LS 5653 Module 2 African American-Book of Choice

King, Dr. Martin Luther. I Have a Dream. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2012. ISBN 9780375958878

I Have a Dream is an illustrated version of the last third of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s famous speech. In fact, this is the part of the speech that most people think of when they hear the phrase “I have a dream.” This is the part of the speech that is the hope for the future, not the problem or solution.

Nelson’s paintings are stirring. While most pages are two page spreads with multiple sentences, the three most potent pages actually have far less on them. Two of those pages are simply of Dr. King with one sentence (either on a blue or black background respectively). I say these are potent because they remind the reader that these words were once spoken. There was a voice behind them. The other powerful image is another deceptively simple image; that of a black hand and a white hand clasped. The page talks about working, praying and struggling together. Again, due to the lack of business in the image, it is more emphasized.

While the book is a good introduction for the speech for any audience, I would recommend it to high schoolers. I say high school because the last two pages hold the full speech verbatim. I know that, while many are familiar with the “I have a dream” portion of the speech, there are those who are unaware that the most commonly recited part is the ending. While there are a few reviews that state the first part of the speech is dated (and some specific phrases are), I feel the general premise of the entire speech remains true. The illustrated text, though technically the end of the speech, could be used as an introduction to the full speech. If used in a school library, it can be for a speech class, an English class, a history class, or even an art class.


Coretta Scott King Award-2013(Honor Book, Illustrator)


Booklist—“ there are images that expand on his stirring message, including a painting of a black teen and a white teen face-to-face, equal and connected, which accompanies the words “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood””

Kirkus—“ Nelson begins with the concluding paragraphs spoken on August 28th, 1963, with the Lincoln Memorial standing vigil over the massed assemblage. Dr. King’s opening paragraphs, with their urgent and specific references to America’s broken promises, slavery, discrimination and injustice, along with an acknowledgement of a “marvelous new militancy” are not often quoted.”

Kirkus. Kirkus Reviews. 2012. (Vol. 80, No. 18). Accessed via CLCD at

Rochman, Hazel. Booklist. 2012. (Vol. 109, No. 1). Accessed via CLCD at


LS 5653 Module 2 Woodson Novel

Woodson, Jacqueline. Feathers. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2007. ISBN 9780399239892

Feathers is an easy-to-read, fast paced, rather simple book about a girl named Frannie whose “big change” is a new boy in her class. Frannie goes to an all African American school [due to location as she points out “It’s the nineteen seventies…There’s no more segregation, remember?” (11)], has a brother who is deaf, and a white boy who says he isn’t white has just transferred into her class. The Jesus Boy, as he is called throughout the book, is a source of confusion and reflection for the whole class.

This is the simple foundation that this short book is based on. Frannie is your likeable, honest narrator. She also acts as a sounding board for everyone else. That being said, she isn’t an empty shell. She has strong feelings about her family that includes being overprotective of her older brother. While she is ambivalent about religion, she lets her best friend bounce her own ideas off of her.

In the end, Frannie, her best friend, The Jesus Boy, and the class bully are all shown to simply be people.

There is a strong sense of community in the story. The class usually acts, or doesn’t act, together. Frannie’s family and her best friend go to church, though Frannie herself has no interest. Even the basketball game at the community center when Frannie sees The Jesus Boy in the hall shows a busy place where everyone looks at The Jesus Boy a little sideways as though not sure what to make of him. The Jesus Boy himself is a rather passive character for the most part. While things happen around and to him, very few things actually spark a reaction. Instead, simply by being there he causes others to react.

While this story is an easy read and could be read even by elementary school children, it would likely do better in sixth or seventh grade. This story would be interested paired with something like Walter Dean Myers’s Monster. Both clearly have an “outsider” but the reaction to and nature of the “outsider” are very different. Another interesting companion to this book could be The Diary of Anne Frank or The Book Thief, for the same reason.


Newbery Medal-2008 (Honor book)
Notable Children’s Books-2008 ALSC American Library Association


Children’s Literature—“ Although Frannie is in many ways a very ordinary girl, with whom girl readers will easily connect, her life circumstances propel her to greater introspection and growth. She is a wonderful role model for coming of age in a thoughtful way, and the book offers to teach us all about holding on to hope.”

Kirkus—“ Woodson captures perfectly the questions and yearnings of a girl perched on the edge of adolescence, a girl who readers will take into their hearts and be glad to call their friend.”

