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Black History Month: Thursday Book Review

February 9th, 2023

New books

“My Red, White, and Blue,” written by Alana Tyson, with illustrations by London Ladd (Philomel/Penguin Random House, 2023, all ages, $18.99). The art in this book… I don’t even know where to start. It’s gripping, beautiful, warm, inviting, solid, and standing back a little way, by itself, assessing everything. The topic, too, is serious: What about the American flag? What does it mean to you? Does it represent all of us, or just some of us? What about its history? 

A profoundly moving, important, timely book.

Ladd’s art is outstanding — he uses acrylic paint, cut paper and tissue paper, and the impact is something else. As the author says, plainly and clearly, in a note in the back, “For as long as there has been a United States of America, there has been inequality for Black people within it.” 

I ask, Isn’t it time for our country to get this one right? Isn’t that long overdue?  

New books

“Justice Rising: 12 Amazing Black Women in the Civil Rights Movement,” by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrated by Kim Holt (Viking/Penguin Random House, 2023, ages 4 and older, $18.99). Read and learn about Ella Baker, Ruby Bridges, Claudette Colvin, Dorothy Cotton, Fannie Lou Hamer, Coretta Scott King, Diane Nash, Rosa Parks, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Gloria Richardson, Jo Ann Robinson, Sheyann Webb and the Freedom Marchers. Say their names.

The art is beautiful, just like these Queens, and the quotes and reference materials are useful. I am honored to be reviewing this book, and the others mentioned today. I just wanted to say that it is an honor.

New books

“What Does Being Brown Mean to You?” written and illustrated by Ron Grady (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, 2023, all ages, $18.99). Beautiful picture book inspired by the author’s preschool students. This is a keeper of a book and one to be passed down to the grandkids, and purchased for classrooms and libraries.

A cool new autobiography (in picture book format) by Raphael G. Warnock, “Put Your Shoes on & Get Ready!” illustrated by TeMika Grooms, is next on my list. Georgia’s first black senator has an amazing story to tell. Speak it, sir! Glad to see this splendid book arrive. In addition to serving the people of Georgia, Warnock also serves as the senior pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church of Atlanta. (Philomel/Penguin Random House, 2023, all ages, $19.99.)

“Dear Yesteryear,” by Kimberly Annece Henderson (author/photographer) and Ciara LeRoy (letterer) (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2023, all ages, $18.99). Extremely cool photography book, compiled by Henderson, a historical researcher, curator and librarian based in New York City.

Henderson focuses on geneaology and Black American lineages. From her bio: “She has facilitated digital projects for the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, in Harlem.” Her work is impressive, and the images she has gathered are stunning, captivating, incredible. We are blessed to have them. “To my dear yesteryears,” the book begins, “Stony the road, you’ve walked this earth and paved the way I now call home.”

“My Fade Is Fresh,” by Shauntay Grant, illustrated by Kitt Thomas (Penguin Workshop/Penguin Random House, 2022, ages 3 and up, $17.99). We used to joke, It’s better to look good than to feel good. But looking good and feeling good? That’s the best. The star of this picture book knows exactly how she wants her hair cut and styled, even when everyone around her is shouting out their opinions on the subject. Vibrant art and a great story.

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