Biographies: Black Men

img_3983Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of young John Lewis by Jabari Asim and E. B. Lewis. (Nancy Paulsen Books; 2016)
I remember reading about John Lewis adopting his family’s chickens as his congregation when he was a child. Asim details this time in Lewis’ life as a character building activity. The muted water color illustrations take us to dusty, hard working times of days gone by.
“Trusting God was easy. Work was a harder bargain.”

Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History by Walter Dean Myers and Floyd Cooper; Harper, 2017
img_3979Walter Dean Myers use the theme of ‘voice’ to develop the story of Frederick Douglass. Myers gets to the core of Douglass’ humanity by examining his desire to read. Artist Floyd Cooper uses sepia shading throughout this book. The faces expressions are filled with emotion, bringing life to the story. I think the full color background of the pages with light (and sometimes white) text could be problematic for readers with visual disabilities.
Douglass believed that by reading, he could speak and enunciate clearly. After grasping his own freedom, Douglass became a speaker and an author who opposed slavery.
“His voice, born in the soft tones of the slave population, truly became a lion’s roar.”

Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Capture Black and White America by Carole img_3981Boston Weatherford and Jamey Christoph; Albert Whitman & Co; 2015
Weatherford writes about Parks’ career as a photographer for social justice. In this book, young readers get a sense of how a person can build a career around something in which they believe through the example of one of America’s greatest photographs. Her About page fills in the details of the story presented. Original photos document some of the images in the book however, there are no source notes. The books would be perfect for independent reading by elementary students.
“Yet, she dares to dream of – and strive for – better. Through Gordon’s lens, her struggle gained a voice. You don’t have to hear her story to know her prayer.”

Duke Ellington by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney; Hyperion Books 1998
img_3976Davis uses language to take us to a time when swing was the thing and Edward Kennedy Ellington was the Duke. Brian Pinkney’s etchings swirl rhythmic movement into the dancer, the musicians and their instruments. It’s hard to believe someone who resented practicing the piano could rise to fame so quickly, but Ellington did. The Pinkney’s present a light, fun approach to a gifted musician.
“For all those homebodies out in radio-lovers’ land- folks who only dreamed of sitting pretty at the Cotton- the show helped them feel like they were out on the town. Duke’s Creole Love Call was spicier than a pot of jambalaya. His Mood Indigo was a musical stream that swelled over the airwaves.”

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