Kirkus. Kirkus Reviews. 2007. (Vol. 75, No. 3). Accessed via CLCD at

McMillen, Paula. Children’s Literature. Accessed via CLCD at

LS 5653 Module 2 Pinkney Book

Pinkney, Andrea Davis. Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa. Illustrated by Brian Pinkney. New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 2002. ISBN 078682493X

With bright colors, a nearly square format, and the four sections of the book called “tracks,” Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa reads a lot like the insert in a CD case. To emphasize Ella’s particular musicality, the book is narrated by the Scat Cat, who tells the tale of Ella Fitzgerald in the rhythm of both jazz and scat.
While the first section starts in Ella’s childhood, only part that directly relates to her music is mentioned. While that may be a problem in an in depth biography, it was a good choice for this picture book. The book is about Ella as a singer, so the narrow focus makes sense. In addition, the book mentions that Ella “remembered that her first work as a performer had been on the street.”

The illustrations complement the story perfectly, from pages that only have Ella to those that have the Chick Webb and Benny Goodman Orchestras. Many of the pages have large swaths of uninterrupted color, which makes Ella, the Scat Cat, and anyone else stand out.

There are two primary cultural hallmarks in the book, Scat Cat’s speech and the illustrations themselves. The only confusion in the illustrations is that it is hard to tell who isn’t African American. For example, one page describes the battle of the bands between the Chick Webb Orchestra and the Benny Goodman Orchestra. While it is clear the Chick Webb Orchestra is African American (and the text said so), the ethnicity of the Benny Goodman Orchestra is hard to determine. Similarly, the “Stompin’ at the Savoy” pages show a slight variation in skin tone, but not enough to say who isn’t African American.

While Ella Fitzgerald does have an author’s note that tells more about Ella, this book acts more as an introduction to a person rather than a history of a person. It could also be used as an introduction to scat, jazz and swing or as the starting point to a topic like the history of music in New York City.


Kirkus Starred Review-2002
Storytelling World Resource-2004 (honor book)


Kirkus—“The prose is jazzy and rhythmic in the voice of a hipster, and it’s expertly illustrated with images inspired by the works of Harlem Renaissance artists, clueing readers to several departure points for further study. In this vein, the team provides useful afterwords explaining their methods and the historical backdrop to the story.”

Booklist—“The lengthy text, filled with jazzy colloquialisms, keeps its focus solidly on the music, describing the thrill of Fitzgerald’s performances in language that rhymes and slides with the swinging beat of its subject and places readers at the center of the action. Younger children won’t understand the sense in many of the phrases, but heard aloud, the rhythm in the words will give them a feel for the music; older readers will enjoy both the similarities to rap and spoken-word poetry.”

Engberg, Gillian. Booklist. 2002. (Vol. 98, No. 15). Accessed via CLCD at

Kirkus. Kirkus Reviews. 2002. (Vol. 70, No. 7). Accessed via CLCD at

LS 5653 Module 1 USBBY Outstanding International Book

Rogers, Gregory. The Hero of Little Street. New York: Neal Porter Book, 2012. ISBN 9781596437296

The Hero of Little Street is a wordless book that tells the story of a boy who escapes bullies by running into a gallery, only to follow a dog (that leapt out of one painting) into another. It’s a fun, fast paced adventure with a lively cartoon feel (including frames).

Like many picture books, this is a book that ages well. Young children will enjoy the comic-book feel, bright colors, and (for the youngest) lack of words. They will be able to tell the story (likely a little different with each telling) to an adult as opposed to an adult telling them the story. For older kids and teens, the paintings and statues that the boy passes and enters in the gallery can be researched.

This could be paired with other picture books for younger children, Inkheart for teens (both involve entering and exiting artistic works), or Girl with a Pearl Earring for a study of art (or Vermeer) in literature.


Patricia Wrightson Prize-2010 (Shortlist Australia)
School Library Journal Book Review Stars-2012
USBBY Outstanding International Booklist-2012


Booklist—“ The frenetic pacing and subtle visual gags sprinkled throughout will reward repeat viewings, and the Dutch setting makes for a particularly striking backdrop. A delightful little excursion for busy imaginations.”

Kirkus—“Since young readers are probably even less likely to groove on Vermeer than on Shakespeare, who figured in the earlier titles, the romp must depend upon plenty of slapstick to keep them engaged–and it delivers. Small, comic-book–style panels convey the action, punctuated by breathtaking longshots of galleries and the streets and canals of Delft. Boy and dog career along, tripping up pedestrians and smashing blue-and-white crockery”

Chipman, Ian. Booklist. April 2012. (Vol. 108, No. 16). Accessed via CLCD at

Kirkus. Kirkus Reviews. January 2012. (Vol. 80, No. 2). Accessed via CLCD at

LS 5653 Module 1 Markus Zusak

Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. ISBN 0375931007

Perhaps one of the first, and most noticeable, facts about this quirky book is that it is narrated in stream-of-consciousness by Death. In the introduction, Death proves to be a reliable, if distracted and strange, witness.

