We all know that February is Black History Month. We and our children have been doing book reports on famous Americans for years. In 1976, President Gerald Ford declared it official, urging Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Last month we honored Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday. Let’s look at some of our authors.
Author Alexander Kwame has written several books for young people. Solo is the latest. This one deals with a seventeen-year-old boy having to come to terms with his rock star father’s addictions, the tabloids, and his own identity. Booked tells of a twelve year old boy who loves soccer and hates books. He soon learns of the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home and bullies.
Maya Angelou has long been a favorite author. Her books are not new, but always worth reading. Mom & Me & Mom is the latest that we have. Great Food, All Day Long: Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart is full of her recipes and provides tips for entertaining and portion control. Letter to My Daughter contains essays and poem offering life lessons to all the young women she considers her extended family. Her most famous book is an autobiography still required reading in some schools. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is her own story, from childhood to professional dancer, actress, journalist, television producer and poet.
An author I recommend is Newbery Award winner Christopher Paul Curtis. His books for young people are realistically harsh and compelling. The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 was the first one I read. Millis Road students pushed me to read it; the cover is shades of brown and not inviting. Funny, sad, and scary all describe this page-turner as a Michigan family travels to Alabama during the Civil Rights era. Bud, Not Buddy was the second of his books. It tells the story of a foster kid, with humor to soften the terrible truths of his life. Bud runs away to find the famous man that he thinks is his father. Both have been used as Battle of the Books selections. Curtis’ later books include The Mighty Miss Malone, Elijah of Buxton, and Bucking the Sarge.
Another recommended author is Jacqueline Woodson who writes for every age from picture books to adult fiction. My favorite is The Other Side, a picture book of two little girls who want to be friends but their mother call them away. Little ones don’t seem to see color. Her Brown Girl Dreaming, written in free-verse about growing up in the North and South, won many awards. Another Brooklyn tells the story of three friends growing up in the 70s.
Celebrate this year by reading something you haven’t read before. Branch out. Try authors different than your old standbys.