Tag Archives: fiction

Black History Month: Children’s Books

Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon JamesFebruary is Black History Month and I really want to start this off with a picture book I absolutely adoreCrown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick D. Barnes, illustrated by James C. Gordon. This is a celebration of barbershop culture like nothing I’ve seen before, and absolutely blew me away! The illustrations & rhythm of the whole book were amazing, and it’s definitely meant to be read aloud. Barnes follows the young boy’s journey into the barbershop, where he becomes royalty, coming out of that shop with confidence in his step: “A fresh cut makes boys fly“.

I’m reminded of Barbershop Books (only in the U.S. right now, and I don’t know of anything like that in Canada, though there are also independent barbershops that have been inspired by Barbershop Books to encourage kids to read more, which is wonderful and also adorable), which I find a great initiative.

 

When I think of Black History Month recommended reads lists, what comes to mind are lists of books about:

  1. Slavery, and
  2. Civil Rights.
  3. I feel like that’s kind of the scope.

So I wanted to start us off first with children’s books that celebrate Black heritage by respecting Black people’s representation in books in all as full and diverse a range of possibilities as we see for white protagonists.

The first time I started thinking more about the scope of representation of Black protagonists in children’s books was when I first happened across an article in The Horn Book magazine that talked about how so many books targeted at Black kids were specifically on the topic of slavery & civil rights – which are important topics to talk about, given the continuing struggle against racism – and how it was fairly difficult to find books featuring Black protagonists just doing their thing and existing in a children’s book without the book overtly talking about racism. (I’m miffed that I can’t find the original article, but that was what I got out of it. ) So while some of these books are going to talk about race and slavery and civil rights, what I’m hoping for is that these books are also just going to be about the characters and what they’re doing in their lives.

So take a look below the cut for more!

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The Dot & the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics

Norton JusterThe Dot & the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics by Norton Juster is absolutely delightful, featuring a love triangle between a “sensible straight line who was hopelessly in love with a dot”, who was of course hanging out with “a wild and unkempt squiggle”.  Accompany your reading with the short animated film on YouTube (and apparently also as a special feature in The Glass Bottom Boat DVD, of which we own 3 copies, so feel free to check that out).

The overall structure of the plot arc is quite predictable, but that’s not where the charm of this wonderful romance lies. Part of it, I’m sure, is just in the fact that it was written in the 60s, so some of the phrasing is a touch quaint reading it now, but I want to say that the charm of it is simply in the fact that this is a mathematical romance. It’s dedicated to Euclid! There are math puns & references everywhere (though some of them smarter than others), and the entire novel(la) is overall a delightful romp. And as some of you know, despite math not being anywhere near my forte, I have a love of it all the same. You don’t really learn anything about shapes or math in any way apart from how to creatively apply lines and shapes, but that’s why it’s a romance in lower mathematics, right?*

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The Female Persuasion

book cover of The Female PersuasionIn Meg Wolitzer’s latest novel, The Female Persuasion, Greer Kadetsky has a life-changing encounter when she meets renowned feminist and author Faith Frank at a college lecture. Greer has always been ambitious, excelling at school, yet shy and afraid to speak her mind. In Faith, she finds a mentor who gives her the confidence to use her voice. When Greer lands her dream job working at Faith’s women’s foundation, Loci, she is excited to help women share their stories and shine a light on issues such as pay inequality and workplace harassment. But Greer’s idealistic view of Loci is put to the test when she discovers the venture capital firm funding the foundation has been involved in some shady practices. Continue reading