October is Black History Month in the United Kingdom. If you are an educator, here are some books for you to check out. There are middle-grade, YA, fiction and non-fiction books in this collection.
Told through the eyes of Velazquez’s slave and assistant, this vibrant novel depicts both the beauty and the cruelty of 17th century Spain and tells the story of Juan, who was born a slave and died a respected artist. My review
“We are a family on a journey to a place called wonderful” is the motto of Deza Malone’s family.
Deza is the smartest girl in her class in Gary, Indiana, singled out by teachers for a special path in life. But the Great Depression hit Gary hard, and there are no jobs for black men. When her beloved father leaves to find work, Deza, Mother, and her older brother Jimmie go in search of him, and end up in a Hooverville outside Flint, Michigan. Jimmie’s beautiful voice inspires him to leave the camp to be a performer, while Deza and Mother find a new home, and cling to the hope that they will find Father.
The twists and turns of their story reveal the devastation of the Depression and prove that Deza truly is the Mighty Miss Malone. My review
Day or two later
Freedom is one of the first words I teached myself to write. Down in the Quarters people pray for freedom – they sing ’bout freedom, but to keep Mas’ Henley from knowin’ their true feelings, they call freedom “heaven.” Everybody’s mind is on freedom.
But it is a word that aine never showed me no picture. While fannin’ this afternoon, my eyes fell on “freedom” in a book William was readin’. No wonder I don’t see nothin’. I been spellin’ it F-R-E-D-U-M.
I put the right letters in my head to make sure I remembered their place. F-R-E-E-D-O-M. I just now wrote it. Still no picture… My review
In the summer of 1968, after travelling from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to spend a month with the mother they barely know, eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters arrive to a cold welcome as they discover that their mother, a dedicated poet and printer, is resentful of the intrusion of their visit and wants them to attend a nearby Black Panther summer camp.
In a humorous and breakout book by Williams-Garcia, the Penderwicks meet the Black Panthers.
Viva Durant, New Orleans’ youngest detective, is on a quest to solve a jazzy mystery involving hidden treasure, while exploring the city’s unique culture, history, and music. This family-friendly audio original features original jazz music from the creator, Ashli St. Armant, and an enthusiastic performance from Audible Hall of Fame narrator, Bahni Turpin.
Plucky 14-year-old Viva Durant heads to New Orleans every summer to spend time with her loving but stern grandmother, known as Gram. After Gram reads Viva an article in the local paper about a missing treasure related to the world-famous song, “Miss Mary Mack,” Viva traverses the Crescent City on an epic adventure to solve the mystery. Along the way she meets some of the city’s most colorful characters as her journey takes her to the French Quarter, a jazz club, a creepy cemetery, and even the circus. Can Viva rise to the occasion and solve this musical mystery? Listeners will find Viva Durant and the Secret of the Silver Buttons a joy to listen to! My review
Both harrowing and life-affirming, the final novel from Carnegie Medal-winning author Mal Peet is the sweeping coming-of-age adventure of a mixed race boy transported to North America.
Born from a street liason between a poor young woman and an African soldier in the 1900s, Beck is soon orphaned and sent to the Catholic Brothers in Canada. Shipped to work on a farm, his escape takes him across the continent in a search for belonging. Enduring abuse and many hardships, Beck has times of comfort and encouragement, eventually finding Grace, the woman with whom he can finally forge his life and shape his destiny as a young man. A picaresque novel set during the Depression as experienced by a young black man, it depicts great pain but has an uplifting and inspiring conclusion. My review
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice. My review
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.
Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share. My review
Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age—and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns that love for herself, the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.
Poetic and powerful, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings will touch hearts and change minds for as long as people read.
The #1 New York Times Bestseller. Set amid the civil rights movement, the never-before-told true story of NASA’s African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America’s space program. Before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as ‘Human Computers’, calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts, these ‘coloured computers’ used pencil and paper to write the equations that would launch rockets and astronauts, into space. Moving from World War II through NASA’s golden age, touching on the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War and the women’s rights movement, ‘Hidden Figures’ interweaves a rich history of mankind’s greatest adventure with the intimate stories of five courageous women whose work forever changed the world. My review