Throwback Thursday: Nikki Grimes and Black History Month

For this edition of Throwback Thursday, I walked into the Library knowing I wanted this week's theme to be Black History Month, and our librarian Deimosa coincidentially had a stack of books that would be perfect already on her desk. She handed them to me.

"I found these years ago in the Archives, and I just thought they were so cool," she told me.

These four books are part of the six book collection called, The Scholastic Black Literature Series. They were originally published in the early 1970s in cooperation with Los Angeles City Schools. These books feature reprinted poems, essays, stories, and illustrations from notable African-American writers and artists. Each book also includes biographies for all the contributors. I was so ready to take a deep dive into this series until Deimosa said, 

"I blogged about them on OOM already.

So rather than reinventing the wheel, I highly recommend you check out Deimosa's Throwback Bookday post (what an amazing series title–this is not sarcasm!) from when she originally discovered this great series.

We shifted gears to focus on specific authors, and the name Nikki Grimes popped up since she was recently honored by the American Library Association (more on that in a bit!). Here's a bit about her: Born in October 1950, Nikki Grimes, according to her website, is a "bestselling author and a prolific artist [who] has written many award-winning books for children and young adults."

Earlier this year, Ms. Grimes was awarded the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award at the ALA's Midwinter Conference for her "substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children." Her first novel, Growin', was released in 1977. Here's a short description: Pump, short for Pumpkin, reels after the death of her father, then finds healing in a new neighborhood, with a new best friend named Jim Jim, in Washington Heights, New York.

We headed down to the Archives in search of some Nikki Grimes titles, and here's what we found.

1997's Wild, Wild Hair, illustrated by George Ford. A Level 3 Scholastic Reader book. "A humorous story in rhyming couplets about a young girl who'd rather do almost anything rather than sit to get her hair braided. Of course, she loves it in the end."

1994's Meet Danitra Brown, illustrated by Floyd Cooper. A Coretta Scott King Honor Book for illustrations. "This story in verse was the first of many. Here, the dynamic friendship of Danitra Brown and Zuri Jackson takes shape." Note: Scholastic was not the original publisher of this title, but did sell it though Book Clubs. (Check out the Trumpet logo in the bottom left-hand corner on the cover.)

Last but most definitely not least: 2002's Talkin’ About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman, illustrated by E. B. Lewis. A Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner and Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book. "A biography in verse, this multi-voiced story follows the life of the first African American female pilot, Bessie Coleman, who carved her own place in the history of aviation." The edition we found in the Archives was even autographed by the illustrator! Deimosa had no idea and laughed a bit when she saw it, since there was no indication that it was an autographed edition in the catalogue. You'll never know what you'll find the the Scholastic Archives!

Nikki Grimes has tons more books for readers of all ages, including poetry collections. Check out her website for a full bibliography!

Special thanks to Librarian Deimosa Webber-Bey for her ongoing help with this series!

Gina Asprocolas