truth, freedom, change…three history titles for all of us

February is long gone, but does this mean we don’t read black history titles? No, it does not.

March is Women’s History Month. And what do you know — there’s a sweet overlapping of these emphases…

… in these three exceptional new books you won’t want to miss.

my name is truth cover imageMy Name is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth, by Ann Warren Turner, illustrated by James Ransome
published in 2015 by Harper ~ Harper Collins Publishers

Sojourner Truth was a large, imposing figure with “a heart of gold and a tongue of flame.” This new biography beautifully captures in word and image her suffering, determination, warmth, and strength.

She began life as Isabella, one member of a large enslaved family in New York State, witness to her parents’ heartbreak as their many children were sold off “like horses.”

Isabella herself was also sold from one master to another, loaded down like an ox and viciously beaten, until one day she ran for freedom. Her new life was that of a preacher, and to mark that newness, she took a new name: “Sojourner because I travel far and long” and Truth because of her work proclaiming God’s truth wherever she went. 

my name is truth illustration james ransome

The lyrical narrative of this account radiates vigor and dignity, while James Ransome’s handsome watercolors portray a sturdy, resolute, warm cast of characters.  A lengthy Author’s Note provides quite a bit more information. Beautiful pairing of text and artwork for ages 4 or 5 and up.

chasing freedom cover imageChasing Freedom: The Life Journeys of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony Inspired by Historical Facts, by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Michele Wood
published in 2015 by Orchard Books ~ Scholastic

Nikki Grimes often gives us poetry, but here she uses her vivid imagination and power with words to create a conversation between two women who were contemporaries and who did indeed meet up at various times — Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony.

It’s a fascinating piece of historical fiction, set in 1904 at a convention for women’s suffrage in Rochester, New York. Sipping on tea in Susan’s parlor, these two phenomenal persons talk chasing freedom illustration michele woodtogether about their callings, rigorous efforts, hardships, sorrows, and dreams. 

Accompanying their narratives are stately paintings in acrylics and oils. Careworn, somber faces dominate these pages, as well as motifs from American patchwork quilts.

Mini-biographies of fellow activists of the era, and additional notes giving historical background to many elements mentioned by the women, are included, as well as an Author’s Note describing how Grimes composed this material.

This work has a serious tone, and is of great value for anyone ages 6 to adult. It is a longish text which would need to be read in episodes to those at the younger end of the spectrum.

28 days cover image28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World, by Charles R. Smith, Jr., illustrated by Shane W. Evans
published in 2015 by Roaring Brook Press (A Neal Porter Book)

Geared for the 28 days of February’s annual Black History Month celebrations, this is a phenomenally artistic, compelling, and energetic collection.

Each bold entry features one important figure or moment from black history. The book is organized in chronological order. First up is Crispus Attucks who was killed in the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770, and last is Barack Obama. One extra leap-year day is dedicated to you, the reader. Here are men and women, athletes, politicians, soldiers, an astronaut, pilot, explorer, doctor, singer, and some schoolchildren. 

The entries feature brief summary captions, many forms of poetry, excerpts from historic documents, acrostics, eulogies, and brief biographical sketches. It’s a joyous, creative variety that makes the pages sparkle.

28 days moments in black history smith and evans interior image

Shane Evans’ brilliant collage work booms with glorious strength, dramatic color, and surging energy. Stunning work. They could create posters out of every one of these pages. 

Super resource to dip into again and again, for ages 5 to adult.