One of my earliest memories from elementary school is writing a report on legendary athlete and civil rights pioneer Jackie Robinson. As a child, I was amazed by Robinson’s athletic prowess and his courage in becoming the first black man to play major league baseball in the 20th century. It was then that I realized the world I grew up in was a better place because of Jackie Robinson.
On my first day of work at Scholastic, I was given a copy of Testing the Ice (Ages 7-10) written by Sharon Robinson, daughter of Jackie Robinson, and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. In this book, I learned that Jackie Robinson was not only a pioneer in sports and the civil rights movement, but he was also a dedicated family man whose bravery extended far beyond the baseball field.
February is Black History Month, a time when we celebrate the achievements of Jackie Robinson and other African Americans in U.S. history who have shaped our nation. Here at OOM, we believe the best way to celebrate any holiday or momentous occasion is to read.
With that in mind, here are some book suggestions for all ages:
Under the Same Sun by Sharon Robinson and illustrated by A.G. Ford (Ages 5+)
Sharon Robinson’s latest picture book is a moving intergenerational story about the importance of family and knowing one’s own heritage. Under the Same Sun is set around a trip to celebrate her mother Rachel Robinson’s 85th birthday in Tanzania, East Africa. It is a masterful true story that gives African-American history a powerful new perspective. Luminous oil paintings by AG Ford reflect the warmth and spirit, as well as the joys and pains of a close family living between two continents.
I Am series by Grace Norwich (Ages 7-10)
This series of short, accessible biographies chronicles the lives of key figures whose passion and heroism has made the world a better place. Recent installments include profiles of Martin Luther King Jr. and Harriet Tubman. Each book features illustrations throughout, a timeline, an introduction to the people you'll meet in the book, maps, and a top ten list of important things to know about each person profile. It’s a must-have for librarians of budding historians.
Seeing Red by Kathryn Erskine (Ages 10-14)
In Seeing Red, National Book Award winner Kathryn Erskine deftly weaves a moving story of family, friendship, and race relations. Inspired by the grave racial segregation she witnessed during her own childhood, first in South Africa and then in the American South, Kathryn Erskine delivers a coming-of-age story written in the tradition of American Southern storytelling that is both enlightening and empowering. This book is a great way for readers to understand what life was like during the Civil Rights movements for young people and how some people took it upon themselves to promote racial and social equality in their own communities.
OOM readers, what books do you like to read to commemorate Black History Month?