. Abrams

Publication Date: August 17, 2021

As a child in the 1930s, Ernest Barnes made art when boys were supposed to play sports. Societal pressure pushed him into sports where he eventually excelled but the road was not easy. After an injury, he retired from football and devoted the rest of his life to being a successful artist. My Book Eyes found this picture book biography inspirational because the story tells and shows through illustrations Ernest’s struggles and triumphs as he grew up. Because Ernest became involved in different arts and sports, there is a positive message to get involved and find your talents. Textured patterns and varied views are attractive in illustrations. An afterword, author’s note and bibliography are included.

BUZZING WITH QUESTIONS: The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner by author Janice N. Harrington and illustrator Theodore Taylor III

Age Range: 7 years – 10 years

Publisher: Calkins Creek

Publication Date: November 5, 2019

In this nonfiction picture book biography, readers and listeners learn about Charles Henry Turner, a person who based his career on studying insects called an entomologist. Dr. Turner was born in 1867 in Ohio, two years after the end of slavery in the United States. He was gifted with the desire to learn about bugs and did extensive research with spiders, ants, and bees to name a few. He obtained a PhD at the University of Chicago and published work substantially. Additionally, he had interests in civil rights and education. His career appears to have been limited due to racism. He became a high school teacher after a short career in higher education. Along with the insightful text, the illustrations ignite interests in insect behavior and scientific experiments. Included are: an author’s note, timeline, bibliography, source note and archival images.

Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring by author Enigma Alberti and illustrator Tony Cliff

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Age Range: 10 years – 14 years

Publisher: Workman Publishing Company

Publication Date: April 2, 2019

In this chapter book, Mary Bowser, freed slave and teacher, becomes an undercover spy for the Union at the request of her former slave owner Bet Van Lew. Mary works as a maid for the Confederates and relays secret information to Union sympathizers. Ms. Bowser has an incredible memory that aids her in communicating details without having visual evidence in her hands. The way she shares data with her associates like Bet Van Lew and Thomas McNiven is fascinating. There are moments that will have readers sitting at the edge of their chairs however nothing is gruesome. Included in this book are a spycraft tool, a mystery to solve, Biographical Information, Historical Note, Bibliography, and Answer Key. Detailed illustrations add to the understanding of the text.

 

Ice Breaker: How Mabel Fairbanks Changed Figure Skating by author Rose Vina and illustrator Claire Almon

Ice breaker

Age Range: 5 – 7 years

Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company

Publication Date: October 1, 2019

In this picture book biography readers meet Mabel Fairbanks, an African American from Florida. She moves to New York City at 8 years old to live with her brother. That experience is short lived and Mabel finds herself without a home by 9 years old. A family gives Mabel a chance to move in with them and babysit. Viewing ice skaters through a window intrigues Mabel. She saves money, buys skates and teaches herself to skate. When the weather warms, she goes to an indoor ice skating rink to skate however she is denied admission due to her skin color. Eventually she is given opportunities to skate at the rink but only when white ice skaters are not using it. She gets coached and is a very good skater but racism destroys her chances of participating in activities that could lead to the Olympics. Mabel performs on television and in different countries however racism is everywhere. Her career path leads her to coach those interested in ice skating. She plays a significant role in fighting for equality for ice skaters. My Book Eyes are amazed at how many famous ice skaters Mabel Fairbanks coached. Illustrations of ice skaters are dynamic. Included in the back of the book are sections called: About Mabel Fairbanks, Glossary of Figure Skating Terms and Selected Sources.

Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott by author Dee Romito and illustrator Laura Freeman

PiesAge Range: 6 – 9 years

Publisher: little bee books

Publucation Date: Novenber 6, 2018

This picture book biography sheds light on Georgia Gilmore, a cook, who made a significant contribution to the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott by preparing meals. She worked collectively with others who were interested in raising money to purchase vehicles and fuel so that the Black community could still travel in Alabama while seeking justice by boycotting public transportation. After she testified in court about the mistreatment she experienced by a bus driver, Georgia Gilmore was fired from her job. She opened a home based restaurant. All people loved her cooking. Dr. King and other civil rights leaders often ate at Georgia’s. Illustrations are large with high contrasting colors which makes this a terrific book for children to view in a group setting. Included is an author’s note and a recipe for Georgia Gilmore’s Homemade Pound Cake. My Book Eyes finds it interesting to read about how different people worked to create civil rights changes.

Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town

His town

Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town by author A. LaFaye and illustrator Nicole Tadgell

Age Range: 5 – 7 years

Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company

Publication Date: January 1, 2019

In this picture book, the Pattons family, who sharecrop, desire to own a home and land. The daughter, Dede, sees a notice about moving to Nicodemus, Kansas where the family can make their dream come true. Through hard work and a lucky break the family is able to move to Nicodemus. The Pattons survive through diligence and assistance from neighbors and an Indian Tribe called the Osage Nation. My Book Eyes appreciates the author including how much children had to work to help their families during this time period. Working children is a universal theme for many cultures throughout history. Illustrations vary between spreads and vignettes to show a variety of actions and moods. In the back of the book, information explains exodusters and The Homestead Act of 1862.