African-American Stories and Images in 2017-2018 Children’s Literature #JACBA Newsletter 8Dec2017

Book Highlight: part 5

This fifth installment of our multi-part series on the 2017 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Ceremony features an introduction given by Book Award Committee Member Sonja Cherry-Paul for Steamboat School: Inspired by a True Story, written by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Ron Husband, published by Disney-Jump at the Sun, an imprint of Disney Book Group, named the Winning Book in the Books for Younger Children category.

Introduction by Sonja Cherry-Paul

Steamboat School: Inspired By A True Story St. Louis, MIssouri 1847, the winner in the Books for Younger Children Category, is written by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Rob Husband and published by Disney-Jump at the Sun, an imprint of Disney Book Group.

“We make our own light here,” Reverend John Meachum proclaims. His statement is a powerful metaphor that Deborah Hopkinson and Ron Husband extend across this poignant picture book to juxtapose the oppression of African-Americans with their resilience, determination, ingenuity, and activism. Inside their church, down the basement steps, and into the darkness, the children in this story attend the Tallow Candle School, led by their Reverend John. Through the eyes of a young boy, James, readers discover the importance of education and the measures African-Americans have had to take to learn. By candlelight, James and his peers learn about Reverend John’s life and the injustices he has endured as a slave and even after he earned enough money to buy his freedom. James names the essential qualities he and his peers soon see in Reverend John: “He believed in hard work and learning” and “He believed in us too.”

One day, the sheriff arrives to announce a new law: African-Americans, enslaved or freed, are not allowed to read or write in the state of MIssouri. But Reverend Meachum will not be deterred. “He’s a force like the Mississippi River itself. And like the river, he’ll find a way,” James’ mother consoles. And sure enough, he does. A steamboat, built by Reverend Meachum and anchored in the middle of the Mississippi River becomes the location for the new Freedom School. Outsmarting the racist law by holding school on the river rather than in the state, Reverend Meachum and his students can now get back to work.

With illustrations that glow as if each scene occurs by candlelight, Husband captures the theme of this book: resilience in the face of injustice. Detailed sepia tones are accented by selective uses of red and blue. The illustrations invite readers to ponder about the symbolic colors of our nation that represent freedom and the myriad ways in which for African Americans, this has been denied. Husband’s expressive illustrations and Hopkinson’s lyrical writing work in tandem to spotlight the struggle for justice and the indomitable resolve of Reverend John Meachum.

For creating a book that invites children to consider how people, especially young people, can break cycles of fear and respond creatively, nonviolently, and humanely to injustice and conflict, it is with great pleasure that we present the Jane Addams Children’s Book award, in the books for younger children category, to author Deborah Hopkinson and illustrator Ron Husband.

Acceptance speech by Deborah Hopkinson


Acceptance speech by Ron Husband

Shared by Maria Elias, book designer

Please arrange to have my acceptance speech read in my absence. May the Jane Addams Committee continue to recognize outstanding children’s literature and illustration in the years to come.
Ron Husband

“With gratitude and pride I accept the 2017 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award for illustrating Steamboat School.

I want to thank the the Jane Addams Committee for recognizing Steamboat School out of the thousands of titles that went to press this past year.

I also want to thank those who made my association with Steamboat School possible and one of the memorable experiences in my life.
-Barbara Nelson who first introduced the project.
-Ken Shue and staff at Disney Publications Word Wide in California.
-Editors Tamson Weston and Rotem Moscovich of Disney/Hyperion Publications New York.
-Author Deborah Hopkinson whose word pictures were the inspiration for my illustrations.
and my wife LaVonne for her continued love and support.

Again, thank you Jane Addams Committee for honoring Steamboat School with this prestigious award.”

African-American Interest Young Reader’s Titles, 2017-2018

The following is a list of African-American interest books for young readers. Compiled from publisher responses to our October PW Call for Information, these titles are publishing between September 2017 and March 2018.

Be a King (Jan., $17.99) by Carole Boston Weatherford, illus. by James E. Ransome, recounts key moments of Dr. King’s life alongside a modern class as the students learn about him. Ages 4-8.

Champion: The Story of Muhammad Ali (Jan., $17.99) by Jim Haskins, illus. by Eric Velasquez. A picture book biography of the most famous boxer of all time. Ages 6-10.

42 Is Not Just a Number (Sept., $15.99) by Doreen Rappaport chronicles the extraordinary life of Jackie Robinson and how his achievements won over-and changed-a segregated nation. Ages 8-12.

