Saturday, February 20, 2010

Slapdash Saturday - Black History Month Titles

I've had these titles hanging around for a while now, awaiting review. Black History Month seemed to be an appropriate time to feature these titles, so hopefully you'll find something you and your family can enjoy together!

Ingalls, Ann and Maryann Macdonald.
The Little Piano Girl: The Story of Mary Lou Williams, Jazz Legend.
January 2010.
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.
Review copy provided courtesy of publisher.

Mary Lou Williams, an African American woman, taught herself to play organ at a very young age after listening to and then repeating the keys she'd heard her mother play. However, when the family had to move north to Philadelphia from Georgia when her step-father was seeking work during the war, Mary's family had to leave the organ behind... there just wasn't room to take it. Meeting much resistance as an African American girl in a new city, Mary felt left out with no friends. However, after being befriended by a lady from church, Lucille, Mary is once again in her element, drawing neighbors to Lucille's house where she can now play the piano, being deemed the "little piano girl." Mary eventually overcomes her hardships in life to go on to become a songwriter for Duke Ellington, Bennie Goodman, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. She is also known for being one of the most powerful women in the history of jazz.

This is a very inspiring children that will hopefully enable children to see that they should search out their dreams... with persistence, determination and hard work, they too can accomplish what they wish!

Learning/Reading Activity:
  • Purchase or borrow from your local library some of Mary Lou Williams' favorite tunes. Listen to the CD with your children and perhaps even research if the songs have special meaning or if they were written based on true-life experiences.
  • The Zodiac Suite
  • My Mama Pinned a Rose on Me
  • Free Spirits
Golenbock, Peter.
March 2010.
Harcourt, Inc.
Guided Reading Level: N
Review copy provided courtesy of publisher.

Another wonderful work for Black History Month, Teammates, offers readers an outlook on a slightly less featured aspect of African Americans in history... their role in sports throughout the years. Here, readers will learn about Jacking Robinson becoming the first African American ball player to depart the Negro League and enter the Major League after being recruited by Brooklyn Dodgers' manager Branch Rickey.

Readers will likely be intrigued at learning all of the hardships and prejudices Robinson faced in his first year on the team. This book is a perfect read for Black History Month, as it discusses in some detail the prejudices that Jackie Robinson, a baseball hero, faced alongside other African Americans.

Learning/Reading Activity:
Hopkinson, Deborah.
First Family.
December 2009.
Review copy provided courtesy of publisher.

Just over a year ago, President Obama was sworn into office as the nation's first African American President. This was a huge feat for the African American population! In part due to the historical importance of this event, and in part due to the fact that this is the first time in many years that there have been young children in the White House, there seems to be an abundance of children's literature about the Obama family. This book give readers an insight into the life of this "historical" family - sharing their daily routines, as well as all that living in the White House provides for the family. The book is full of fun trivia and children will likely to be eager to learn about the White House and the First Family with this book!

Learning/Reading Activity:
  • Moving can be a hard experience for some children - leaving behind friends and family for the unknown. Malia and Sasha were encouraged to feel more comfortable in their White House home by being allowed to decorate their new bedrooms however they wanted. Here, you will find a game that will allow your child(ren) to "virtually" create a bedroom of his/her own (although it does seem to be a bit on the feminine side). The Sims 3, albeit a bit pricey is also another great game for such simulations - the whole family can enjoy this one!
  • The White House Garden is something else that has been in the news over the past year! Talk about the role of gardening in this family. What are the purposes and the importance of gardening to Michelle Obama and her family? Here, you will find a layout of the White House Garden and a blog entry with information about the garden.
  • The White House website is full of information and interesting photos that your family can enjoy!
Shange, Ntozake.
We Troubled the Waters.
October 2009.
Review copy provided courtesy of publisher.

I think this might just be one of the best poetry books that focuses on all aspects of Black History! The poems and artwork is so revealing of the emotions experienced by African Americans that it's almost scary. The poems would be wonderful to share one per day throughout February to open a daily discussion about African Americans were treated in history. I've opted to share a few that especially touched me!

it's lucky for them
they could read
"colored" & "white"
signified who could
drink water from where
they were a bit puzzled
it was just water
but it was against the law
to get confused & have the
white boy drink from the
colored or the colored drink from the white
a serious crime under Jim Crow
  • Discuss and describe the ways in which this poem and artwork could be considered ironic.
bright eyes/books in hand
they simply want a place to learn
but who'll take two little negro girls
they're no danger/no threat
why threaten they right to learn
  • Talk about why the rights of negro children to learn were threatened when they were no threat to other children.
Reading/Learning Activities:
  • After reading and discussing the poems in this book, assign each child/student a different aspect of African American history. Ask each child to compile a poem and then illustrate the poem to accurately depict that even in Black History.

If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to I am an Amazon Affiliate, so any purchases you make after clicking these images will result in my receiving a small percentage of the sale price!