The book itself is Death’s telling of Leisel Meminger, the book thief, during World War Two in Molching Germany, in a mixture of his own words and memories, and Leisel’s written words. Death not only is present for the killing, but also notes the little things that show the almost cruel fact that life goes on (such as soccer games and running jokes).

The Book Thief is by no means an easy read (considering that every few pages Death inserts some small piece of information that, seemingly random, made an impression to him at the time) but it is broken into sections and chapters in such a way that it wouldn’t be overwhelming for the classroom or a book club.

The novel would work well if paired with Holocaust poetry (for contrast as well as comparison) or simply with the WWII section of world history. It would be a good reminder for students that the Germans during WWII were human as well.

Zusak’s use of German, his description of Hitler Youth, and the portrayals of both the Nazi and those who quietly disagreed make the tale believable. While the character of Death itself is exaggerated and the flow of time is jagged at times, the actual humans in the story are believable people with hopes, dreams, and words. This is a good example of someone outside a culture writing an authentic representation.


Cybil Award-2006 (Finalist)
Michael L. Printz Award-2007 (Honor Book)
Young Australians’ Best Book Award-2013 (Shortlist Fiction)


Kirkus—“’When Death tells a story, you pay attention. Liesel Meminger is a young girl growing up outside of Munich in Nazi Germany, and Death tells her story as “an attempt-a flying jump of an attempt-to prove to me that you, and your human existence, are worth it.”’

Publishers Weekly—“This hefty volume is an achievement—a challenging book in both length and subject, and best suited to sophisticated older readers. The narrator is Death himself, a companionable if sarcastic fellow, who travels the globe “handing souls to the conveyor belt of eternity.” Death keeps plenty busy during the course of this WWII tale, even though Zusak (I Am the Messenger\n) works in miniature, focusing on the lives of ordinary Germans in a small town outside Munich.”

Kirkus. Kirkus Reviews. January 2006. (Vol. 74, No. 2). Accessed via CLCD at

Publishers Weekly. Accessed via CLCD at

LS 5653 Module 1 Batchelder Award

Uehashi, Nahoko. Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit. New York: Arthur A. Levine, 2008. ISBN 0545005426

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit tells the story of Balsa, a spear-wielding bodyguard, and Chagum, the Second Prince of Yogo. When Balsa rescues the prince from the river, she has no idea that she has only just begun her next adventure. It’s a fast paced novel that makes great use of flashbacks and separate “parts” of the book.

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit is told in three parts, an introduction to the various primary characters, a middle section where the reader learns more of the myths and background that drive the plot, and the final part that is a mad rush of climax and resolution. However, as driving as the plot is, the characters are easily the most interesting part. Whether it is young Chagum who must decide who he is as a person rather than a prince or Tanda whose quiet presence and humorous quips keep even the most dangerous situations from being too serious, the characters are continually growing. Even old Torogai, who makes several comments about being too old herself (though she argues if anyone else implies it) acknowledges that one must continue to learn and grow.

It is unsurprising, considering it has already been turned into an anime (with an English translation as well) and a manga, that in many ways Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit reads like watching an anime. Unlike many native English books where the flashbacks often seem heavy handed, they merge seamlessly into the story of Balsa. Entering and exiting the flashbacks (or myths) is more like telling a friend about your day where you relive it in your mind rather than telling a story you’ve heard but never experienced.

The greatest disappointment for me is that only the first two books in the Moribito series have been translated from Japanese. I can only hope that more of the 2014 Hans Christian Anderson Award winner’s novels will be translated.
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit would be a great novel to bridge the gap between novels and anime (or novels and manga) for teens. Since there is an English version of the anime, some teens may have already heard the story of Balsa, but not be aware that there is a novel as well. For those who are unfamiliar with the anime and manga formats, the novel (which contains similar elements) is a great introduction. Unfortunately, though Uehashi admits to using some Japanese myths, she also admits that most of her fantasy worlds are original; meaning it probably shouldn’t be used as an introduction to Japanese myths.


Cybil Award-2008 (finalist)
Mildred L. Batchelder Award-2009


Booklist—“This Japanese import features many familiar martial-arts fantasy elements: magic, nonstop action, swordplay, a puzzling myth, dangerous plot twists, and a strong-willed, flawed hero on a quest. What’s surprising is that the “hero” is a slightly wrinkled, weather-beaten, thirty-year-old heroine”

Kirkus—“While the disparate ages of the protagonists might seem unusual to Western fantasy fans, seasoned manga readers should be less surprised. Jam-packed with monstrous combat, ethnic conflicts and complex mythologies, Balsa and Chagum’s story will win many new fans for this series.”

Kirkus. Kirkus Reviews. May 2008. (Vol. 76, No. 10). Accessed via CLCD at

Sherman, Chris. Booklist. Aug 2008. (Vol. 104, No. 22). Accessed via CLCD at