A Flag for Juneteenth (Kim Taylor)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Flag for Juneteenth by Kim Taylor, a stunning tale of emancipation and hope told through a unique medium.

The morning of June 19, 1865, young Huldah, an enslaved Texan, wakes up with anticipation; she is eager to have the teacakes her family made to celebrate her tenth birthday. However, their morning is shaken when a large group of soldiers rides into the plantation housing area, and a uniformed man jumps down to make a shocking decree: by order of the president, all slaves are free, and have been for two years. Huldah’s family and her neighbors burst into cheering, singing, crying, and prayers, and declare the day to be a jubilee. They get to work sewing freedom flags and carving flagpoles, all while Huldah observes. Her birthday has taken on new meaning, as it is now the birth of something else: her family’s freedom.

Powerful. The first thing that readers of this title will likely notice is the outstanding art style, in which the scenes are created through quilted collage, echoing the craftwork of the impromptu freedom flags. Taylor’s master craftwork is striking, managing to create atmosphere and emotion through her featureless characters. The story is likewise skillfully created, with immaculate pacing in particular; Taylor intersperses moments of quiet contemplation and explosive energy in a way that allows the reader to better connect to Huldah’s emotions. This is not a comprehensive overview of Juneteenth, but gives an intimate perspective from a child’s point of view that readers, especially young ones, will undoubtedly connect with. The length is fine for a storytime, and JJ and I both really enjoyed this one. Absolutely worth the read, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Love is Loud: How Diane Nash Led the Civil Rights Movement (Sandra Neil Wallace)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Love is Loud: How Diane Nash Led the Civil Rights Movement, written by Sandra Neil Wallace and illustrated by Bryan Collier, a lyrical, biographical picture book about using love to fight for equality.

Born in Chicago in 1938, Diane Nash grew up in comparatively less-segregated world, by family members who instilled her a sense of worth, righteousness, and equality. Moving to Tennessee to attend college, Diane was humiliated and enraged to see the way that Jim Crow segregation dehumanized black Americans, and made the decision that it was her duty to fight for justice – not with violence, but with love. Diane spearheaded several famous peaceful protests and demonstrations, including the sit-ins at Nashville lunch counters. Diane went on to speak, organize, and lead many more protests, at a time when women’s contributions to the civil rights movement were largely ignored. And through it all, she approached every challenge with peace, understanding, and love, to leave a better and more equal world for future generations.

Fascinating. As Wallace subtly points out in her text, the contributions of the female activists of the civil rights movement are so often forgotten, so reading this powerful recounting of Diane Nash’s work, as well as how deeply it was tied to her character and personal history, was an edifying experience. Wallace’s text, while not rhyming, still utilizes rhythm and turns of phrase that make it delightful to read aloud, though that does leave some details of Nash’s work vague, such as when she suddenly turns up in Vietnam with little explanation (these details are fleshed out in the book’s backmatter, however). Collier’s watercolor-and-collage illustrations are bright, bold, and colorful, and perfectly capture Nash’s indefatigable spirit. The length is best for older elementary readers, but JJ and I enjoyed it. Overall, a great book about a very cool lady, and we recommend it – Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

You So Black (Theresa tha S.O.N.G.B.I.R.D.)

Hello, friends! Our book today is You So Black, written by Theresa tha S.O.N.G.B.I.R.D. and illustrated by London Ladd, a glorious celebration of black beauty and pride.

The phrase “you so black” is often used to open a taunt or insult, but what is insulting about having black skin? What is insulting about carrying a cultural history, a family history, in glowing features or in a crown of textured hair? Black is beautiful, strong, brilliant, graceful, and so much more. Black is power, possibility, and promise. Simply put, black skin is nothing to be ashamed of; it shines, as it holds such luminous beings within it.

