Kamala Harris

Rooted in Justice

Atheneum Books  

(Simon & Schuster) 
(pub. 8.25.2020) 
40 pages

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top   

A uthor:  Nikki Grimes
     and illustrator:  Laura Freeman
C haracter: Kamala Harris

     "Discover the incredible story of a young daughter of immigrants who would grow up to defend the rights of people everywhere in this moving picture book biography of Senator Kamala Harris.

When Kamala Harris was young, she often accompanied her parents to civil rights marches—so many, in fact, that when her mother asked a frustrated Kamala what she wanted, the young girl responded with: “Freedom!”

As Kamala grew from a small girl in Oakland to a senator running for president, it was this long-fostered belief in freedom and justice for all people that shaped her into the inspiring figure she is today. From fighting for the use of a soccer field in middle school to fighting for the people of her home state in Congress, Senator Harris used her voice to speak up for what she believed in and for those who were otherwise unheard.

Told in Nikki Grimes's stunning verse and featuring gorgeous illustrations by Laura Freeman, this picture book biography brings to life a story that shows all young people that the American dream can belong to all of us if we fight for one another."

T antalizing taste: 

"Life is a story

you write day by day. 

Kamala's begins with a name

that means 'lotus flower.' 

See how her beautiful smile

opens wide, like petals 

fanning across the water's surface? 

But you don't see the flower's roots. Her roots.

They grow deep, deep, deep down.

Let me show you."


And something more: School Library Journal's review states: "This important biography of California Senator Kamala Harris comes at an opportune moment, when the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment intersects with the Black Lives Matter Movement. Weaving a fictional story around an account of Harris' factual biography, Grimes' picture book makes it easy for readers to identify with the recent Democratic presidential candidate..." and, of course, the recently chosen Democratic vice presidential candidate !


A Bowl of Peace

A True Story

Carolrhoda Books (Lerner)
(pub. 8.4.2020) 
40 pages

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: Caren Stelson
     and illustrator:  
     Akira Kusaka
C haracter: Sachiko Yasui

"In this deeply moving nonfiction picture book, award-winning author Caren Stelson brings Sachiko Yasui's story of surviving the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and her message of peace to a young audience.

Sachiko's family home was about half a mile from where the atomic bomb fell on August 9, 1945. Her family experienced devastating loss. When they returned to the rubble where their home once stood, her father miraculously found their serving bowl fully intact. This delicate, green, leaf-shaped bowl—which once held their daily meals—now holds memories of the past and serves as a vessel of hope, peace, and new traditions for Sachiko and the surviving members of her family."

T antalizing taste:

     "ITADAKIMASU (EE-TAH-DAH-KEE-MAHs): traditionally spoken before eating a meal, this Japanese word means 'we humbly receive this food.

    No one knows how old Grandmother's bowl is.

    No one remembers who made it.

    No one can count how many times the bowl has passed from mother to daughter.

    But everyone knows Grandmother's bowl is  precious...

    In the evenings, Sachiko's family gathers together.

     Mother places Grandmother's bowl in the middle of the low table.

     As always, the bowl offers good things to eat - squid, eel, octopus, and udon noodles.

     Sachiko and her family press their hands together and bow their heads.

      ITADAKIMASU, they  whisper." 

And something more:

On Caren Stelson's website, she shares an excerpt from an interview that she did for Booklist magazine:“Sachiko’s greatest hope was always to give young people the strength and courage to surmount the challenges they face in their lives so they can work for peace in their communities and in the world."
Caren also shares: "What have I learned about stories? I believe personal stories, large and small, have the power to make a difference. Stories that find their way to our hearts can give us strength and help us to find peace in ourselves and in the world." 


A Voice Named Aretha

Bloomsbury Children's Books
(pub. 1.7.2020) 
40 pages

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: 
Katheryn Russell-Brown
       and illustrator:  Laura Freeman
C haracter: Aretha Franklin

"Aretha Franklin is the Queen of Soul, a legend. But before she became a star, she was a shy little girl with a voice so powerful it made people jump up, sway, and hum along. 
Raised in a house full of talking and singing, Aretha learned the values that would carry her through life--from her church choir in Detroit to stages across the world. When she moved to New York City to start her career, it took years of hard work before she had a hit song. In the turbulent 1960s, she sang about "Respect" and refused to perform before segregated audiences. The first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Aretha always remembered who she was and where she came from."
T antalizing taste: 

     "Aretha and her brothers and sisters loved singing in church, clapping along with the organ, drums, and tambourines. Each  young Franklin wanted to shine bright for Daddy.
     Little Aretha had the biggest voice of all. She sang soulful trills and powerful riffs with a deep, easy feeling, well beyond her years. No doubt about it, Aretha was the star child."

