Monday, March 20, 2017

Read Around the World: Books For World Folktales and Fables Week

Folktales are one of my top favorite types of stories; when patrons ask for read alouds for elementary school classes, I always take them to our J 398 section and start pulling titles. Throughout humanity, folktales and fables have communicated universal messages about cooperation, being appreciative for what you have, the comeuppance of tricksters, and the triumph of the small over the powerful that continue to resonate with listeners young and old.

Since we just celebrated National Tell a Fairy Tale Day, you might be wondering what the difference is between fairy tales and folktales. It's not easy to have a hard and fast rule, but one of the best ways to differentiate the two is that fairy tales pretty much end with a "happily ever after" ending. Think Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, etc that are popular in our culture (most cultures have fairy tales, with Cinderella-type stories being perhaps the most universal fairy tale). Fairy tales usually involve royalty, dragons, witches, and other supernatural beings. Folktales, on the other hand, do not always have a happy ending for the character; indeed, like the famous Anansi stories from West Africa, the main character often suffers to learn a lesson. The main character might also be portrayed as foolish, sneaky, vain, or some other negative trait, which is usually not the case in fairy tales (going back to Cinderella as an example--Cinderella is good, downtrodden, and taken advantage of by her family, but eventually triumphs). On the other hand, folktales might also feature characters that outsmart those of a higher station or class.   While this collection of titles doesn't include all my favorite folktales, here is a sampling of some of our outstanding folktales:




Although we don't know much about the ancient Greek storyteller named Aesop, the stories attributed to him continue to bring home universal truths, particularly The Boy Who Cried Wolf. B.G. Hennessy's retelling of the boy who told a falsehood one too many times is a cautious reminder about the importance of truth-telling.



How Many Donkeys? An Arabic Counting Tale is a Saudi folktale starring Jouha, a popular "wise fool" found in many Middle Eastern folktales. When Jouha takes his donkeys to market, he consistently forgets to count the donkey upon which he rides, causing him great consternation that a donkey is missing. As the subtitle suggests, this is a helpful story in learning how to count in Arabic!



Jewish folktales are often filled with humor at the expense of the main character, as is the case with It Could Always be Worse (1978 Caldecott Honor book). When a man visits his rabbi to get guidance on how to manage his crazy, noisy, and cramped household, the rabbi instructs him to bring in his farm animals. With each subsequent consultation from the rabbi, the house gets even more crowded...until the rabbi's final suggestion leads him to be thankful for his original situation.




Margaret Read MacDonald's many folktale retellings are top-notch reads, but Mabela the Clever, originally told by the Limba community in Sierra Leone, is my favorite. A sneaky cat manages to trick the mice into joining his Secret Cat Society (with fatal results), until the smallest mouse figures out what's really going on. It has a great refrain that lends itself easily to audience participation, which is a cool bonus!



While I love folktales and fairy tales, I admit that our most popular stories often feature stereotypical attributes and behavior of both girls and boys. If you're searching for an alternative to traditional prince and princess stories, check out Not One Damsel in Distress: World Folktales for Strong Girls and Mightier Than the Sword: World Folktales For Strong Boys. Both collections feature authentic folktales from diverse communities (France, Afghanistan, England, Sioux, and more) that glorify brains over brawn and beauty, adapted by master storyteller Jane Yolen.





Virginia Hamilton's The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales  is a classic in folklore collections. Well-known African American folktales with Bruh Rabbit and other animals are included, as well as folktales about slaves that outsmart their slaveowners. The title story is also available as a picture book.


       
Rabbit loves the snow; he just can't get enough! When Rabbit starts a traditional Iroquois drum and song dance to coax snowfall, the other animals are NOT happy...because it's summer! Rabbit continues his dance, undeterred, until he finally gets a lesson about too much of a good thing (and at inappropriate times!). It's also one of the great "how [name of animal] got its tail/stripes/etc" found across many cultures.  Rabbit's Snow Dance: A Traditional Iroquois Story is a magnificent read aloud by esteemed Abenaki author Joseph Bruchac and his son, James.





