Looking at the books I have arranged for Black History Month, I am a little frustrated by how many of them are historical, and mainly concerned with civil rights. While these books certainly are valuable, what I really want to find is contemporary books with main characters of color dealing with issues that go above and beyond their racial identities. I include the following previously reviewed books because they are ones that my students really like.
Allen, Crystal. How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy.
Reviewed 11 April 2011
Lamar loves to bowl, but his father only cares about his brother, who is a star basketball player. Things are tough in the household because Lamar's mother passed away when he was younger, and his father is having work cuts that limit the family's money. When the Billy Jenks, who is constantly in trouble, offers Lamar a chance to make a lot of money by playing with him in games people bet on, Lamar thinks he has something good going, until he realizes that his bowling idol, Bubba Sanders, would not approve.
Strengths: Fun language, snappy scenes, bowling, and an African American main character in the Heartland. I debated whether a picture of Lamar would be good-- could not decide. This cover is good. I also liked the realistic consequences and the supportive adults in this.
Weaknesses: While Lamar's funny style of speaking is appealing, I got a little tired of some of his catch phrases. ("Crackers and cream cheese")
Boles, Philiana Marie. Little Divas.
Reviewed 22 Feburary 2006
Little Divas is for a slightly younger crowd, with a great, bright cover, and a nice story about a girl adjusting to her parents' divorce and having a fun summer hanging out with her cousin. Okay, they spend a lot of time lying to a very strict aunt and uncle about where they are going, but since they are going to the mall with an older sister or to watch the boys play basketball in the park, I was okay with it.
My students seem to be especially drawn to the cover with the different complexions of the girls and have often remarked on it.
Rhuday-Perkovitch, Olugbemisola. 8th Grade Super Zero.
Reviewed 18 March 2010
Reginald has all kinds of problems. He's called Pukey by a former friend. His father is out of work. He has a crush on Ruthie and isn't sure what to do about it. Reggie also writes comic books and is a big buddy for a disadvantaged boy. To top it all off, he is volunteering with his church at a homeless shelter and starts to feel that his school isn't doing enough to give back to the community, so instead of helping the shallow Vicky win the election for class president, he decides to run himself.
This book was a refreshing change from inner-city, African American children with problems of drug abuse and gang wars, and the positive role models in Reggie's life, as well as his earnest volunteerism, will be good for students to read. My only problem-- this is long (324 pages) and does verge on the pedantic from time to time. Volunteerism can be portrayed in an interesting way (see Sonnenblick), but Reggie's involvement with the youth group and pastor, as well as his soul-searching, might not appeal to students as much.
Smith, Sherri L. Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet.
Reviewed 11 March 2008
I was a little leery of a book that takes place all in one somewhat ill-fated afternoon, but this turned out to be a very humorous story of a multicultural family event. Ana Shen's father is Chinese-American, and her mother is African-American. For her 8th grade graduation, both sets of grandparents show up, and circumstances find them all in the kitchen working to put together a meal. The personalities and cultural differences are explored in an amusing and yet thought-provoking way. I will look for more from this author.
And I am now officially old. Our new crop of student teachers/observers came in yesterday, and they look like they should be hanging out with my daughter. Which makes sense, since she is a high school senior, and they are college freshman. Still, this means I am very close to being able to tell the faculty to fix their hair and pull up their socks. I already have a cane waiting for me so I can shake it at people!