Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Overground Railroad and Ain't Burned All the Bright

Taylor, Candacy. Overground Railroad: THe Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America
January 4th 2022 by Amulet Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus 

This was very well researched and covered a lot of additional history of the Black experience in the US, not just travel. I loved that the author traveled to different places mentioned in the Green Book, and took photographs of places that were listed in the travel guide, very few of which still exist. The personal connections to her family were interesting as well. The small things that you would only know about if you lived through an era, like the fact that many Black men who had nicer or newer cars kept chauffeur's caps in the car in case they were stopped by the police, are invaluable. The photographs are excellent, and this book has excellent, in depth coverage of an important period in time. 

This was an adaptation for young people of a longer book, which is great, but was still a bit longer than I wanted. If I have moeny left over, I will buy this, since it would be helpful for research for National History Day. What I'm looking for is something somewhere between this amount of information and Dawson and Harris' Opening the Road: Victor Hugo Green and His Green Book

I'm fascinated by the digitized collection of the original guide books accessible through the New York Public Library:

From the publisher:
A young reader's edition of Candacy Taylor’s acclaimed book about the history of the Green Book, the guide for Black travelers
Overground Railroad chronicles the history of the Green Book, which was published from 1936 to 1966 and was the “Black travel guide to America.” For years, it was dangerous for African Americans to travel in the United States. Because of segregation, Black travelers couldn’t eat, sleep, or even get gas at most white-owned businesses.

The Green Book listed hotels, restaurants, department stores, gas stations, recreational destinations, and other businesses that were safe for Black travelers. It was a resourceful and innovative solution to a horrific problem. It took courage to be listed in the Green Book, and the stories from those who took a stand against racial segregation are recorded and celebrated.

Reynolds, Jason and Griffin, Jason. Ain't Burned All the Bright. 
January 11th 2022 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books 
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

I somehow missed this one, but it was brought to my attention by one of the teachers, who wanted to know more about it before buying it.

This is a difficult book to review, so I suggest picking up a copy for yourself. It is a very quick read, perhaps 4-6 pages of text as it would be arranged in a traditional novel, but the words are arranged like poetry on highly decorated pages. I was concerned about content, since Reynolds often writes Young Adult Books, but this would be fine for middle school readers. Elementary school readers might benefit from support in reading this in order to fully understand it. The story isn't so much told to us as presented, and it's up to the reader to tease out what is going on. It reminded me a bit of when I was told to teach Latin inductively rather than deductively.

Thematically, this covers the events of 2020 from the view of a young Black boy at home with his family. His mother is obsessed with the news, which is highly repetitive and unpleasant; his father is ill and coughing; his brother plays video games constantly; his sister is on her phone. The boy wonders why the news has so much about racial issues in it, but also why these issues never seem to change.

The illustrations are collage style. This is a very unusually formatted book, so it's hard to gauge student interest. Certainly, libraries where Reynolds' work is popular will want to take a look. I have a teacher who is very passionate about his work, so the book might circulate on the strength of her recommendations.

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