Cautionary tales about spreading gossip are found in many different cultures, such as The Rumor. Jataka tales are Buddhist tales that often feature the Buddha as a wise animal that teaches lessons about sharing, compassion, and the difference between good and evil. This Jataka tale features a hare, who upon hearing a mango fall to the ground, is convinced that the world is ending, and turns all the other animals into a tizzy until they reach the lion, who is determined to get to the bottom of the situation. Sounds familiar? Of course! It's very much like the Chicken Little/Henny Penny stories!





Tales Our Abuelitas Told: A Hispanic Folktale Collection is a master lesson in folktale collections; not only does it include marvelous retellings of popular Hispanic tales, but it also includes intriguing information on the origins of Hispanic folklore in general as well as notes on each folktale. The illustrations are also evocative of Hispanic art.





Southern culture is renowned for its storytelling, whether it involves African-American folktales in the Deep South, Cajun stories from southeastern Louisiana, or tales from the Appalachian mountains.  With a Whoop and a Holler: A Bushel of Lore From Way Down South is an outstanding collection of Southern folklore, divided by regions (The Bayou, The Deep South, and The Mountains).Notes on each regional variations is included. Nancy van Laan's Cajun retellings are expertly cadenced, with the other stories including regional dialect that rings authentic but not so much that non-natives would find it difficult to read aloud.

We have so many amazing stories awaiting new listeners in our J 398 section! Browse through our collection next time you visit, or ask for more recommendations.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 







Monday, March 13, 2017

We Can Do It! Books for Women's History Month

When I started compiling the list of books I wanted to feature for Women's History Month, I quickly realized that I needed a narrower focus than just "women's history." I love reading books about women's history and biographies of little-known women, so my list of favorites was way too long for a post! Therefore, I decided to focus on outstanding books about women that do not have the same recognition as women like Helen Keller, Eleanor Roosevelt, etc. If you're looking for memorable reads about extraordinary women, you are in for a treat!






Before Sally Ride, there was the "Mercury 13."  Funded by William Randolph Lovelace in a non-NASA initiative, these 13 women underwent the same physical screening and challenges as the men being screened and trained by NASA during the 1960s. All 13 were accomplished pilots; all passed the Phase I screenings and one of them, Jerrie Cobb, passed every single test and challenge (due to family and work obligations, the other women were not able to finish every test) before the program was suddenly cancelled.  Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream is a mesmerizing, inspiring, and heartbreaking look at these amazing women who definitely had the right stuff (and would make an incredible movie!).





You've heard of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, but what about Nell Richardson and Alice Burke? Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, A Kitten, And 10,000 Miles is a charming tale of these two yellow-clad suffragists who spread the message of women's voting rights across the country.





I've mentioned how much I love The Extraordinary Suzy Wright: A Colonial Woman on the Frontier several times; its a compelling biography of an intelligent, resourceful, and community-minded colonial women who championed the rights of Native Americans and counseled her Quaker neighbors on legal matters.





Barbara Johns was only a teenager when her fight to end segregation in her Virginia community became part of the Brown v. Board of Education case. Her extraordinary story and determination is memorably told in The Girl From the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement.








Did you know that America's first major prima ballerina was an Osage Native American who grew up on an Oklahoma reservation? Tallchief became a superstar as one of George Balanchine's top ballerinas in the 1950s, when American ballet became an international powerhouse. Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina is gorgeously illustrated and told through Tallchief's perspective. Although those looking for a great deal of biographical information will need additional sources, this is a must read for all young balletomanes.





When I was young, a Nellie Bly biography was one of my favorite books. How I would have loved Ten Days a Madwoman: The Daring Life and Turbulent Times of the Original "Girl" Reporter, Nellie Bly! As I haven't really read anything about Nellie Bly since I was a kid, I learned so much from this fabulous read. Nellie Bly's journalism highlighted the plight of the mentally ill in institutions and lead to real reform; her race around the world introduced readers to new cultures and sights. This is fun informational reading at its finest.