And something more: The "More about the Queen of Soul" at the back of the book explains that "In 2019, Aretha was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize, special citation, 'for her indelible contribution to American music and culture for more than five decades.'" 
     In "A Note from the Author", Katheryn Russell-Brown writes: "I grew up in the late sixties in a home with lots of albums. A few hundred R&B and jazz LPs lined the walls of our Harlem living room. The ones in heavy rotation were spread about on the shag carpet." 
    I was touched by her dedication: "To my mother, Tanya H. Russell (1938-2014), who said many times, with a twinkle in her eye, that she would know she had 'died and gone to heaven' if she could sing backup for Aretha. I have vivid, warm memories of us singing Aretha's songs together - at the top of our lungs. - K. R-B."


By and By

Charles Albert Tindley,
the Father of Gospel Music

Atheneum Books
for Young Readers
(pub. 1.14.2020) 
48 pages

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top   

A uthor:  Carole Boston Weatherford
       and illustrator:  Bryan Collier
C haracter: Charles Albert Tindley


     "At a time when most African Americans were still enslaved, Charles Tindley was born free. His childhood was far from easy, with backbreaking hours in the fields, and no opportunity to go to school. But the spirituals he heard as he worked made him long to know how to read the Gospel for himself. Late at night, he taught himself to read from scraps of newspapers. From those small scraps, young Charles raised himself to become a founding father of American gospel music whose hymn was the basis for the Civil Rights anthem 'We Shall Overcome.'

      Told in lilting verse with snippets of spirituals and Tindley’s own hymns woven throughout, Carole Boston Weatherford’s lyrical words and Bryan Collier’s luminous pictures celebrate a man whose music and conviction has inspired countless lives."

T antalizing taste: 

"Berlin, Maryland, 1851.
Charles and Hester had a son.
Father, enslaved, but Mother, free;
The law spared me from slavery. 

Minding master, hired out to farms.

I think of children with parents at home ...
While mine are gone and I am alone.

Chants in the field at break of dawn.
Keep yo' han' on-a dat plow. Hold on!
Hold on!

Spirituals, first Bible that I heard.
I yearned for more - to read the Word."

And something more: In a joint interview by The Booking Biz with her artist/spoken word poet son, Jeffery Boston Weatherford, Carole Boston Weatherford discusses where she gets ideas for her books: "I get inspiration from educators, family, my hometowns, my travels, the media and even music. I was moved to write BY AND BY: CHARLES A. TINDLEY, THE FATHER OF GOSPEL MUSIC after having listened to his hymns in church."  She also answers the question "If you ruled the world, what would it look like?": "More women would be in charge. There would be more equality and less of a wealth gap. Policies would value children, the elderly and people of color. The Golden Rule would rule."


Althea Gibson

The Story of Tennis' 
Fleet-of-Foot Girl

Balzer + Bray
(pub. 1.1.2020) 
40 pages

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top   

A uthor:  Megan Reid
       and illustrator:  Laura Freeman
C haracter: Althea Gibson

     "Althea Gibson was the quickest, tallest, most fearless athlete in 1940s Harlem. She couldn’t sit still! When she put her mind to it, the fleet-of-foot girl reigned supreme at every sport—stickball with the boys, basketball with the girls, paddle tennis with anyone who would hit with her.
         But being the quickest, tallest, most fearless player in Harlem wasn’t enough for Althea. She knew she could be a tennis champion.
          Because of segregation, black people weren’t allowed to compete against white people in sports. Althea didn’t care. She just wanted to play tennis against the best athletes in the world. And with skill and determination, she did just that, eventually becoming the first black person—man or woman—to win a trophy at Wimbledon."

T antalizing taste: 
     "The championships in Wimbledon, England, were where the most famous tennis athletes in the world competed to be the best.
      Sharp white collars.
      Sharp white pleats.
      Sharp white lines.
      But in 1940s Harlem, the quickest, tallest, most fearless athlete was Althea Gibson."

