The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore (Vaunda Micheaux Nelson)

Hello, everyone! It’s Friday again, so we’re continuing our Black History Month book series with The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore, written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, the story of the National Memorial African Bookstore as told through the eyes of Lewis Michaux, Jr.

Lewis’s dad runs a bookstore in Harlem, over which hangs a sign that reads “House of Common Sense and the Home of Proper Propaganda.” Lewis tells the story of his father, Lewis Sr., and his “book itch,” i.e. his passion for books and the impact they can make on the world. From Lewis Sr.’s early days of peddling books from a cart, to being turned down for bank loans for his store (being told “black folk don’t read” as the reason), to his self-financed store becoming a hub of knowledge, culture, and civil rights activism.

This is an incredible book. Now, right out the gate, I would give a content warning: this book covers the assassination of Malcolm X (a close friend of Lewis Sr.), and it’s both jarring and sorrowful (as the subject should be). But if you feel okay with your littles reading it, this book is an absolute must-read. It focuses on civil rights, not only historically but as a basic human entitlement, the powers of literature, education, free thought, access to information, and the importance of community, all while telling the story of a remarkable man who believed that knowledge was the right and obligation of every man, woman and child, regardless of color, creed, or status. Gorgeous art compliments an inspiring story, the length is manageable for baby bookworms, and JJ loved it. This one will be making its way into our library, and we can’t recommend it enough. Baby Bookworm approved!

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