In celebration of Black History Month, we recommend some books that explore Black history and identity.
In the same vein as Matthew A. Cherry and Vashti Harrison’s book, Hair Love, My Fade Is Fresh celebrates the self-confidence of little Black girls and the pride they have in styling their hair. In the book, a little girl goes to a barbershop with her mother. There are so many beautiful hairstyles to choose from over there and the clients and her mother suggest them all: parts, perms, frizzy fros, dye jobs, locs, and even cornrows! But the little girl wants the flyest, freshest fade on the block and she stays true to herself and leaves the shop feeling on top with the look she picks! Author Shauntay Grant’s sweet, rhyming story encourages young girls to be self-confident and celebrates the many shapes and forms Black hair can take. Through their stunning illustrations, Kitt Thomas is able to bring life and movement to the versatile styles featured in this book. This is an empowering picture book about the importance of speaking up for what you want. Grades Preschool-2
This book could almost be a companion piece to the movie Till, which was released last year, about the lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955. Ghost Boys follows the story of twelve-year-old Jerome, who is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing. Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened, on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended his life. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, who grapples with her father’s actions. Author, Jewell Parker Rhodes, deftly weaves historical and socio-political layers into a gripping and poignant story about how children and families face the complexities of today’s world, and how one boy grows to understand American blackness in the aftermath of his own death. Grades 5-8
Reaching for Starlight is a play by Donna-Michelle St. Bernard that follows Reenie, a dancer who wants to follow her mother’s footsteps and be a professional dancer. Reenie is part of an ensemble and like the others, she believes she has what it takes to earn the coveted solo at the year-end recital. But when she notices that their strict maestra is not holding everyone to the same “traditional” standard—particularly Maia, the other Black girl in the class—Reenie is determined to stop her friend from being counted out of the competition. Frustrated with not being understood by her mother and filled with a new-found passion to fight a broken system, Reenie hatches a plan with her classmates but doesn’t realize where her quick journey towards justice missed the mark with her friend. Reaching for Starlight is a compassionate story about the way we are told to move through a world not made for us, whether together or alone. Grades 6-8