Weekly Nibble: June 5, 2020

I’ve been spending a lot of time listening over the past couple of weeks, trying to figure out how I can be a better ally to the Black Lives Matter movement and learning about ways to help. Sometimes the messages are contradictory, but I feel that I have to take it all in, figure out what I am able to do within my circle of influence, and do that.

In uncertain and turbulent times, as most library professionals do, I turn to books for the answers. I shared some recommended titles on my Instagram stories earlier this week and I’ve had a few friends and colleagues ask that I compile them into a more shareable list.

These are just books that I have personally read that came to me as I was thinking about books I might recommend to children to start conversations about race. My colleagues and I are working on a more comprehensive list of what we have available in our particular collection across age groups (focusing directly on Black voices) that will be coming out soon on our library’s social media platforms.

I would also recommend checking out lists curated by the Black community. Here are a couple of good ones to start with:

20 Black Children’s Books by Black Authors

Children’s Books that Discuss Race and Racism

What follows is the content of my original posts on Instagram Stories (which can still be found under the Book Recs Highlight on my Instagram profile as well):

“I believe that one of the best things we can do to actively fight racism is to read and educate ourselves. White people need to hear and listen to Black voices. As a library worker, I am blessed every day with an opportunity, a platform upon which to elevate those voices in the books I highlight and recommend to the community.

It is important for children of all colors to see Black children represented in literature, and not just in the context of their oppression and struggle, but also in their joy, humor, sense of adventure, triumphs, hopes, and aspirations. They deserve to be portrayed as whole human beings, not just stereotypes or objects of inspiration.

There is still a very long way to go in representation in literature (I’m looking particularly at my favorite genre, fantasy). But there are so many wonderful books that exist for children now that feature people of color in more than just a sidekick role. There are many books that highlight the long-overlooked achievements and societal contributions of our Black citizens. And more and more of them are written by people of color, sharing their own authentic experiences.

I’m going to highlight some of my favorite books to recommend, and I hope you will seek some of them out. These are all children’s books because that’s my specialty, but they (obviously) can be enjoyed by anyone of any age.”

Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks – “A fun, graphic novel sci-fi romp perfect for anyone who fondly remembers Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century.”
The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander & illustrated by Kadir Nelson – “Caldecott and Coretta Scott King award winner along with a Newbery Honor. Kadir Nelson’s illustrations are some of the most powerful I’ve ever seen. He is amazing at capturing the resilience and fortitude of the human spirit. Kwame Alexander is a giant in children’s lit in his own right. This collaboration between the two is a powerful testament to the perseverance of Black Americans.”
Fearless Mary: Mary Fields, American Stagecoach Driver by Tami Charles – “Mary Fields was the first female African American stagecoach driver. She paved the way for other women and African Americans on the frontier and had her own pet eagle. How freaking badass is that?”
Someday Is Now: Clara Luper and the 1958 Oklahoma City Sit-Ins by Olugbemisola Rhoday-Perkovich – “Clara Luper was a teacher who inspired her students to resist and protest during the Civil Rights Movement. Educations is another profession that has an opportunity and an obligation to stand up against racism.”
Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Dee Romito – “A fascinating story about the women who quite literally fed a movement. Another one that I had never heard until I came across this book.”
The Girl with a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague by Julia Finley Mosca – “Raye Montague broke barriers for women and people of color by designing ships for the United States Navy.”
Chasing Space: Young Readers’ Edition by Leland Melvin – “Leland Melvin was a commentator for the SpaceX launch just a few days ago! He overcame a traumatic injury that could have ended his career as an astronaut and has been to space on multiple occasions. And just look at those puppers!”
Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome – “A poetic retrospective look at the life of a well-known abolitionist that will give you all the feels.”
Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton – “Lonnie Johnson is an inventor and engineer who worked for NASA, but perhaps his most fascinating contribution is the invention of the Super Soaker water gun!”
Octopus Stew by Eric Velasquez – “A bilingual celebration of the power of storytelling and imagination to bring families together.”
Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry – “If you’ve seen the Academy Award-winning short film, you know why this is so good. If you haven’t, go watch it (but have some Kleenex handy)!”
Hands Up! by Breanna J. McDaniel – “This book takes a phrase with a negative connotation and spins it to highlight the joyous, human moments of life for a young Black girl. Powerful in its use of symbolism and imagery.”
The Bell Rang by James E. Ransome – “Yet another award-winning book that tells the story of a young girl and her family going about their routine as they are enslaved on a plantation. The same every day until the day her brother makes his escape to freedom.”
The Very Last Castle by Travis Jonker – “A simple story about reaching past barriers of misunderstanding and uncertainty to discover new friends and opportunities. One of our librarians will be sharing this in a storytime coming soon this summer if you want to hear it!”
Stop That Yawn! by Caron Levis – “Gabby takes her Granny on a wild bedtime adventure to stop the yawn that is spreading through her dreamland! Will they be able to stay awake? Every kiddo can relate to the bedtime reluctance and every adult can relate to poor Granny who just wants to go to bed herself.”
Loretta’s Gift by Pat Zietlow Miller & Alea Marley – “Loretta is so excited over the arrival of her new baby cousin, but stresses over the perfect gift to give the baby.”
Kitten and the Night Watchman by John Sullivan – “Another tearjerker. A kind-hearted night watchman discovers a kitten alone at a construction site and adorableness ensues.”
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson – “A story of excitement, anticipation, and nervousness when beginning new things and how isolated a person can feel if no one looks or sounds the way they do.”
I Walk with Vanessa: A Story about a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoët – “A story about solidarity and support in the face of bullying.”
Day at the Beach by Tom Booth – “A story of two siblings enjoying the beach and the struggle of an older sibling trying to break away from a younger one, but realizing that little siblings aren’t always super annoying.”
Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love – “A little boy sees professional mermaids on the subway and decides to become a beautiful mermaid himself. A celebration of acceptance and self-expression.”
The Breaking News by Sarah Lynne Reul – “This book features a multiethnic community coming together over an ambiguous upsetting event. Timely always, it seems unfortunately, but perhaps a good book for starting difficult conversations with young children who are feeling anxious.”
Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson – “Tells the story of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade in 1963.”
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes – “A multiple award-winning, lyrical tribute to the confidence a new haircut can give you. What I wouldn’t give to feel that confidence about my pandemic bangs right now!”
Alfie by Thyra Heder – “The night before Nia’s birthday, her beloved pet turtle, Alfie, disappears! Nia is worried sick about her pet, but then we get to see his side of the story where it turns out, he isn’t lost, but merely searching for the perfect gift for his friend.”
Blue Sky White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus – “Another Kadir Nelson beauty. The text and imagery parallel American symbols of patriotism with images of its people. A moving tribute.”
Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Celia C. Pérez – “A story of friends supporting friends and a good introduction to activism for middle graders.”
Rosie & Crayon by Deborah Marcero – “Tissues necessary for this one too. A book about the loss of a beloved pet that would be beneficial for talking to children who have recently experienced that loss about their feelings.”
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall – “A simple story of a little boy overcoming his fear of the diving board. Great example of facing your fears and pushing past your comfort zone.”
Princess and the Peas by Rachel Himes – “A retelling of the classic fairy tale set in South Carolina and featuring my favorite, black-eyed peas.”

Do you have any recommendations? Please share them! I’d love to hear yours and add to my to-read list!

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