If you're in the mood for an inspiring biography about a modern-day woman, Wangari Maathai: The Women Who Planted Millions of Trees is not to be missed. Although we have several biographies about the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, this is my favorite. (And if you need a read for any upcoming Earth Day activities, this one is ideal!)





One of my favorite movies is A League of Their Own; sure, it's not great cinema, but it's fun, funny, charming, and moving. If you're also a fan, then you should definitely read A Whole New Ball Game: The Story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, a captivating chronicle of the league that played from 1943-1954. Mama Played Baseball  is a sweet fictional picture book told through the eyes of a young daughter of a league player, and is perfect for younger readers and listeners.

You can find many more terrific biographies in our juvenile biogaphy section!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 


















Monday, March 06, 2017

Celtic Pride: Books for St. Patrick's Day and Irish-American Heritage Month

A (belated) welcome to March! March means many things--spring is just around the corner, baseball season starts, and the beginning of our favorite spring holidays, including St. Patrick's Day! March is also Irish-American Heritage Month, which is a great time to reflect on the many ways Irish immigrants have enriched our culture, and the many hardships they faced and overcame in their homeland and in their new country. Before you don your favorite green apparel and celebrate St. Patrick's Day, why not check out these super awesome books about St. Patrick and Irish heritage?



Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland is a super introduction to the life of St. Patrick, written and illustrated by picture book master, Tomie dePaola. DePaola includes both factual information and legends about this British-born missionary. 









Irish culture is well-known for its colorful and magical stories of fairies, leprechauns, and fantastical legends. A Pot O'Gold: A Treasury of Irish Stories, Poetry, Folklore, And (Of Course) Blarney  is a must read for anyone wanting to delve into the rich folklore of Ireland.




Did you know that the Cinderella story appears in many cultures? The Irish Cinderlad and Fair, Brown and Trembling  are two examples of the "rags to riches" tale, with unique elements; in The Irish Cinderlad, the two main characters are reversed (the boy is the one plagued by his stepmother and stepsisters), while Fair, Brown, and Trembling includes the more familiar aspects of the story. 






Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850 is an eye-opening and humbling account of the Irish Famine, during which one million Irish men, women, and children died and two million fled Ireland. 







When parents ask for books that their I Survived young fans would like, I often recommend the Dear America and My Name is America series; both series offer compelling historical series with charactes that young readers will relate to. (I also recommend the You Choose series.) So Far From Home: The Diary of Mary Driscoll, An Irish Mill Girl and The Journal of Finn Reardon: A Newsie follow two young Irish-Americans who endure much difficulties in their young lives.




If you're picking up a St. Patrick biography, why not check out Jean Fritz's picture book biography of St. Columba? The Man Who Loved Books features the Irish saint who copied 300 New Testaments so that Scottish churches could have their own copy.

Happy St. Patrick's Day (and Irish American Heritage Month!)

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 


Monday, February 27, 2017

Oh, The Things You Can Read: A Dr. Seuss Celebration

March 4th is nearly upon us, which can only mean one thing--it's time to celebrate Dr. Seuss's Birthday/Read Across America Day! Many elementary schools, libraries, and other community places are hosting fun-filled celebrations that week--and Fauquier County is no exception! Please join us for our annual Dr. Seuss Birthday/Read Across America celebration on March 4th at all library locations (Warrenton celebration will be at the John Barton Payne building). We'll enjoy our favorite Seuss stories, make a crazy Seuss-inspired craft, and even receive a book for our own personal library! Our celebration is made possible by the Fauquier Education Association and the Friends of the Fauquier County Library.






We have some fine Seuss biographies for kids, but Kathleen Krull's The Boy on Fairfield Street is my top pick. Who Was Dr. Seuss?, part of the ever-popular Who Was/Is? series, is also a fun read. We also have indepth biographies for adult fans, such as The Seuss, The Whole Seuss, And Nothing but the Seuss: A Visual Biography of Theodor Seuss Geisel and Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geiesel.







