As our nation struggled for its freedom in the Revolutionary War, thousands of African American slaves wondered about theirs. If a nation could be fre...moreAs our nation struggled for its freedom in the Revolutionary War, thousands of African American slaves wondered about theirs. If a nation could be free, what about them? In 1776, thirteen-year-old Isabel fought for her own freedom in the midst of war-torn New York. This gripping historical novel is well worth reading - for its dramatic story, the struggles of a young slave, and its depiction of war-torn New York.
Chains: Seeds of America by Laurie Halse Anderson Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, c2008. Brilliance Audio, c2008 ages 12 and up
Isabel and her sister were promised freedom upon the death of their owner, but no records were found of a will. Through a cruel sequence of events, Isabel and Ruth were sold by her owner's nephew to the Lockton family in New York. The Locktons were Loyalists and cruel slave owners. They cared little of the sisters' relationship, and ended up sending young Ruth far away.
Isabel's heart was broken - she lost her freedom, her home, and now her little sister. When a young slave, Curzon, asked her to spy on the Locktons, she did so - thinking that this might be the way she could claim her freedom. But the Revolutionary Army did not protect her, and she ended up being accused of insolence by Madam Lockton. Isabel was cruelly punished with the branding of an I on her face.
The audiobook for Chains is amazing. Madisun Leigh, the narrator, brings alive the thoughts and feelings of young Isabel. I think audiobooks work especially well for first-person stories; Chains pulls the reader and listener into Isabel's plight, and shows the mental and physical horrors of slavery.
This would definitely be a great choice for family listening - it would provide lots to talk about, and would engage adults and teenagers. One caution: Isabel's branding and Curzon's time in jail are intense - I would not recommend this for children under 10.(less)
This was an interesting book for me, different from what I expected. It took me a while to get into it and figure out who the characters were. The cha...moreThis was an interesting book for me, different from what I expected. It took me a while to get into it and figure out who the characters were. The chapters alternate different points of view and it isn't clear who's talking at first. But I liked having to figure it out, sort through it, and build a picture in my head.
I'm still wrestling with the ending. It's a very tragic book. At first, this group of orphans and rejected individuals comes together to form a sort of family. But toward the end, the family really starts to disintegrate. On one hand, Morrison seems to be saying that blood ties are stronger than the ones you choose. But I'm not sure - that may be what it appears on the surface.
This is definitely a book I'd like to come back to in a year, to read again with the ending in mind.(less)
I liked this book - it shows, very simply, how Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Heschel were both striving for a better, more just world. This pi...moreI liked this book - it shows, very simply, how Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Heschel were both striving for a better, more just world. This picture book follows Martin and Abraham as children discovering the injustice in the world. But both of their fathers told them that this is not the way the world has to be - we can make it a better place. As King says, “The way things are is not the way they always have to be.” And as Heschel says “Words must be followed by deeds.” I would say the best audience for this would be ages 4 - 7.(less)
Nikki & Deja are third graders, best friends living next door to each other. Deja can't stop thinking about her birthday party, and Nikki tries to...moreNikki & Deja are third graders, best friends living next door to each other. Deja can't stop thinking about her birthday party, and Nikki tries to be patient and helpful. But just before her birthday, Deja's aunt leaves on a business trip and Deja has to stay with an eldery neighbor - who cooks turnips and watches a black & white TV! Deja's nemisis from school, Antonia, threatens to ruin Deja's party by throwing her own "just because" party on the same day. Will Deja's party turn out OK -- or will it be the worst birthday ever?
This is a great book in so many ways. Most importantly, I could see myself in all of Deja's dilemmas. I think kids will really relate to how hard it is to feel outdone by a kid at school who's out to get all the other kids to come to her party instead of yours. But also, I'm so happy to have found a book for 2nd and 3rd graders with African American main characters. It's so important to be able to share with our kids books with all different characters - especially ones they can relate to.(less)
Stories of how real people reacted to overwhelming odds have always inspired us. Picture book biographies have an amazing power to pull children into...moreStories of how real people reacted to overwhelming odds have always inspired us. Picture book biographies have an amazing power to pull children into history and show them how people have acted with courage and dignity to reach their goals. This is a powerful story of Robert Smalls, a slave from Beaufort, South Carolina, who escaped to the Union lines, won his freedom and eventually became a United States Congressman.
Robert Smalls was born in 1839 in South Carolina. Growing up a slave, Robert dreamed of being able to gain his freedom. After his first child was born in 1858, he was able to make a deal to buy his wife's and daughter's freedom for eight hundred dollars. Although he was still a slave, this would enable his family to stay together.
But soon war exploded throughout the country, and Charleston was on the front lines. Robert became a deckhand on a steamship that hauled army supplies for the Confederate army. His knowledge of the Charleston Harbor and surrounding rivers impressed the ship's officers, and Robert was promoted to wheelman. In this position, he learned the secret whistles for passing the Confederate forts protecting Charleston.
In 1861, the Union navy captured Port Royal, just south of Charleston. Only seven miles of waterway lay between Robert and the chance of freedom in Union territory. One night when the officers were on shore, Robert steered his ship, with his family and crewmates aboard, past the many Confederate forts, directly toward the Union blockade.
This is a compelling, dramatic story that will have kids and adults riveted. It made me wonder why I had never learned of this amazing man and his unshakable courage and amazing leadership. The paintings for this book match the compelling nature of the story, and completely drew me in. They are bright and vibrant, and help bring the story to life.(less)
Oh, this book has beautiful illustrations that make me see and think of so many children, and poems that speak to the heart about feeling good about j...moreOh, this book has beautiful illustrations that make me see and think of so many children, and poems that speak to the heart about feeling good about just who we are. Thomas explores in her poetry how children feel about their different skin colors, but also how they feel about themselves, and the love that their families give to them. Cooper explores the radiance and thoughtfulness in each child.
