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The Angle, February 2018 – Book Picks

In celebration of Black History Month, we’re pleased to suggest books about African-American pioneers in the fields of aviation, the mathematics of space flight, and civil rights. Inspiration abounds in these stories, containing powerful lessons for our children.

Fly, Bessie, Fly

by Lynn Joseph, illustrated by Yvonne Buchanan (Simon & Schuster; price varies) Age 4-8

Two years before famous Amelia Earhart received her pilot’s license, intrepid Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman was already barnstorming her way across the country, breaking racial and gender barriers with equal force. (For more on Coleman’s story, see our feature story this month)

Tailored for young readers, this book downplays some of the extreme challenges Bessie faced–not to mention the tragic end of her short life–in favor of painting an inspiring portrait of a dynamic and determined girl who followed her dreams from Texas cotton fields, to aviation school in France, on to daredevil acclaim back in the USA. With this in mind, it succeeds in inspiring children of color, and those interested in science, to open their minds and dream big.

Though no longer in print, the book is widely available–and affordable–used, as well as on library shelves.

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race

by Margot Lee Shetterly, illustrated by Laura Freeman (HarperCollins $17.99) Age 4-8

If you were captivated by the acclaimed 2016 film “Hidden Figures” and want your little girls and boys to know the story of these smart, determined black women, you’ll be thrilled with this age-appropriate picture book published in January 2018.

Author Shetterly knew some of the African-American math geniuses who proved indispensable in computing the technical details of space flight at NASA–and wrote the original book “Hidden Figures,” which profiles the women in a more detailed and strictly factual way.

This exuberantly illustrated new volume tells the women’s true story, emphasizing the racial barriers they overcame and their important role in American history. Astronaut John Glenn once refused take-off until he had team leader Katherine Johnson’s personal verification of the mission calculations. Johnson was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama.

Freedom’s Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories

by Ellen Levine (Puffin $7.99) All ages (Great to be read aloud with your children!)

These first-person accounts preserve the stories of lesser-known but integrally important participants in the mid-20th-centur Civil Rights movement. Many black children in the American South experienced childhood marked by acts of faith and courage in the face of unimaginable obstacles.

These adolescents and teens of the 1960s made history as the first young black people to integrate all-white schools, sit at segregated lunch counters, or become Freedom Riders. In the case of Claudette Colvin, she protested the back-of-the-bus policies, (which is also profiled in our feature story this month.)

Because Levine’s audience is not just limited to young children, parents will want to selectively share the stories in this book; generally speaking, most kids will be ready to read it on their own by 5th or 6th grade

Note: Age recommendations are based upon publisher guidelines and parent feedback. Prices are publisher’s list; discounts are usually available.

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