We often get recommendations for audiobooks that will entertain a wide range of children, which makes for challenging selections. We don't want something that will be too difficult (or mature) for a kindergartner to understand, but not something that will read as baby-ish for a lower elementary school student. The Cat in the Hat and Other Seuss Favorites  is one of my regular audiobooks recommendations for this scenario; even kids who think they're too "old" for Seuss will find this a super entertaining and funny listen (readers include Billy Crystal and John Lithgow).






Before Theodore Geisel became primarily known for his children's books, he was the senior editorial cartoonist for the now-defunct magazine PM.  Dr. Seuss Goes to War is an incredibly fascinating collection of his political cartoons, some of which have been recently reprinted in newspapers and articles. As the cartoons are not intended for young viewers, this is for adult Seuss fans.






Has it been some time since you've read Seuss (or read them to your kids)? Read them again in Your Favorite Seuss; each story is prefaced by an introductory essay, in which the essay's author expresses how that story influenced him/her or why he/she loves that story so much (essayists include Stan and Jan Berenstain, Pete Seeger, Christopher Paolini, and Audrey Geisel; other essayists include children's librarians, teachers, and booksellers!).






What was the most eagerly anticipated posthumous publication from a beloved author in 2015? While many avid readers were eagerly anticipating Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman, children's literature fans were impatient to read What Pet Should I Get (and some were eager to read both!)? While this publication of an unpolished manuscript can't be compared to The Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham, it's an intriguing read (close observers will note that the brother and sister are the same sibling pair in One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish)

We'll celebrate more Seuss fun on March 4th from 10 AM-12 PM!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Once Upon a Time: Books For National Tell a Fairy Tale Day

I honestly don't know how these "national day" celebrations are started, but they're great ideas for blog posts, story time ideas, and more (and they often show up on social media, so they've become more popular). February 26 appears to be "National Tell a Fairy Tale Day," so it's a great excuse to tell you about my favorite fairy tale adaptations! Now, with "World Folk Tales and Fables Week" coming up in March, I had to think about the difference between a fairy tale and a folk tale. Fairy tales involve witches, mermaids, fairies, and other supernatural creatures, while folktales involve people (or animals) in everyday situations. Fairy tales tend to end with a happy ending for the main character (not always true in folktales, because sometimes the main character is there to learn a hard lesson).






This "Once Upon a World" version of Cinderella is sweet and perfect for young listeners, with a Mexican flair for originality! Mexican illustrator Sandra Equihua's artwork is dazzling and vibrant. If you're looking for retellings based on the Charles Perrault story, consider versions by Barbara McClintock, Ruth Sanderson, or Marcia Brown's 1955 Caldecott Medal classic. The Cinderella story can be found in many cultures, including Korean, Indonesian, Greek, and Irish.





We have many fine editions of The Ugly Duckling, but Jerry Pinkney's 2000 Caldecott Honor version is my favorite.  His illustrations of the ostracized duckling who grows into a magnificent swan are breathtaking!




Hansel and Gretel is one of the creepiest well-known Grimm fairy tales (there are plenty of creepier lesser-known Grimm stories, too!), but the German forest settings and the witch's house made of candy can make for outstanding illustrations. If you want the classic German woods setting, try versions by Will Moses, Susan Jeffers, or Holly Hobbie. For a cartoonish version (and less creepy), read James Marshall's take, while Rachel Isadora puts a fresh spin on the tale by setting it in an African forest. Finally, if you want the full-on creepy factor, Neil Gaiman's retelling is for you.



Not only does Susan Middleton Elya's Little Roja Riding Hood include Spanish words (glossary is included) throughout the story, but it's also told in rhyme, which makes this a fun read aloud for listeners. For the classic version, don't miss Trina Schart Hyman's 1984 Caldecott Medal edition. Jerry Pinkney's Little Red Riding Hood is gorgeous, while James Marshall's famous cartoon-like illustrations and telling make the accessible for young listeners/readers. Niki Daly's memorable Pretty Salma is set in Ghana, with a dog being the chief villain.


