Brilliant Books for Black History Month

Looking for some great books to help acquaint kids with heroes of black history? Here are a couple of picture books to share with the children you love.

So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth's Long Walk Toward Freedom by Gary Schmidt

Born in the late 1700s, Isabella felt slavery’s poisonous bite even before she was forced to work in the fields. Most of her siblings had been sold as slaves, but Mau-mau Bett, Isabella’s mother, never forgot them. As mother and child watched the night sky together, Mau-mau Bett assured Isabella, “Those are the same stars, and that is the same moon, that look down upon your brothers and sisters.”

When Isabella was older and forced to work, she thought, “Now the war begun.” Did she understand the prophetic power and reach of her thought? Because Isabella, who much later renamed herself Sojourner Truth, became a warrior for freedom. She relentlessly struggled to free her enslaved children, to be reunited with her dispersed siblings, and to travel through numerous states to tell the truth about slavery to audiences and whoever else would listen.

In this extensively researched picture book, author Gary Schmidt’s poetic, metaphor-rich text relates Sojourner Truth’s story in a gripping, lively manner. Daniel Minter’s evocative and at times ethereal illustrations complete the narrative by capturing the losses, pain, and indignity of slavery and the power, passion, and principles of Sojourner Truth—a follower of Jesus who lived in his strength and called out to him in her grief and humiliation. Ages 8 and up. (Roaring Brook Press)

No Small Potatoes: Junius G. Groves and His Kingdom in Kansas by Tonya Bolden

Junius Groves was still a child on a Kentucky plantation when slavery was abolished. As a young man, he joined a mass exodus of African Americans from the South and traveled west to Kansas where land was plentiful.

Willing to do whatever work was available and “always attending to duty and doing more, rather than less, than was required of me,” Junius and his new wife bought a plot of land, taking on an outstanding debt that had to be paid within a year. They set to work and grew acres of potatoes. In the ensuing years, Junius’s success and wealth grew. In 1902 he was crowned the “Potato King of the World.”

Author Tonya Bolden’s lyrical prose and illustrator Don Tate’s simple, charming pictures convey the optimism and vitality of a man who overcame every obstacle by working harder and pouring his love and energy into his family (he and his wife had 12 children), community, church, and farmland. Ages 4 and up. (Knopf)

About the Author

Sonya VanderVeen Feddema is a freelance writer and a member of Covenant CRC in St. Catharines, Ontario.
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