Saturday, February 04, 2012

Historical Picture Books

Evans, Shane. Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom.
This picture book portrays an escape from slavery with extremely simple text and rough-hewn drawings. This would be something the most beginning readers could read, but they might need to talk through the pictures to make sense of the story, and have someone read the explanations at the back of the book to them. Not being a picture book aficionado, especially if there are few or no words, I didn't care much for this personally, but I could see it being used in the elementary school as an introduction to a unit on the Underground Railroad.

De La Pena, Matt. A Nation's Hope: The Story of boxing Legend Joe Louis.
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson.
The Joe Louis-Max Schmeling rivalry in 1938 was of huge concern to the African-American community, and to the US in general. Louis's triumph meant that somehow the Nazis and Nazi ideals were inferior, and Schmeling's triumph dejected the entire country. In easy-to-understand but elegant and descriptive language, this book describes both the fights and their impact on African- Americans during a time when Civil Rights issues were starting to come to the foreground. This would be useful even in a middle school. Perhaps because I had a dear friend who was forced to fight for the Wehrmacht or be killed, even though his views were as far from sympathetic to the Nazis as could be, I am curious to read about Max Schmeling's life-- in Sharenow's The Berlin Boxing Club, he is portrayed as a somewhat sympathetic character despite his vilification in the US.

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