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. People living in rural or isolated areas had difficulty receiving news. Unlike today, communications in the 1800s travelled slowly. Sometimes slave owners intentionally kept the news from slaves so slaves continued to provide free labor. 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.

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.

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.

The Teachers March!: How Selma’s Teachers Changed History by authors Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace and illustrator Charly Palmer

Reading Age: 7 – 10 years

Grade Level: 2-5

Publisher: Calkins Creek

Publication Date: September 29, 2020

In the 1960s when blacks were not allowed to vote but were allowed to teach about the Constitution of the United States in the segregated south, Reverend F. D. Reese, also a high school science teacher, wanted change. He was familiar with being chased away from the courthouse when he and protesters marched there. Frustrated, he had an idea to get teachers to march for voting rights. After all, teachers were looked highly upon in the community. Educators feared loosing their jobs however with so many of them marching, could they all be fired? Especially when marching was against the law in Selma, Alabama. A visit from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. assured marchers that they were on the right path. During the Civil Rights Era many groups marched. The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. My Book Eyes liked the drama and tension in the text and illustrations that beckoned pages to turn. Included in this nonfiction picture book are an author’s note, illustrator’s note, Timeline, Selected Bibliography, a list of In-Person Visits and a Learn More About the Teachers’ March section.

Shirley Chisolm Is a Verb by author Veronica Chambers and illustrator Rachelle Baker

Age Range: 4 years – 8 years

Publisher: Dial Books

Publication Date: July 28, 2020

This picture book biography enlightens the audience about the life of political figure Shirley Chisolm. She was the daughter of immigrant parents who like many, had to work hard to purchase a piece of the American dream. Unfortunately, in order to continue with their arduous work schedules, Shirley’s parents sent Shirley and her two sisters to live with their maternal grandparent in Barbados. After 6 years, Shirley returned to Brooklyn, New York and attended public schools. She went to college and became a preschool teacher. Wanting to cast her net wider in helping others, she was instrumental in beginning head start programs. Shirley found that entering the political arena was where she could influence society the most. Ms. Chisolm was elected to New York State Assembly then to Congress. She was the Democratic Party nomination for United States president. Shirley was an action oriented person who helped make changes for the betterment of the less fortunate. Throughout this book are verbs highlighted in blue that will improve vocabulary and lead to interesting projects. Illustrations are realistic and match the tone of the book.

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.

Pete the Cat’s Family Road Trip by Kimberly and James Dean

Age Range: 4 – 8 years

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Date: March 31, 2020

In this early reader, Pete’s family goes on a road trip across the United States. They visit New York, Georgia, Florida, Utah, California, South Dakota, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Washington and Wyoming. Occasional feline humor injected into illustrations and text will make readers chuckle. This book is a great way to introduce youngsters to historic sites within the United States while they learn to read. Also this title can ignite curiosity and a desire to further research places mentioned.

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.