Looking for more fairy tales? Check out the J 398.2 section.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library











Monday, February 13, 2017

Random Reads: Check Them Out!

It's only the middle of February, but I am already overwhelmed with the amount of amazing sounding 2017 titles that are coming our way (or already on our shelves)! I'm still playing catchup with 2016 titles that I missed, so I've held off on some 2017 titles, for the most part. From time to time, I will share"Random Reads" posts on my recent reads. It's always a hodgepodge of picture books, chapter books, YA, and some adult nonfiction/fiction from time to time, so if you're not in the mood for anything particular, I hope something here will pique your interest!





I was made aware of Alan's Big, Scary Teeth thanks to the Notable Children's Books committee's list, and now I can't wait to share it in story time (along with Snip! Snap! What's That?). Alan takes his role as a ferocious reptile very seriously; he takes great care of his sharp teeth and  practices his most terrifying faces before settling in for a productive day of scaring the other jungle animals. Alan has QUITE the secret about his teeth, though--which leads to chaos....until he and the other jungle animals work out an understanding. It's super funny (not scary at all) with big and bright illustrations perfect for grabbing the attention of young listeners.







No one, in my mind, does pastels quite like Kevin Henkes. He is the pastel master. His latest, Egg, has arrived just in time for spring, and it's stunning. Four eggs hatch, with the fourth egg revealing something very surprising!



Books about children in other countries tend to either be historical fiction, or feature the country (and characters) in its contemporary crisis; these are definitely important to have, but we really need books that feature children in other countries living ordinary lives, which is why I really delighted in Juana and Lucas. Although she lives in Colombia, Juana's life is quite similar to many American children's lives: she loves drawing and her dog, Lucas, but finds her foreign language classes (English) difficult and boring. A promised trip to Florida to meet her favorite superhero, Astroman, is a great incentive for her to take her English classes seriously! Spanish words are sprinkled throughout this beginning chapter book.



Tell Me a Tattoo Story is another Notable Books for Children list find; I was touched by how sweet and warm this unusual title is! There's not much actual story here--a dad and a young boy talk about dad's tattoos and the importance behind each one--but it's a very touching family-oriented title that is refreshingly free of fake sentimentality and cloyishness that can creep into parent and child picture books stories.




Need to explain the concept of perception? They All Saw a Cat  will get the message across loud and clear. When I looked at the major "best books of 2016" lists that came out November-December, this title repeatedly appeared on title after title. This undoubtedly caused it to go on backorder status, which meant that we didn't receive it until the week after it received a Caldecott Honor. As a cat "walks through the world," other animals observe it entering their space. Of course, the dog sees the cat differently than the mouse, the fish, or the bee do, which is brilliantly reflected in the illustrations. This is the rare Caldecott that would work well as a read aloud, which is always a bonus (criteria is only based on illustrations).



I usually don't get too excited about the latest superhero movie, but I am super pumped for the Wonder Woman movie this summer. (And I wasn't even a WW fan when I was a kid; the TV show was a few years before my time.) DC Comics is ramping up interest in the movie with an avalanche of Wonder Woman books for kids and teens (and the interest crosses both genders, evidenced by one of our young boy patrons saying, "Wonder Woman! Cool!" when he saw our new Wonder Woman picture book).  Wonder Woman: The True Amazon is a gorgeously illustrated YA graphic novel origin story. It's been super popular at all branches since we received it; I was finally able to grab it off our new shelves in order to review it!



I'm a huge biography fan, so this 2017 biography about the great children's picture book author, Margaret Wise Brown was at the top of my to-be-read list. In the Great Green Room: The Brilliant and Bold Life of Margaret Wise Brown is an intimate and revealing look at this incredibly gifted woman whose ideas for picture books were ahead of her time. As she died tragically young, this is a rather short biography (just a little over 200 pages); Amy Gary's discovery of unpublished manuscripts, poems, and diary entries round out this enigmatic figure.



