Media Reviews: Five Children’s Books for All Ages Focused on Black History

These recommendations from the Columbus Metropolitan Library span preschool to high school. There’s also a website that allows kids to explore the collections of the Smithsonian.

Amanda Stephen Fister
Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston

Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston

By Alicia D. Williams

Starting with her childhood fascination with oral folk tales and creating stories, this colorful, biographical picture book focuses on author Zora Neale Hurston’s persistence in the face of many obstacles and her willingness to “jump at the sun” repeatedly as she pursued her dreams. The text contains dialect that echoes Hurston’s own work and entices the reader to speak it aloud. This is an excellent introduction to a Black author who changed American literature and committed oral tales to the page to be enjoyed for generations to come. FOR AGES 4-8

Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre

By Carole Boston Weatherford

This important nonfiction picture book tells of the flourishing Greenwood district of Tulsa once known as “Black Wall Street.” Greenwood boasted almost 200 businesses, multiple newspapers, excellent schools and a thriving community. In 1921, a white woman accused a Black man of assault; when a white mob was unable to get to the accused, they unleashed their long-simmering hatred on Greenwood and its residents. Thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed, 300 people were killed and more than 8,000 were left homeless. This horrific incident is covered in a realistic, yet sensitive way, which will educate readers while not being too graphic for most middle elementary students. Author and illustrator notes fill in more details, rooting the massacre in history, as well as drawing personal connections to the material. FOR AGES 7-11

Loretta Little Looks Back: Three Voices Go Tell It

By Andrea Davis Pinkney

Three members of the Little family narrate their childhood and early adolescence in Mississippi, which span 1927 to 1968. In this work of historical fiction, the reader is first immersed in Loretta’s life as her sharecropper father is slowly worn down by impossible circumstances, and she must stop her schooling to pick more cotton. When Roly takes over the story, enough has been scrapped together to purchase a small plot of land and some animals, but the family must sharecrop to keep afloat. Finally, his daughter Aggie B. shares her experiences as a young volunteer in the voter-registration effort. While a great deal of suffering and tragedy plague the family, there is still hope and a hunger for more freedom that unites the generations. FOR AGES 8-12

Recognize! An Anthology Honoring and Amplifying Black Life

Recognize! An Anthology Honoring and Amplifying Black Life

Edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson

This inspiring anthology combines essays, short stories, comics and poems from contemporary authors with historical excerpts to commemorate Black life in America. Pieces cover a range of experiences and will introduce readers to some prominent Black creators. An eight-page color insert features artwork by Black artists, with statements in the back describing their inspiration. End papers also include brief biographies of the historical and contemporary contributors. FOR AGES 8-12

One of the Good Ones

By Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite

After YouTube vlogger Kezi Smith dies in police custody after being wrongfully arrested, her sisters and best friends embark on a road trip in her memory. The history-loving Kezi planned what was supposed to be a graduation trip using “The Negro Motorist Green Book” as her guide. As the group follows her route, her sister Happi discovers parts of Kezi she never knew, as well as family connections to the Green Book. Told in nonchronological order by multiple narrators, this fiction book examines current and historic racism in the U.S. and also questions who is valued and considered worthy of being grieved, honored and loved by our society. FOR TEENS

Smithsonian Learning Lab


Smithsonian Learning Lab

This educational website allows kids to explore videos, audio clips, artifacts and more from the millions of items in the Smithsonian’s extensive collection. A free account allows students to save, organize and create collections on topics that interest them. The colorful, easy-to-navigate site is perfect for kids interested in learning more about a specific topic, looking for primary resources for a project, or are just curious to explore and learn something new. FOR AGES 7 AND OLDER

Amanda Stephen Fister is an information services specialist at the Gahanna branch of Columbus Metropolitan Library.