Young Frederick Douglass and his mother live on plantations far from each other. On one “special night,” Mama walks the 12 miles to be with him. Each mile she walks is a lesson that she teaches the boy. The first mile is “When I do my forgetting,” forgetting how tired she is; and "When the forgetting is done, I start remembering” is the second mile.
Each subsequent mile is special: thinking happy thoughts, looking at the stars, praying for freedom and finally the 12th mile is for love.
“WORDS SET ME FREE: The Story of Young Frederick Douglass,” by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome, Simon & Schuster/Wiseman, $16.99, 32 pages (nf) (ages 6-12)
Written in Frederick Douglass’ voice, the young slave tells of the hardships and cruelties of the plantation. His desire to learn to read, which his owner forbade, was fulfilled when he acquired a newspaper and clipped out words that he repeated over and over. With simple writing skills, he forged a letter supposedly written by his master that was meant to release him from slavery. Although this did not come to fruition at that time, he did escape three years later and was guided by the North Star to freedom.
The story is tender and meaningful, and James Ransome’s exquisite acrylic and oil paintings make this a masterpiece to treasure as an introduction to a noble statesmen.
Fictional stories and biographies for all ages bring meaning to Black History Month. Following are a few to consider:
“JUST AS GOOD: How Larry Doby Changed America’s Game,” by Chris Crowe, illustrated by Mike Benny, Candlewick, $16.99, 32 pages (ages 6-10)
Utahn Crowe tells the story of Larry Doby, who became the first African-American player in the American League and in 1948 helped the Cleveland Indians win their first World Series in decades.
“FREEDOM SONG: The Story of Henry 'Box' Brown,” by Sally M. Walker, illustrated by Sean Qualls, Harper, $17.99, 30 pages (ages 6-10)
This is the story of a Virginia slave named Henry Brown who actually mailed himself to freedom. While the myths have existed for years about such a thing, Sally M. Walker brings it to light with an actual letter written by an abolitionist in Philadelphia who claims to have received the box with Henry inside.
“BLACK BOY, WHITE SCHOOL,” by Brian F. Walker, HarperTeen, $17.99, 256 pages (f) (ages 14 and up)
When a young boy from a poor neighborhood goes to a prep academy, there are problems among groups. Brian F. Walker’s debut novel has some violence and racial clashes that are more appropriate for older readers, but the messages of race and misunderstandings are well stated.
"BLACK ALL AROUND," by Patricia Hubbell, illustrated by Don Tate, Lee & Low, $8.95, 32 pages (ages 4-8)
A celebration of the color black is posed next to acrylic paintings of the world around us. “Look high/look low/ look everywhere The wonderful color black is there!"
“Daddy’s arm is black as are the headlines in the daily news.”
Children will have great fun finding black objects while appreciating the “beautiful black all around.”
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