I'll admit that costume drama series like Downton Abbey tend to sweep past me, as do anything involving the Tudors, but anything with Queen Victoria gets my attention. And although I've found some parts of ITV/Masterpiece Theater's Victoria slow-going at parts (now that Albert has been introduced, we're no longer focusing so much on scandals involving the appointments of ladies-in-waiting, thank goodness), it's my new appointment television. However, given that it's a miniseries, some things are rushed (such as V&A's courtship) or not fully explained, which is why you need to read Victoria the Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire. Yes, it's a doorstopper, but full of enticing details about the controversies and scandals of Victoria's early reign (like any eighteen year old would, she immediately seized the opportunity to show everyone who was in charge, beginning with her mother and her mother's dumb friends), her passionate and tumultous relationship with husband Albert (and the crippling depression she fell into after his death), and her complicated though mostly loving relationship with her nine children. Baird effectively dispels myths about Victoria as a frigid woman and cold mother, the seesaw relationship she and the British public had with each other, and clearly shows that the editing and even burning of her private papers by youngest daughter Beatrice has permanently damaged our understanding of Victoria (and why we'll never know what really happened between her and John Brown). If the Victoria miniseries has made you wonder why everyone looked at Her Majesty as if she had three heads when she told them that she wanted a white wedding dress, or if Victoria really fancied a relationship with her first prime minister, Lord Melbourne (Victoria was rather dramatic in her writings and discussions about her thoughts and feelings, but the show probably exaggerates it for dramatic effect), you need to read this book.



My home state, Louisiana, is known for its unique and facinating food cultures, but barbecue is not one of them. Our neighbor to the west tends to dominate any talk of barbecue, and its influence will be what you find in most BBQ places in the state, I presume (I can name any number of awesome places to eat in southeastern Louisiana, but BBQ joints are not among them--I am sure that I am missing out on awesome barbecue places, but I don't go back to LA to eat barbecue. I can find excellent BBQ places here.). That plus living in Houston for nearly two years prejudices my barbecue preference for  (east) Texas-style barbecue (tomato-based sauce with a preference for brisket, although Texas barbecue is different in other parts of the state). It wasn't until I moved to Virginia that I discovered other ways of preparing barbecue and barbecue sauce, and it wasn't until I read Virginia Barbecue: A History that I learned that the history of barbecue points to a Virginia origin, with a massive emigration of Virginians to North Carolina, Texas, Kansas City, and Georgia after the Civil War bringing "authentic Virginia barbecue" (as it was advertised) to these BBQ-strong regions, influencing and creating their unique styles. If you love Virginia history and food history, this is a book for you (although be warned that you will likely have a massive craving for barbecue while reading it!).


Want some last-minute book suggestions for Valentine's Day? Here are my favorites.

I also recently blogged about career resources (in print) for young readers on the ALSC blog.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 


Monday, February 06, 2017

Hidden Figures: Books for Black History Month



While I enjoy reading biographies of famous people in history (currently devouring Victoria the Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire), I love learning about little-known people who made enormous contributions to society, as well as everyday people living in extraordinary circumstances. Inspired by the book and movie Hidden Figures, here are my favorite books about lesser-known African-American historical figures, as well as books that highlight the everyday experience of African-Americans throughout the ages:



Need a read aloud for Black History Month? Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal should be at the top of your list. Bass Reeves was born into slavery and became one of the first African-American deputies west of the Mississippi River. He was a successful and tough marshal (even had to arrest his son at one point in his career!), bringing many fugitives to justice.



Brick by Brick is an illuminating look at the building of the White House, which included slave labor. Text and illustrations are quietly powerful, making this a strong read aloud for elementary school students.




A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream is a stunning tribute to Janet Collins, the first African-American prima ballerina, through the eyes of a young admirer. Readers wanting to learn about modern day African-American dancers should read our outstanding books on Misty Copeland and Michaela DePrince.



