How many readers are celebrating Black History Month through February? I've had a few question why I bother highlighting Black History and not because they thougth it was a waste of time but because they figured by this time black history and white history should have easily merged. Maybe this is true but sadly, not much history is taught at all at the elementary level. That and I love enlightening students with what our country was like during slavery and the Civil Rights movement.
My 3 featured read-aloud books this week emphasize the Underground Railroad.
1. Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine; illustrated by Kadir Nelson (2007) I loved this book from the moment I laid eyes on it. It is an example of losing those you love and a burning desire for freedom. It begins like this: "Henry Brown wasn't sure how old he was. Henry was a slave. And slaves weren't allowed to know their birthdays." Kids snap to attention when they hear those first words. The idea of not knowing your birthday, no cake, no gifts, no intercom announcement-that and the woeful picture of Nelson's young Henry sitting on a barrel with no shoes helps students to grasp a tiny piece of this other life. 5 stars
Vaunda Micheaux Nelson; illustrations by Colin Bootman (2003). This title is from a rag doll's point-of-view. It begins: "I started out no more'n a bunch of rags on a Virginia plantation. Lindy's mama was my maker. Miz Rachel done a fine job puttin' me together, takin' extra time to sew my face on real careful with thread, embroidery they call it. I don't have no hair. Miz Rachel just made a bandanna from some old cloth and tied it 'round my head like she wore. I used to think about havin' me some hair, but now it don't bother me none." The doll is given to Miz Rachel's girl, Lindy, who name's the doll Sally-her new best friend. Lindy, Miz Rachel and Sally escape, heading North, and Sally is lost at one of their secret stops. The doll is eventually found by another young girl traveling to freedom and happy for this new handmade companion. 5 stars
Doreen Rappaport; illustrated by Bryan Collier (2000). Plantation owners would go to great lengths to keep slave families from running. This book illustrates the vast difference between Ohio, a free state and Kentucky, a slave state and how the river between facilitates the Underground Railroad. It begins: "Listen. Listen. 'I heard last night someone helped a slave woman cross the river,' said one of the workers at John Parker's foundry. John Parker couldn't take credit for this escape, but it pleased him enormously to hear about it." We see how Parker helps one family, terribly afraid of their master, finally get to freedom. Collier's collage and paint illustrations are beautiful. 5 stars
Three more exceptional choices I'll use next week:
The Patchwork Path; A Quilt Map to Freedom by Bettye Stroud, illustrated by Erin Susanne Bennett (2005).
Friend on Freedom River by Gloria Whelen, illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuzen (2004).
Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson; illustrated by Hudson Talbott (2005).
What are you reading this week? Does your school celebrate Black History Month?
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