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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Black History Month books for Kids

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Front covers of “The Last Stand,” “Everywhere Beauty is Harlem,” and “Fighting With Love: The Legacy of John Lewis.” (Photo provided/Terri Schlichenmeyer)

You know your history.

You know about slavery and Jim Crow and Harriet Tubman and Malcolm X. You know about all those things, and more. So now make sure your child knows, too, by bringing home these great Black History Month books for kids…

Since forever, African Americans have been first-rate gardeners and farmers and in “The Last Stand” by Antwan Eady, illustrated by Jarrett and Jerome Phumphrey (Knopf, $18.99), Mr. Earl’s grandson worries about his Papa, who runs a farmer’s market.

Two summers ago, there were five people with country roadside stands. Now, it’s just Mr. Earl. What will the people in their community do if there’s no fresh produce or fresh eggs? Who will have peppers for Mr. Johnny or pumpkins for Ms. Rosa? What will happen on the day when Papa’s “too tired” to go to his market stall? This book, and the stories it can lead to, will help your 3-to-5-year-old learn more about everyday Black history.

If your ancestors came North in the Great Migration, then you’ll want to bring “Everywhere Beauty is Harlem” by Gary Golio, art by E.B. Lewis (Calkins Creek, $18.99).

When photographer Roy DeCarava came to Harlem in the early 1940s, he landed in Harlem. And so, after work every evening, he slipped film into his camera, and he went hunting for treasures – not gold or jewels, but people. A man snoozing on the subway, a little boy drawing with sidewalk chalk, an artist standing streetside with his wares, not one of them escaped his notice. Looking into the eyes of those people he captured on film, “Roy sees Harlem.”

Your 3-to-7-year-old will want to see, too. Be sure to read the biography at the end of this tale, so you can give your child the full, authentic story.

And finally, if your 6-to-9-year-old needs to know about a legend, read “Fighting With Love: The Legacy of John Lewis” by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome (Simon & Schuster, $18.99).

Here, your child will learn that John Lewis was the son of a sharecropper, and he dreamed of a better life. He wanted an education, and he sneaked out and got one. He was a teenager before he heard the words “justice” and “segregation,” and he knew instantly that they were important. When he left on a bus to go to Seminary school, his mother warned him not to get in trouble, but how could he not?

“Fighting with Love” is wonderfully illustrated but the story’s longer and much more in-depth. You may find in the picture book section for little kids, but older children are the right audience for it.  For them, this is a great introduction to Lewis’s life, and to historical biographies in general.

If you need more Black History Month reading for your child, or if you’ve got older kids itching to learn more, too, then ask your favorite librarian or bookseller for help. For any age, and any month, that’s the place to find books to know your history. 

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