Brown v. Board of Education was the pivotal court case in the school integration movement, but it came in the footsteps of other court challenges, such as the one brought by Sarah Roberts in 1847. The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial introduces readers to Roberts v. the City of Boston, which was the first court case to challenge school segregation, and the first case in which an African American lawyer argued a case in court. For other titles on school integration, read The Girl From the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement, The Power of One: Daisy Bates and the Little Rock Nine, and Through My Eyes (by Ruby Bridges).






I'm impatiently waiting for the movie version of Max Brook's graphic novel, The Harlem Hellfighters. Although created for general adult readers, it's definitely appropriate for high school students, as long as they understand that sensitive situations and language is present throughout the story. The Harlem Hellfighters (who received their nickname courtesy of the Germans) were the first African-American regiment in World War I and fought six brutal months in the war, one of the longest of any American unit. This is a thrilling, inspiring, and occasionally painful read. If African-American military history is an interest, check out Courage Has No ColorRed-Tail Angels: The Story of the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, and The Port Chicago 50 for World War II stories. J. Patrick Lewis's Harlem Hellfighters is an excellent read for elementary school students.




For many months, the hottest tickets in Washington have been for the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Those of us who haven't been able to make the trip up to DC should definitely read How to Build a Museum: Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is a detailed and intriguing look at the nearly 100 year quest to build a national African-American history museum. Much of the collection came from everyday Americans, who donated cherished historical artifacts.




Ira Aldridge was considered one of the greatest Shakespearean actors in the 19th century. Educated in a New York City school for children of slaves and freedmen, Ira immigrated to England and became a sought-after actor by both audiences and stage companies. He regularly toured Europe, performed for heads of state, and was an inspiration for African-American actors in the United States for some time after his death. Ira's Shakespeare Dream tells his story with remarkable illustrations and storytelling.


African-American churches have been places of refuge and community organization throughout history; Rock of Ages: A Tribute to the Black Church is a poignant tribute to their importance. Also consider Come Sunday, I See the Rhythm of Gospel, and Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song.



African-Americans traveling in the South in the days of Jim Crow relied on the Negro Motorist Green Book (1936-1966), which listed African-American restaurants, hotels, and entertainment venues, as well as Caucasian establishments that welcomed African-American patrons.  Ruth and the Green Book features a young girl and her family traveling from Chicago to Alabama, who use the Green Book in order to find rest and nourishment. It's an honest look at a shameful part of history, but also a vivid look at strong community ties.






Although he never had formal education beyond high school, surgical assistant Vivien Thomas was responsible for pioneering surgical procedures to correct the heart defect known as "blue baby syndrome." Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas is one of medicine's astonishing achievements and stories; one not to be missed.




Sarah Breedlove Walker's life story needs to be made into a movie; until then, you should read Vision of Beauty: The Story of Sarah Breedlove Walker. Sarah Breedlove Walker was one of six children in her family, but the first not born into slavery. She was orphaned at seven, married at fourteen, and developed her own hair care business for African American women at thirty-seven, under the name Madam C.J. Walker. She was an ardent philanthropist and activist who mentored and employed thousands of African-American women in her lifetime.





Like quite a few inventions, the Super Soaker was "accidentally" invented. NASA engineer Lonnie Johnson was actually working on a new rocket cooling system when he created the popular water toy!  Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions is definitely a fun and charming biography that showcases Johnson's curiosity and inventiveness from a young age, but is also honest about the challenges he faced as a young student in the late 1960s. For other books on African-American inventors, check out To the Rescue! Garrett Morgan Underground and What Color is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors.




Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman is one of my favorite picture book biographies; I once read it to a Boys & Girls Club group, who loved it! When Wilma Rudolph was stricken with polio at the age of four, doctors didn't believe she would ever walk again, much less win three gold medals at the 1960 Olympics! Rudolph overcame enormous challenges beyond polio, including deep poverty and prejudice, which makes this otherwise joyful story heartrending at times. For other inspiring stories of African-American athletes, consider Nothing but Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson, You Never Heard of Willie Mays?,  and Jesse Owens: Fastest Man Alive.

Looking for new reads? Check out the most recent editions of Wowbrary; lots of great 2017 titles on their way (or already on our shelves!)

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library