Beautiful. Theresa tha S.O.N.G.B.I.R.D.’s original poem, a powerful reclamation of a phrase typically as a racist and colorist disparagement, translates perfectly to picture book form, with short and lyrical statements that read with conviction and certainty. Paired with Ladd’s explosively expressive art, the final product is a book that assertively assures young black readers of their value. Notably, Ladd’s illustrations focus almost exclusively on characters whose skin lies on the darker end of the skintone spectrum, a heartwarming thing to see when so many children’s books with characters of color still lean heavily toward light-skinned representation. One note: God – capital G – is mentioned twice in the poem as being tied to blackness, something to think about for non-religious readers going in. Otherwise, the length is perfect, this was a joy to read aloud, and JJ loved the beautiful artwork. A must-read for young black bookworms, and emphatically Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Ida B. Wells, Voice of Truth (Michelle Duster)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Ida B. Wells, Voice of Truth, written by Michelle Duster and illustrated by Laura Freeman, a powerful profile of an incredible activist and writer.

Born into slavery in 1862, Ida began her professional career at only sixteen, when she became a school teacher to support her five younger siblings. Shortly after, she began writing, often on social and political topics that (by the standards of the time) no woman of color had any business writing about. At 22, she sued a major railroad corporation for discrimination, and won (though the ruling was later overturned in appeals). Ida wrote about her experiences with the railroad, with segregated schools, and with the racism and sexism she experienced daily. When three of her friends were lynched by white rival business owners, Ida encouraged boycotts in her newsletters, something that put her life in danger. Yet Ida never stopped – she continued to fight for minority and women’s rights until her death in 1931, leaving a legacy that continues to inspire activists and community organizers to this day.

Stirring. Wells was certainly ahead of her time as a writer and activist, and this look at her life does a wonderful job of exploring both her immense body of work and the motivations and drive behind it. Duster, who offers a truly unique perspective as Wells’s great-granddaughter, tells her ancestor’s story with a great balance of informative facts and emotional pull; the sequence that covers the lynching murders of Wells’s friends in Memphis and the subsequent fallout is particularly affecting. Freeman’s illustrations are compelling, both visually and emotionally, and truly feel like snapshots of Well’s life and times. The length and subject matter are best for older elementary readers, but JJ was certainly captivated by the story and artwork. Overall, this is an impressive and stirring tale of a figure more than deserving of recognition, and we highly recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Bold Words From Black Women: Inspiration and Truths from 50 Extraordinary Leaders Who Helped Shape Our World (Dr. Tamara Pizzoli)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Bold Words From Black Women: Inspiration and Truths from 50 Extraordinary Leaders Who Helped Shape Our World, written by Dr. Tamara Pizzoli and illustrated by Monica Ahanonu, a gorgeous collection of black female icons and their wise words.

“To say that in order to be accepted we must be stripped of everything that makes us unique is faulty in its very premise.” – Yara Shahidi. This stirring quote, along with 49 others from the same number of brilliant, bold, brave and beautiful black women fill the pages of this absolutely stunning compendium. Each two-page spread features a colorful portrait of its subject alongside an empowering quote and a short blurb on the woman quoted and the quote’s origin. Readers will meet actors, singers, athletes, writers, scientists, politicians, activists, world leaders and more, and be left feeling encouraged, enriched, and inspired by the final page.

A masterpiece. The combination of this masterfully-compiled group of women, their powerful words, and the incredibly eye-catching art and design is a recipe for a perfect title, and Pizzoli and Ananonu deliver, big time. Pizzoli wisely balances her lineup of subjects; there are women from history and modern icons, household names and lesser-known heroes, and women that not only represent a wide range of professions, but also hairstyles, body types, and skintones. Polymaths are identified as such (such as “Dee Dee Bridgewater / Jazz singer. Producer. Songwriter. UN goodwill ambassador.”). The artwork is absolutely striking, employing pop art and color blocking to create powerful larger-than-life portraits. This one takes longer than a storytime to get through, but the large print and remarkable art makes it a title for all ages; JJ and I both loved it. One quibble: actor Amandla Stenberg, who identifies as non-binary, is misgendered by her inclusion. It would have been nice if her blurb had at least mentioned her gender identity, but it did not. Beyond that, this is a flawless book. And while all readers will have something positive to take away from it, the value that this one has for young black girls is limitless. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)