Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, and Harlem's Greatest Bookstore


20899295The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, and Harlem's Greatest Bookstore 
Nelson,Vaunda Micheaux and Christie,  R. Gregory (Illustrator)
November 1st 2014 by Carolrhoda Books
E ARC by Netgalley.com

This nonfiction picture book discusses the National Memorial African Bookstore in Harlem during its heyday in the 1950s and 60s from the perspective of the proprietor's son. Founded by Louis Michaux, probably in the 1930s, the bookstore grew to be a center of education for the African American population, and a gathering place for notables. Also covered are some of the problems of the Civil Rights movement, as they affected the bookstore, especially the assassination of Malcolm X, who was a friend of Michaux's. Notes at the back give more details about the store, which closed in the 1970s. Michaux was the great-uncle of the author.
Strengths: There are a lot of picture books that aren't really meant for younger children, and this strikes me as one. The reading level as well as the content is more suited for middle grade readers, and the pictures make them think that the book will be easy. I've been getting more nonfiction picture books because students will pick them up readily and learn about bits of history or general knowledge.
Weaknesses: While I could appreciate that the pictures had sort of a 1960s Jack Ezra Keats quality to them, they were sort of smudgy and unfocused. Don't know how students will feel about them.
What I really think: This is much more accessible for my students than the other version of this story by this author, No Crystal Stair.

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