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library (Sept., $16.99) by Carole Boston Weatherford, illus. by Eric Velasquez. A profile of the Afro-Puerto Rican law clerk whose life’s passion was to collect books, letters, music, and art from Africa and the African diaspora and bring to light the achievements of people of African descent through the ages. Ages 9-12.

Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! It’s Shoe Time! (Nov., $9.99) by Bryan Collier and Mo Willems turns the closet on its heel and redefines what it means to be a pair. Ages 6-8.

The United States v. Jackie Robinson (Jan., $17.99) by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, illus. by R. Gregory Christie, recalls Jackie Robinson’s courtmartial trial-an important, lesser-known moment in his lifetime of fighting prejudice with strength and grace. Ages 4-8.

Hey Black Child (Nov., $17.99) by Useni Eugene Perkins, illus. by Bryan Collier. A l poem celebrating black children and seeking to inspire all young people to dream big and achieve their goals. Ages 5-8.

Getting Away with Murder (Jan., $10.99) by Chris Crowe revises and updates the Jane Addams Award-winning examination of the Emmett Till murder case, a catalyst of the Civil Rights Movement. Ages 12-up.

Dream March: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the March on Washington (Dec., $4.99) by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illus. by Sally Wern Comport introduces children to the civil rights movement , Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the historic March on Washington. Ages: 5-8.

Grandma’s Purse (Jan., $17.99) by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. Spend the day with Mimi and her granddaughter in this picture book about the magic found in Mimi’s favorite accessory. Ages 3-5.

Frenemies in the Family (Mar., $17.99) by Kathleen Krull, illus. by Maple Lam, takes a humorous look at famous brothers and sisters whose important bonds have shaped their accomplishments… (mostly) for the better. Ages 8-12.

The Journey of Little Charlie (Jan., $16.99) by Christopher Paul Curtis brings his trademark humor and heart to the story of a boy struggling to do right in the face of history’s cruelest evils. Ages 9-12.

Martin Rising: Requiem for a King (Jan., $19.99) by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illus. by Brian Pinkney, uses metaphor, spirituality, and multilayers of meaning to describe the final months of Martin Luther King’s life and his assassination. Ages 9-12.

In Your Hands (Sept., $17.99) by Carole Boston Weatherford, illus. by Brian Pinkney.
In this picture book, a black mother expresses the many hopes and dreams she has for her child. Ages 4-8.

A Night Out with Mama (Oct., $17.99) by Quvenzhane Wallis, illus. by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. A talented girl has a very special night ahead of her–but most special of all, it will be a night out with her mama. Ages 4-8.

Read More

Birmingham, 1963 by Carole Boston Weatherford 2008 Awardee

New Shoes by Susan Lynn Meyer, illustrated by Eric Velasquez 2016 Awardee

Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. written by Doreen Rappaport with artwork by Bryan Collier 2002 Awardee

Trouble at the Mines by Doreen Rappaport 1988 Awardee

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie 2016 Awardee

Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case by Chris Crowe 2004 Awardee

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie 2016 Awardee

We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song written by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton 2014 Awardee

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez, written by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Yuyi Morales 2004 Awardee

Wilma Unlimited, written by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by David Diaz 1997 Awardee

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis 2008 Awardee

The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis 1996 Awardee

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney 2011 Awardee

Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride, by Andrea Davis Pinkney & Brian Pinkney 2010 Awardee

Give the gift of words this year

So, in the spirit of helpfulness that I think is the heart of all libraries, I offer a list of favorite children’s books published in 2017 to consider as potential holiday purchases. All are perfect gifts for the right person, all cost less than $30, and all will bring enjoyment long after the newest electronic game has been mastered. Who could ask for more?

“Blue Sky White Stars” by Sarvinder Naberhaus illustrated by Kadir Nelson. $17.99. Preschool-grade 2. Celebrate what is best about our country.

“Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing and Shout: Games, Songs, and Stories from an African American Childhood” by Patricia McKissack. Illustrated by Brian Pinkney. $24.99. Grades 2-6. The late children’s author left us the gift of her word-rich childhood.

Read More

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson 2012 Awardee

The Village That Vanished written by Ann Grifalconi and illustrated by Kadir Nelson 2003 Awardee

A Long Hard Journey: The Story of the Pullman Porter by Patricia and Fredrick McKissack 1990 Awardee

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney 2011 Awardee

Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride, by Andrea Davis Pinkney & Brian Pinkney 2010 Awardee

NYPL: Here are the 10 ‘showstopper’ children’s books of 2017

According to the NYPL, the committee members read every children’s book published in the United States in 2017 that they could get their hands on.

