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In Honor of Black History Month: Some Awesome African American Authors

by Miriam Downey 27. February 2013 07:32

February is Black History month. Over the past months, I have included many books in my blog postings that tell the stories of African American history in picture books, novels, and biographies. But, oh, there are so many books, and so little time! Every year, the American Library Association awards the Coretta Scott King Award to the outstanding contributor to African American literature and gives out awards to several honor books as well.

This year's author award recipients were Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney for the books Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America (grades 4 and up). This is the story of ten men, each from a different era and with a different background who had a part in the growth of America. They are included in what the author calls a "freedom chain" of hands, drawing inspiration from the past and moving to the future. Other books by the Pinkneys that you will want to read include a companion book, Let it Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters (grade 4 and up), which was a Coretta Scott King honor book in a previous year. By the way, any book by the Pinkneys is worth reading.

The illustrator award went to Bryan Collier for his book I Too Am American for grades 1 and up, which is a picture book version of a poem by Langston Hughes. it is a tribute to the porters on the Pullman railroad cars. Collier is a well known African American illustrator. He won the Coretta Scott King award for his book Uptown and a Caldecott Honor Award for one of my favorites, Martin's Big Words.

The other author award winning book was Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson for grades 2-5. This is a novel about relationships, bullying, and economic difficulties. Another of her books is The Other Side for grades 1-4 which is about the right side and the wrong side of the tracks.

The honor book for illustration went to Daniel Minter for Ellen's Broom. This is an autobiographical story of children's author Kelly Starling Lyons and is illustrated by Minter, who has also illustrated several of Lyon's books.

Here are some authors whose Coretta Scott King award winning books about African American history, African American life, and African American children are always valuable: Kadir Nelson, Vera Williams, Donald Crews, Virginia Hamilton, Eloise Greenfield, James Ransome, Mildred Taylor, Julius Lester, Christopher Myers, Ashley Bryan, Nikkin Grimes, and Angela Johnson.

These award winners will be available at your library and bookstore. Check them out!

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BFF: Books about Friendship in Time for Valentine's Day

by Miriam Downey 11. February 2013 10:12

Don't you just love your friends? I certainly do, and I have had many best friends throughout my life. I had two good friends when I was in elementary school: Betty and Margie. They lived next door to me, and we did everything together. We walked to school together every day. The bad part was that they were always late, and they made me late for school, too! My parents didn't like that very much, and so they told me that I would have to go to school without my friends if they weren't ready. My father thought that if you weren't early, you were late! I had to beg the girls to hurry up, so I could walk with them. Sometimes, though, I had to walk by myself. When they moved away, I was really upset. It didn't seem fair. But then I made some other friends, and before long, I had found other friends to walk to school with.

When I decided to pick friendship books for Valentine's Day, I had a terrible time because there were so many books to choose from. So, I picked several that I thought were representative, and hopefully some of them are books that you haven't already read. If you have any books about friendship that you would like to add to the list, feel free to add them in the comment section at the end of the blog posting. These books are all available at your public library or bookstore. Some will be available on ebooks as well.

Grades K-3 Picture Books

Magic Winter by Jean Little. An I Can Read book about the magical power of friendship.

Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco. A story from Polacco's family about two young Union soldiers during the Civil War.

Cowboy and Octopus by Jon Scieszka.This is a hysterical story about an unusual friendship.

Dog and Bear: Two Friends, Three Stories by Laura Seeger. Also Dog and Bear: Two's Company.

Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel. The classic friendship book. Part of a series. Easy readers.

Grades 1-3 Chapter Books

Owen Foote, Frontiersman by Stephanie Greene. Two friends have a great tree house.

Zelda and Ivy by Laura McGee Kvasnosky. The first book in a series about a great friendship.

Marvin Redpost: A Flying Birthday Cake? by Louis Sachar. Marvin thinks the new kid at school is an alien. One of a great series of books about Marvin.

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. The classic tale of friendship. Appropriate for this age level as a read-aloud.

Best Enemies by Kathleen Leverich. Can enemies become friends?

Grade 4-6 Novels

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. One of the most powerful friendship stories ever. Newbery Prize winner.

The Fastest Friend in the West by Vicki Grove. The story of two lonely seventh grade girls.

Words of Stone by Kevin Henkes. A memorable novel about friendship surviving difficult circumstances.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling. Harry and his best friends try to navigate through sorcerer's school. There are seven novels in the series, and they grow in complexity as Harry and his friends mature. 

The Wild Kid by Harry Mazer. The story of two boys lost in the woods for different reasons. The novel is both scary and touching.

Holes by Louis Sachar. This is one of the best-ever stories of friendship. Newbery Prize winner.

When You reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Both a book about friendship and a scary mystery. Newbery Prize winner.

Grades 7-12 Novels

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams is the funniest science fiction book ever and about the funniest friendship book ever. The first in a series of four. "So long, and thanks for all the fish!"

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie. A Native American basketball player in an all-white high school. Has cartoons intertwined with the story.

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol. Anya's best friend is a ghost. A graphic novel.

Letters from the Inside by John Marsden. Pen pals Mandy and Tracey finally tell each other the truth.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. The ultimate fantasy novels are also novels about friendship and loyalty.


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