“In 1960, few Americans could have predicted that within 10 years the civil rights movement would dismantle a century-old system of social, political, and economic controls that had condemned millions of black Americans to second-class citizenship.” page 12
Civil Rights in America by Rick Beard. (America’s National Parks Press Series)
America’s National Parks Press, Eastern National, Fort Washington, PA, 2016.
High school informative non-fiction, 24 pages.
This is a short little book, almost a pamphlet, giving an overview of the Civil Rights Movement from the Declaration of Independence to the 2008 election of Barack Obama.
Before we get into the review, let me explain how I came across this book. Teachers will already be well aware of the wonders of Dollar Tree. Some time ago I came across a nifty little book about Black Soldiers in the Civil War there, and ever since I’ve been looking out for more diverse titles in the National Parks Service series.
“I have to suck up as much pride and dignity as I can while it’s there for me.” page 200
Fire from the Rock by Sharon Draper.
Speak, Penguin Group, New York, 2007.
YA historical fiction, 231 pages.
Lexile: 760L .
AR Level: 5.0 (worth 9.0 points) .
Sharon Draper detours from her usual realistic fiction for a historical novel set in 1957 during school integration at Little Rock.
The novel opens with a bang as a white man’s vicious dog is turned loose on Sylvia’s 8-year old sister. Several incidents throughout give a realistic portrayal of what it was like to live during that time period. For example, although Sylvia takes great pride in her mother’s sewing ability, it’s also a practical necessity since she explains that at the time only white people were allowed to try on clothes in department stores or return them if they didn’t fit. The nature of historical fiction also makes these glimpses more interesting and memorable to the reader than say, a textbook. I think this book would work well in a high school history course.
“We three stuck together / like the pages in a brand-new book. / And being normal young children, / we were almost always up to something.” page 10
My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Christine King Farris, illustrated by Chris Soentpiet.
Simon and Schuster, New York, 2003.
Picture book nonfiction, 40 pages.
Lexile: 970L .
AR Level: 5.0 (worth 0.5 points) .
Personal remembrances of Martin Luther King Jr.’s childhood from his older sister Christine.
I debated a lot before buying this book. Our local libraries didn’t have it and the cover, especially in a small thumbnail version, is just so unattractive. However, I was hoping for something different from the standard stories, which is exactly what this book delivers. Luckily the interior art is excellent!
The book does skew a bit toward older readers with denser text and more difficult words like chifforobe, Cyclorama, Auburn, cruelty, bigotry, nourishing. The main focus here is on MLK’s childhood, specifically on two fronts – both the ways in which he was an ordinary, sometimes mischievous little boy, and the events that shaped his personality.
“Many other strong people came before us and they never got a chance to know what freedom was. They sacrificed their lives so that we could have a better life and we must not forget to pay homage to them in all that we do.” page 37
The Making of a Psychologist by Dr. Earl Bracy.
RoseDog Books, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 2010.
Memoir, 268 pages.
The life story of Dr. Bracy, told by himself. Technically an autobiography (told by the author in chronological order) but written with more of an anecdotal memoir style.
I came across this book quite randomly when looking for a very different (not diverse) book. If it wasn’t for this blog, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. Bracy’s life is interesting, but this book needed a heavy editor’s hand. I had to stop myself from grabbing a pencil and marking up the margins several times. If this was a purchased book (rather than borrowed), I’d have done so simply for my own peace of mind.
The formatting is also troublesome with justified margins and a font that doesn’t do the book any services. The book cover isn’t appealing with the tilted landscape, awkward fades, and random American flag. All of that’s too bad, because this could have been a very readable book.
“All those laws against segregation have been passed, and all that progress has been made. But a whole lot of white people’s hearts have not been changed.” page 187
Rosa Parks: My Story by Rosa Parks, with Jim Haskins.
Puffin, Penguin Group, New York, 1992 (my edition 1999).
Middle grade autobiography, 192 pages including index and timeline.
Lexile: 970L .
AR Level: 6.2 (worth 6.0 points) .
This is Rosa Parks’ own telling of her story – the story of her life, and the story of that fateful day when she became the icon of a movement.
Some books are ubiquitous – this is one of those books. As far as I can recall, every school library I’ve been in has this book, though I haven’t checked them all. However, I’d never read it before, so when we saw a cheap copy at the used bookstore, we bought it.
I have no regrets about adding this to our collection. While the book is accessible to children, it works as a quick adult read too!
“I felt differently. I wanted to go to college. I wanted to grow up and greet the world, and so did my best friends.” p. 27
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose.
Square Fish Imprint, Macmillan, New York, 2009.
Age 10 + nonfiction, 150 pages including extras, notes, and index.
Winner of the National Book Award and a Newberry Honor Book.
Various other awards and best of lists.
AR Level: 6.8 (worth 5.0 points)
Before Rosa Parks was a household name, there was Claudette Colvin. The first black woman (really a girl) to refuse to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus and be arrested for doing so, she knew and inspired Rosa Parks, but was not considered suitable to be the face of the movement. Her story is now coming to light for a new generation.
This is “The acclaimed true story of the girl who changed history” according to the front cover. What it is inside was a little different than I’d expected. Most books by white men about black history tend to assume an authoritative, know-it-all position that often leaves out details important to the people who were living that history.
Significant portions of this book are told in the first person, taken directly from extensive interviews with Ms. Colvin herself. Yet he is credited as the sole author. I’m torn. Hoose clearly made the best choice by letting Colvin’s voice shine and allowing her to narrate as much as possible of her book. On the other hand, he is receiving all the credit.