‘Bravo! Poems About Amazing Hispanics’
A collection of biographical poems, illustrated by Rafael Lopez, that showcases figures from different countries and backgrounds. The book, written by Margarita Engle, is geared toward ages 8 to 12.

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Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal by Margarita Engle 2015 Awardee

The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle 2009 Awardee

Chamber Opera Chicago Announces Holiday Double Bill

Christmas. On Dec. 10 and 17, 2017 COC will present “The Miracle of Light” by Victoria Bond, which received its world premiere last year. The opera will be paired with Gian Carlo Menotti’s holiday favorite “Amahl and the Night Visitors.”

Victoria Bond’s opera was written by New York Times best-selling children’s author and illustrator Susan L. Roth and was commissioned by The Young Peoples Chorus of New York City, who developed the opera in workshop performances. The new production will feature a newly revised version with new music.

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The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families written by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore, illustrated by Susan L. Roth 2012 Awardee

Nominations for NAACP Image award

Five books have been nominated for an award in the category “Outstanding Literary Work – Children.”

“Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court” – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Author), Raymond Obstfeld (With) (Hachette Book Group)

“Before She Was Harriet” – Lesa Cline-Ransome (Author), James E. Ransome (Illustrator) (Holiday House)

“Take a Picture of Me, James VanDerZee!” – Andrea J. Loney (Author), Keith Mallett (Illustrator) (Lee & Low Books)

“The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, A Young Civil Rights Activist” – Cynthia Levinson (Author), Vanessa Brantley-Newton (Illustrator) (S&S Children’s Publishing).

“Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History,” – Vashti Harrison (Author), Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

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We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson 2013 Awardee

We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song written by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton 2014 Awardee

A Q&A With Louise Erdrich, Author of the December #1 Indie Next List Pick

Bookselling This Week: How do you feel now that indie booksellers have chosen Future Home of the Living God as the number-one Indie Next List pick for December?

Louise Erdrich: As the owner of a small independent bookstore, I know that choosing a book to feature is taking a chance. There is limited space, so you must choose wisely. You know many of your customers, and they depend on your suggestion, so you must choose a book that doesn’t let them down. You must choose a book that has integrity. But you also need a book that will sell. As a writer, I don’t think about this, but as a bookseller knowing what getting chosen means, I have to hope that Future Home of the Living God sells like crazy.

And I am highly honored.

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The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich 2000 Awardee

Question for the newly selected leader of the Aspen Institute: “What are two books that have shaped you as a leader?”

A contemporary “Invisible Man” that people don’t know about but should read is “The Circuit” by Francisco Jimenez. It chronicles the story of a Mexican family in the 1950s that crosses the border. And then are migrant farmers on the farming circuits of California properties. Picking cotton. Picking fruit. The kids live in a different shanty or tent or car over the course of that circuit every year, moving from school to school. If someone read “The Circuit” today, they would think about the Dreamers very differently. If they haven’t imagined how hard it is for a child to feel a sense of statelessness, to live in limbo, they should read that book. At the same time, the book is a celebration of the culture of the family that comes to America and how the values of Mexico and the values of America fuse and create more. The author of the book, Francisco Jimenez, lived the story and went on to become one of the greatest college professors in America at Santa Clara [University].

The book ends with a terrible frustration that a reader will feel as the family gets deported. And then you remember there’s more to the story because the little boy grew up to become the author of the story and one of the greatest teachers of not just immigrant kids but of all kids in Santa Clara. I love the way literature allows us to develop an empathetic response to others. And I also just love the beauty of great language and extraordinary scene setting. And I think that literature has played a role in many social movements both in empowering people to feel they have a voice. And also to bring awareness to communities about the needs of others.

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The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child by Francisco Jiménez 1998 Awardee

Tonya Lewis Lee And Nikki Silver’s ToniK Productions’ Film “MONSTER” To Premiere At 2018 Sundance Film Festival

Tonya Lewis Lee and Nikki Silver’s ToniK Productions’ MONSTER to world premiere on Monday, January 22nd at 3PM in the Dramatic Competition of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival taking place from January 18th-28th, 2018 in Park City, Utah.

