Review: I Got This

“I’m also incredibly proud of my Puerto Rican heritage, but at first I wasn’t sure why everyone was talking about it. Then I realized that as I was growing up, there hadn’t been any Latina role models in gymnastics!” page 149

I Got This: To Gold and Beyond by Lauren Hernandez.
HarperCollins Children’s Books, HarperCollins New York, 2017.
YA biography, 231 pages.
Lexile:  1020L.
AR Level:  6.8 (worth 5.0 points) .

Laurie Hernandez was a bit of a dark horse.  Just turned 16 and only recently eligible for the US Olympic team, she not only was part of the winning 2016 gymnastics team, she also won the silver medal in balance beam.  Fresh off her Olympic win, she went on to win Dancing with the Stars, a nationally televised ballroom dancing competition.

I Got This Laurie Hernandez

This book is definitely a teen read.  Apparently Hernandez’s nickname in the press is the Human Emoji, and she embraces that as each of the 20 chapters has a different emoji associated with it (a few do repeat).   However, she also manages to pack in information about gymnastics and some startlingly good life advice, coming from a 16-year old.

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Review: Born On a Blue Day

“There is something exciting and reassuring for individuals on the autistic spectrum about communicating with other people over the internet.” page 142

Born On a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant by Daniel Tammet.
Simon and Schuster, New York, 2006.  Originally published in Great Britain.
Adult memoir, 226 pages.
New York Times bestseller.
Lexile:  1170L  .
AR Level:  7.9 (worth 13.0 points) .

Daniel Tammet is an unusual and extraordinary individual.  He is a savant, has multiple forms of synesthesia, is autistic, and can speak ten languages, one of which (Icelandic) he learned in a week.

Born on a Blue Day resized
Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant by Daniel Tammet.

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Review: This Kid Can Fly

“I hardly ever saw anybody in a wheelchair really in the swing of things. […] I worried that when I grew up I’d be an invisible man.” page 105

This Kid Can Fly: It’s About Ability (Not Disability) by Aaron Philip, with Tonya Bolden.
Balzer + Bray imprint, HarperCollins, New York, 2016.
Middle grade autobiography, 179 pages.
Lexile:  880L .
AR Level: 5.8 (worth 4.0 points) .

Aaron (pronounced Ay-ron) Philip is an ordinary kid who became famous through his tumblr and drawings, which led him to become a disability activist.

This Kid Can Fly

I had never heard of Aaron Phillip before, so despite seeing this book in the store, I didn’t pick it up until I started my diverse disabled booklist.  And it would have been a real loss if I hadn’t.

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Review: Let the Truth Be Told

This picture book biography of Ida B. Wells gives a lovely overview of her life.

Ida B. Wells: Let the Truth Be Told by Walter Dean Meyers, illustrated by Bonnie Christensen.
Amistad Imprint, HarperCollins, New York, 2008.
Picture book biography, 37 pages including timeline and quotes.
Lexile:  AD900L  (What does AD mean in Lexile?)
AR Level: 5.4 (worth 0.5 points)

Ida B. Wells stood up for truth and justice with her words and actions, and foreshadowed the civil rights movement in many of her actions.  With an illustration at least every other page, and excellent explanations of difficult topics such as lynchings, this book makes Wells’ life accessible to middle grade readers, and could even be read to some younger children with a parent.

Let the Truth Be Told cover resized
Ida B. Wells: Let the Truth Be Told by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Bonnie Christensen.

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Review: Coretta Scott

“things nature never intended / a child to see / haunted them / tragedy accompanies growth / no matter who we are” p. 22

Coretta Scott by Ntozake Shange, illustrated by Kadir Nelson.
Amistad imprint, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2009.
Biographical poem picture book, 30 pages.
Lexile:  not leveled
AR Level:  4.9 (worth 0.5 points)
Note: this book is an illustrated poem.

Ntozake Shange has written a poem and Kadir Nelson has illustrated it in this gorgeous, but non-traditional biography.

Coretta Scott cover

I’m not quite sure what I expected from this book.  Probably something more like Martin’s Big Words because the cover style looked similar to me.  Actually, it was quite different and I have some mixed feelings about it.  I’ve ordered another, more traditional children’s biography of Coretta Scott King which I’m hoping will compliment this one nicely.

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Review: When the Beat Was Born

“Kool Herc’s music made everybody happy. Even street gangs wanted to dance, not fight.” p. 19

When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip-Hop by Laban Carrick Hill, Illustrated by Theodore Taylor III.
Roaring Brook Press, New York, 2013.
Elementary to middle grade picture book biography, 30 pages.
Winner of the 2014 John Steptoe Award for New Talent
Lexile:  AD910L  (What does AD mean in Lexile?)
AR Level:  4.2 (worth 0.5 points)

Have you ever heard of DJ Kool Herc?  He was a Jamaican immigrant who was instrumental in the development of hip-hop.  Step into his world and learn how hip-hop came to be with this picture book biography.

When the Beat was Born cover 2

While I’m sure an avid fan of hip-hop would get more out of this book, I was pleasantly surprised by how accessible it was to myself as a not-so-musical person.  Context is given to everything that makes it understandable, and the pictures and words work in beautiful harmony.

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Web: In the Public Domain

Anybody who loves 18th century literature has heard of Project Gutenberg and similar online methods of obtaining books which no longer have a copyright, but when we browse these websites, it is often easier to find books with racist commentary or ideologies than to source books by authors of color.  Today I have a few sources to help you.

The list Black Writers in the Public Domain has a variety of genres available mostly through Gutenberg, but also from some other Public Domain sites.

The same website also has a review of a novel called The Conjure Woman, which is set in the antebellum South and was written by a black journalist.

There are two bookshelves available on Project Gutenberg.  One is African-American Writers, and the other (which has some overlap) is the Slavery bookshelf.  The Slavery bookshelf has some international writers, but is mainly about African-American slavery, which means it includes abolitionist writings by white authors.

Following this rabbit hole eventually brought me to The Antislavery Literature Project, which is all about trying to source original texts about the American antislavery movement from a variety of public domain sources and link them in their database.  This includes writings by white abolitionists as well as trying to source a variety of early writings by authors of color.  Their website is helpful for finding items from smaller digitization projects and gives a brief synopsis of each work.

If you’d like to do a unit on poetry by black authors, poets.org is a great starting place.  They have biographies, essays on, and at least one or two poems by everyone from well-known poets like Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou to comparatively newer poets like Claudia Rankine.

This website is full of sources for teachers, including recommended poems for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Black History Month and other occasions, searchable by poetic form.  Get even more in-depth for Black History Month with this part of the site that includes poems, essays, and original source documents.  There are also areas for movements like the Harlem Renaissance and Black Arts.  I’ve only covered the African-American areas, but this site is pretty good about including poets from a variety of traditions and ethnic backgrounds; if you’re interested in poetry, it’s definitely worth a look!

Oh, and for a starter, here’s an anthology of poems, The African American Experience.  I’m reading this and a nonfiction book from the first list electronically and enjoying both.