28 Days Book Review

In short, this book is a must-have for every school library, and highly recommended for home and classroom libraries as well.

28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World by Charles R. Smith Jr., Illustrated by Shane W. Evans.
A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, New York, 2015. 54 pages.
Non-fiction picture book.

I don’t recall if I purchased this book or was given it as a gift, but it was one of the early books that inspired the 30 day project.  This book features 29 days that chronologically tell the story of Black History.

Each day has either a single page or a two-page spread.  I am quite curious about the process used for this book, because the text and the pictures are perfect matches.  It’s quite clear that a great deal of time and thought was put into the illustrations and the layout.  Besides the gorgeous artwork of Shane Evans, the book has several features which allow it to be used at a variety of age, reading, or interest levels.

First the date is stated month/date/year.  Then one sentence briefly describes the event featured for that day.  The name of the person featured, or event occurring, is in a different font.  Then the poem or writing follows.  This is the most varied part of the book, with rhyming poems, acrostics, free verse, eulogies, or quotation from documents, speeches, or songs incorporated into various pages.  I see this portion as having classroom applications not only for Black History Month, but also in April for National Poetry Month.

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28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World by Charles R. Smith and Shane W. Evans

Finally, each day ends with a paragraph in smaller type that gives additional background about the person or topic for that day.  This means there are four methods of interpretation for each day: the picture, the date and factual sentence, the poem or quotation, and the informative paragraph.  The parent or teacher reading this book aloud could choose to read only one or two sections, or they could read all of them.

One thing to remember when reading this book aloud is that the poetry sections vary quite a bit.  Harriet Tubman’s eulogy fills two pages, while Matthew Henson’s poem is 11 words long.  Some of the poems rely on the reader being able to see the poem, and others are meant for two voices.

Another important consideration is the content.  This book is marketed at ages 4-10, however there are some pages which may worry younger children.  Consider the child or group of children you would be reading this book to.  The kids were rather upset reading about the Dred Scott decision on Day 2.  Even though it is overturned on Day 4, if you are reading it one page each day, that may be too long.  I was able to use this book with older students as an introduction/review.

This book hits all the major court cases and many of the major “names” in Black History, along with others who may not be as familiar.  This was our first introduction to Madam C.J. Walker, although we later read a brief chapter book about her.  Matthew Henson and Robert Smalls might not be as familiar as Malcolm X and Jackie Robinson.  One odd digression is Nelson Mandela on Day 26, as he is not an American (but for some reason often included in African American history).  However, in general we really enjoyed reading a variety of poetic forms and learning about many moments in history and great figures, with vibrant illustrations to match.

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Dover Coloring Books: Great African Americans Reviewed

This coloring book is a win on every front… except including women.

At the spur of the moment, I decided to add coloring pages to the 30 day project, mainly because this Dover Coloring book kept popping up as I added diverse books on my Amazon wish list.  For us the coloring pages were a fun supplement to the main books – we usually didn’t read the text.  However, if you were looking for a easier, cheaper, or simpler alternative to the 30 day project, you could certainly do a 30 day project just coloring these pages and reading them.

The kids colored the pages as I read to them.  Sometimes they would race to finish first, or try to complete the page before we finished reading for the day, other times they would take their time and complete a page more slowly.

Nearly all of the pages corresponded to the “extra” picture book we were reading for the day, however occasionally we had a page that corresponded to one of our core texts, and a picture book that corresponded to the other.  Z found this very confusing, so if I do this project again, I would either avoid that, or explain more clearly who was who.

I think for some of the historical figures it would also have been helpful to have a picture or portrait to look at.  Some had photos or drawings in the books we were reading, but others didn’t.

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Dover Coloring Book: Great African Americans

The first book I purchased was Great African Americans.  This book has 45 different coloring pages representing different figures from African American history.  Pages are arranged according to the person’s last name, and a wide range of people are included.  Some of the poses will be familiar from photographs, and the most dynamic pages were definitely the athlete pages.

Each page has a short paragraph at the bottom giving a brief overview of the person’s life and accomplishments, so one could definitely use this book alone for a 30 day study of African American history.  There were two pages which might bring up some questions parents must be prepared to answer: Marcus Garvey’s page, which discusses black separatism, and Mother Clara Hale’s page, which includes information about drug addiction and AIDs.

Of the coloring pages, there are 5 pages which have colored-in examples.  Frederick Douglas is on the cover, Harriet Tubman on the inside front cover, Elijah McCoy on the inside back cover, and smaller images of W.E.B. Du Bois and George Washington Carver are on the back cover.

Out of the 45 people featured in this book, only 10 are women.  After looking through the book, I quickly realized that if I wanted to include the many African American women who have contributed to American history, I would need to expand.  Luckily, there is another Dover Coloring book called Famous African-American Women.

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