Written by Radha Blank (She’s Gotta Have It, Empire), Colen C. Wiley and Janece Shaffer, MONSTER is based on the award-winning novel of the same name by Walter Dean Myers. Shot entirely in New York City, MONSTER surrounds the story of 17-year-old honors student Steve Harmon. Steve is an aspiring filmmaker attending an elite high school in New York, and is being charged with felony murder for a crime he says he did not commit. “Monster” is what the prosecutor calls Harmon, but is Steve truly a monster? As Steve’s world comes crashing down around him, the film follows his journey from a smart, likeable young man from Harlem through a complex legal battle that could leave him spending the rest of his life in prison. MONSTER is sure to stimulate conversation in today’s relevant narrative on youth in prisons, excessive sentencing, peer pressure, and likeminded issues.

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Now Is Your Time! The African-American Struggle for Freedom by Walter Dean Myers 1992 Awardee

Patrol: An American Soldier in Vietnam by Walter Dean Myers 2003 Awardee

The anti-Disney princess, ‘The Breadwinner’ is painful, sad – and arresting

This is no Disney princess adventure. With the Taliban imposing harsh Islamic restraints on her city, Parvana’s daily life is brutish. She works in a marketplace from a blanket spread on the ground alongside her father, a former history teacher crippled after the bombing of his school. The soldiers use thou-shalt-not beatings to violently control intellectuals, repress women and keep public life under control.

Distressing as it is, the film draws you into the characters’ lives. This is the first chapter in an award-winning series of novels by Ellis about her headstrong heroine Parvana. Give it a try. You may see her again.

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The Heaven Shop by Deborah Ellis 2005 Awardee

The Breadwinner Trilogy, three books by Deborah Ellis 2004 Awardee

Parvana’s Journey by Deborah Ellis 2003 Awardee


An extraordinary human being and a tireless activist in the battle for justice for farm workers, Dolores Huerta has been US history’s forgotten hero. Peter Bratt’s moving documentary Dolores is a fascinating revelation of this woman’s story and the huge impact she has had on civil rights for the immigrant labourer.

An eye-opening documentary, Dolores is a wake-up call to all of us about the vital importance of emerging from limited perceptions of life to a greater awareness and understanding of our common humanity, and the full recognition of our heroes, unhampered by racism and sexism.

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Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers, written by Sarah Warren and illustrated by Robert Casilla 2013 Awardee

Children’s book ideas for rewarding holiday gifts

Author/illustrator Kadir Nelson has consistently produced books of beauty in both look and content and has been the recipient of both the Coretta Scott King Author and Illustrator Awards. His If You Plant a Seed (for ages 4-7) is no exception. With little text and gorgeous artwork, Nelson tells the story of a rabbit and a mouse who plant a garden only to come into conflict with a number of birds when the food is ready to eat. It is a simple story of the importance of kindness and cooperation but it is one children will want to read again and again.

Nelson is the illustrator for Sarvinder Naberhaus’s Blue Sky White Stars (ages 6-8), a stunning pairing of Nelson’s paintings and Naberhaus’ spare text. Each two-page spread displays parallels between the American flag and the physical beauty of America as well as the hopes and dreams of the diverse peoples it represents. This book provides an opportunity for a discussion on what America has been and what it could be.

A girl becoming a drummer doesn’t sound very unusual in the 21st century, but almost 100 years ago in Cuba it was unheard of. Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music (ages 4-7) by Margarita Engle is based on the true story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who wouldn’t give up her dream of being a drummer. The rhythmic prose has a drum-like quality that plays perfectly with the story. Drum Dream Girl will be an inspiration to girls (and boys) everywhere who want to grow up and follow their own inner drummer wherever it may lead them.

The book that has had the greatest impact on me recently is Lauren Wolk’s Wolf Hollow (ages 10-16). Set in rural Pennsylvania in 1943, it’s the story of 12-year-old Annabelle whose life is turned upside down by the arrival of a new girl at her school. Betty bullies Annabelle, but Toby, a World War I veteran who lives by himself in the woods and is considered odd by the townsfolk, comes to her defense. Annabelle gets to know Toby and learns something of his history. But Betty tells a lie about Toby, and as a result these three lives are forever changed. This is a tale that will haunt you for days after you’ve finished it.

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Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson 2012 Awardee

The Village That Vanished written by Ann Grifalconi and illustrated by Kadir Nelson 2003 Awardee

Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal by Margarita Engle 2015 Awardee

The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle 2009 Awardee

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk 2017 Awardee

The Jane Addams Children’s Book Award annually recognizes children’s books of literary and aesthetic excellence that effectively engage children in thinking about peace, social justice, global community, and equity for all people.

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