Winner of the 2009 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, and honor book for 2009 Coretta Scott King Author Award
What Shade is Human? by Joyce Carol Thomas
At breakfast I pour milk over my bowl of berries And Grandpa says, "It's the milk of kindness that makes us human."
"Yes, Papa," I answer, and he continues: "White milk Chocolate milk Sweet milk Mother's milk."
I nod between bites of berries because My mother long ago When she nursed me with first milk Said, "You are beautiful." And I heard her (less)
a beautiful, gentle, powerful story - about a boy's relationship with his brother and grandfather, about how his family supports him as he copes with...morea beautiful, gentle, powerful story - about a boy's relationship with his brother and grandfather, about how his family supports him as he copes with his brother's and grandfather's deaths, about his relationship with Uncle Sonny, and about his gift of drawing.
universal in a child's support by his family and sadness with the passing of his grandfather & brother, and yet so specific to the particular urban setting. complex and simple at the same time - fantastic.(less)
This book has an amazing voice. Told from a first person point of view, the author brought me into feeling like a 12 year old girl struggling to under...moreThis book has an amazing voice. Told from a first person point of view, the author brought me into feeling like a 12 year old girl struggling to understand herself, made me remember what it felt like to try to understand myself, my friends, my Big Purpose.
At its heart, it's a story about friendship. D Foster came into the main character's life just a few months before Tupac got shot the first time. D's foster mom lets her roam, and one day she appeared on Neeka and the narrator's block. Over the next two years, the three girls (Neeka, D, and the narrator) develop a strong friendship - they become Three the Hard Way.
"How could I explain even a little bit of this to Mama - how some days D smiled at me and felt like my missing half. ... D was home to me and Neeka. D was ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies. She was sun and crazy loud laughter and warm rain."
But D disappeared just as suddenly as she appeared. And Neeka and the narrator have to come to terms with that. Tupac is shot, and D is gone. But they'll both be part of their lives forever. In the end, I found that the big message was that home is where people love and accept you for who you are, even if your story has missing pieces.(less)
wonderful, vibrant book about the joys of styling hair to create your own look, your own personality. This is not a "how to" book, but rather a celebr...morewonderful, vibrant book about the joys of styling hair to create your own look, your own personality. This is not a "how to" book, but rather a celebration - of girls creating their own images, of girls enjoying life. Great real pictures of real girls - full of joy and happiness.
Some quotes: "It's sassy short and bouncy long barrettes on my braids keep the beat of the song."
"Braids swing with me like water, moving free no matter how I wear my hair it's a special part of me"(less)
This is a modern ghost tale, showing the intersection between Pemba and Phyllis. I really liked the voice that the author created for Pemba - she was...moreThis is a modern ghost tale, showing the intersection between Pemba and Phyllis. I really liked the voice that the author created for Pemba - she was believable and I could relate to her struggle moving from the city to a small town in Connecticut. I don't think the authors got the right balance with the ghost story - there just wasn't enough there to flush it out. I was stuck more in the confused state than understanding what Phyllis went through.(less)
Most American school children know the story of Rosa Parks. But few know that before Rosa Parks started her protest, there was a brave young teen who...moreMost American school children know the story of Rosa Parks. But few know that before Rosa Parks started her protest, there was a brave young teen who challenged the segregation laws in Montgomery, Alabama. On March 2, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, fifteen year old Claudette Colvin refused to give her seat to a white woman on a segregated bus. Claudette was an impassioned teenager who had just learned about her constitutional rights in her history class. Her friends knew how angry she was at segregation and how unfairly the police treated her, but Claudette quickly found herself avoided or teased by her classmates. Although Claudette received some help from local civil rights leaders, they decided that she was not suitable to be the public face of a mass protest. She was young, from a poor family, and had a temper at times.
As Claudette reeled from the lack of support from her friends and the community, she ran into personal trouble and ended up pregnant. She was sent to Birmingham to have her child, but returned to Montgomery to be part of the protests and live at home. Claudette was still willing to be part of the protests, and a year later she became a key plaintiff in the landmark case that struck down the segregation laws of Montgomery and swept away the legal underpinnings of the Jim Crow South.
This is an amazing story - I read it in one sitting, it was so engrossing. Young adults will be drawn into reading about how a teenager wasn't given the respect she deserved by the adults leading the NAACP movement. Claudette showed tremendous courage and determination speaking up against the injustices of segregation, and yet she wasn't even invited to participate in the ceremony to end the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
This is a great nonfiction book for middle school and high school students. Phillip Hoose brings the history alive. He presents clear, descriptive background information, fascinating primary sources from newspapers, pamphlets and flyers, and many first-person accounts from interviews with Claudette and others. Hoose clearly conveys all the risks of opposing segregation, along with the courage it took to face those risks. This is a compelling read for students who might think they know it all about this period of history.
I'm so glad to see this nominated for the National Book Award, in their Young People's Literature category. There are other great books nominated - see here for more information. The awards will be presented November 18th.(less)
This book is so much fun to read with toddlers - they'll start playing peekaboo as you're reading the book! Help your children guess who's coming in t...moreThis book is so much fun to read with toddlers - they'll start playing peekaboo as you're reading the book! Help your children guess who's coming in the next page by looking at the clues in the pictures. The beautiful illustrations of a cheerful African American toddler will make you smile, and their rich, pastel colors engage children and draw their attention.(less)