And something more: In the Author's Note, Megan Reid writes: "As a child, I was often told I was 'too much': too opinionated, too headstrong, too tall, too skinny, too black, too energetic to fit in. Maybe that's why I've always been fascinated by the stories of girls and women who were also told that their interests and goals made them 'too much' for the society they lived in. My idols were Janet Reno, Michelle Kwan, and Dominque Dawes (not to mention Anne of Green Gables and Meg Murry) - but I  wish I'd known Althea Gibson's story....
     In researching Althea's story, I was deeply touched by the extraordinary support she received from other women. Her tennis idol, Alice Marble, advocated for her after a young Althea saw her play. Her Jewish British tennis partner, Angela Buxton, became a friend, roommate, and coconspirator in lots of  fun, and it was with Angela that Althea actually won her first Wimbledon title, for doubles tennis in 1956... 
     I'm so glad that Althea had safe places where she didn't need to be tough, even as she fought to earn the right to play tennis with the best."


Dream Builder

The Story of Architect
Philip Freelon

Lee & Low Books
(pub. 1.14.2020) 
40 pages

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top   

A uthor:  Kelly Starling Lyons
      and illustrator:  Laura Freeman
C haracter: Philip Freelon

 "You've seen the building. Now meet the man whose life went into it.

Philip Freelon's grandfather was an acclaimed painter of the Harlem Renaissance. His father was a successful businessman who attended the 1963 March on Washington. When Phil decided to attend architecture school, he created his own focus on African American and Islamic designers. He later chose not to build casinos or prisons, instead concentrating on schools, libraries, and museums--buildings that connect people with heritage and fill hearts with joy. And in 2009, Phil's team won a commission that let him use his personal history in service to the country's: the extraordinary Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture."
T antalizing taste: 
     "In Phil Freelon's world, art breathes dreams to life.
     Everywhere he looks around his Philadelphia home, paintings and drawings greet him from the walls. Phil listens to his parents discuss artists at the dinner table. He watches his big sister splatter canvases with creativity. He plays basketball with his buddies and carries a sketchbook around his neighborhood. Buildings, roses, people passing on the street: Phil sees them all and draws clear and strong.

And something more: Dream Builder includes an Afterword written by Philip Freelon and he explains his experience of designing the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture: "Coming of age during the civil rights movement, I felt compelled to contribute in some way to the struggle for social justice. As my career as an architect evolved, I continually sought opportunities to bring my design skills into alignment with my desire to make positive contributions to my community and beyond...
     My involvement with this amazing project was an honor and a privilege - and the pinnacle of my career. The decades-long journey leading up to the museum's opening included significant contributions from countless individuals and organizations."

         Kelly Starling Lyons writes in her Author's Note: "Over a series of meetings, I interviewed [Phil Freelon] and his wonderful wife, Grammy-nominated jazz singer and composer Nnenna Freelon, in their home... With every project, Phil showed all of us how to dream bigger and bolder. He was a man of integrity, talent, and vision. I mourned with people around the nation when Phil passed away in July 2019 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)... This book is a tribute to Phil and all of the dream builders around the world."


Making Their Voices Heard

The Inspiring Friendship
Ella Fitzgerald and
Marilyn Monroe

little bee books
(pub. 1.28.2020) 
4o pages

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: Vivian Kirkfield
       and illustrator:  Alleanna Harris
C haracters: Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe


      Marilyn Monroe dazzled on the silver screen with her baby blue eyes and breathy boo-boo-be-doos. But when she asked for better scripts, a choice in who she worked with, and a higher salary, studio bosses refused.

      Two women whose voices weren’t being heard. Two women chasing after their dreams and each helping the other to achieve them. This is the inspiring, true story of two incredibly talented women who came together to help each other shine like the stars that they are."

T antalizing taste: 
     "Ella was already famous for her voice. But, because of discrimination, not everyone was able to hear it. She told Marilyn that the owner of Hollywood's top nightspot, the Mocambo, refused to hire her.
     Marilyn empathized with Ella. Although she didn't know what it was like to be singled out because of her race, she did know how it felt to be held back because she was a woman. As Ella helped Marilyn find her voice, now Marilyn wanted to do the same for her."

And something more: Vivian Kirkfield's Author's Note explains that both Ella and Marilyn "had difficult childhoods. Both struggled all their lives with shyness, and both had big dreams.
      As a teenager, Ella had no real home. She lived on the streets and spent her time hanging around the Harlem Opera House and the Apollo Theater, watching the dancers, singers and comedy acts...
      As a child, Marilyn lived in nine foster homes, attended six elementary schools, and spent time in an orphanage. She stuttered when she was nervous, and was often quiet around adults. But she had a vivid imagination and loved telling stories to other children. She never complained about going to bed because she would stand on her bed and act out movie scenes."