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.

Sakamoto’s Swim Club: How a Teacher Led an Unlikely Team to Victory by author Julie Abery and illustrator Chris Sasaki

Reading Age: 5 -8 years

Grade Level: Kindergarten – 3

Publisher: Kids Can Press

Publication Date: May 4, 2021

In the 1930’s in Hawaii, some parents worked on a sugar plantation. Their children busied themselves by swimming in a ditch. Sometimes police would chase them away from the ditch. A science teacher named Soichi Sakamoto decided to take responsibility for the children while they swam. He coached them in swimming. Eventually a swimming pool was built where young swimmers trained for the Olympics. Bill Smith won gold metals in the 1948 Olympics. This picture book is succinctly told in rhyme. Illustrations are attractive. An author’s note is included.

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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.

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.