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Talk about hitting the lottery. That's how we felt when we asked some of the top kids' book creators to choose their favorite children's book about the black experience. The title could be for kids of any age--from a picture book or graphic novel to a chapter book or collection of poems. We told them it could be new or old, fiction or nonfiction. The only requirement? It had to be a book that they truly loved--and, of course, it couldn't be one of their own.
Sure, we expected to get a list of stellar titles for young people. What we didn't expect was how these books have made some of our contributors weep out loud, inspired them to reach new creative heights, and, in some cases, even transformed their lives. We hope you'll join our celebration of black history month by seeking out these remarkable reads. And be sure to visit this article online to share your own heartfelt favorites.
When l started teaching, one of the books I personally treasured and passionately shared with my students was I Am the Darker Brother: An Anthology of Modern Poems by African Americans (S & S, 1997), edited by Arnold Adoff. In the early '70s, poetry by African Americans was rarely included in middle and high school literature anthologies. But this collection sang the songs and wept the tears of the black experience. It opened a whole new world of connections, emotions, and voices for young people--a garden of power and peace.
"Come to me broken dreams and all Bring to me the glory of fruitless seeds, I shall find a place for them in my gardens"
--Conrad Kent Rivers (from "The Still Voice of Harlem")
Virginia Hamilton's Anthony Burns: The Defeat and Triumph of a Fugitive Slave (Knopf, 1988), one of my favorite books in any category, is an unsparing nonfiction account of the horrors of human bondage and the value of liberty. I love this book because it is so beautifully written; it reads like a novel with all the complexities of plot and characterization, and has the additional power of absolute truth. A classic for all ages to read in tandem is Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave: Written by Himself, published more than a century earlier.…