Believe it or not, it's the first day of spring! Raise your hand if you're sick of gray days and ice—or if you're pretty sure the spring equinox is a big fat liar (looking at you, NYC). Littlest readers can celebrate the return of spring (or dream of it) with a fresh crop of picture books:
Shawn Sheehy sneaks plenty of fun facts into his outstanding new pop-up book, Welcome to the Neighborwood. Each spread reveals the home of a different creature, from spiders to hummingbirds. I love how this delicate paper craftsmanship mirrors the intricacy and fragility of nature, encouraging little ones to both explore and respect their environment.
For another unique offering that gets up close and personal with nature, April Pulley Sayre's Raindrops Roll zooms in on the magic of rain with a captivating balance of science and poetry. Seven Impossible Things blogger Julie Danielson shares a few spreads from the book on her blog here.
The title of Kadir Nelson's If You Plant a Seed recalls the slippery-slope hijinks of a certain demanding mouse and his cookie (or moose and muffin, if you prefer), and the rabbit and mouse at the beginning of this gorgeous book certainly need to learn some manners—but fortunately they do, and their gardening efforts become a sweet allegory for the importance of kindness and sustainability.
You Nest Here with Me, written by Jane Yolen and her daughter and fellow birder, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, is a classic bedtime book—but with so many baby birds tucked into their little homes, it's also a classic springtime book.
Carin Bramsen's Just a Duck? is on this list simply because of its hyper-vibrant illustrations. It's a story of unlikely best friends who learn to appreciate each other's unique strengths, but there's something about the colors, textures and, most of all, hilarious expressions that reminds me of all the best parts of spring.
Finally, the bears have it in two exceptional new picture books: The magical paper collages in Finding Spring by Carin Berger capture just how hard it is to wait for new seasons; and The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach is irresistibly full of mischief and bright, sunny adventures.
Want even more? Check these out at your local library:
You can view all our children's picture book coverage here.
Nobody does interactive picture books like French artist Hervé Tullet. Following the success of his 2011 bestseller Press Here, Tullet has become a bit of a picture book sensation, encouraging the littlest readers to poke and shake books that seem to respond to their command. The dots from Press Here return on September 16 in Mix It Up!, but this time they've got something to show us about mixing and creating colors.
Tullet's Help! We Need a Title! came out in May of this year and took his interactive elements to a metafictional level, subtly provoking questions about what a book is. What's an author, and where do ideas come from? The scribbly, mixed-media characters in Help! seem to come straight from a child's mind, but when the book opens, they're all completely unprepared. Surely the reader expects a story . . . so what do you do when it hasn't been written yet? (Who's in charge around here, anyway?)
This fall's crop of picture books includes several more metafictional titles, encouraging fearless and unfettered creativity while challenging the relationships between readers, listeners, authors and characters.
Before snuggling down with this book, I highly recommend fixing yourself and your lap listener some PB&J sandwiches, then sit back and let the giggles begin. Everything starts out as planned in Louie's story—"Once upon a time, little Louie went skipping merrily along."—but a messy reader ruins everything. First a glob of jelly plops right in Louie's way, and then peanut butter lands on his face . . . and as the book gets dirtier and dirtier, Louie gets more and more upset with the reader/offender. Fortunately Louie and the reader come to an understanding. Perfect's boring anyway. Coming October 7.
This time, the reader is hero, not villain. The gutter of this unexpected adventure has a mind of its own, and when Bella's dog disappears between the pages, she finds herself in an escalating conundrum reminiscent of the events in Jeffers' Stuck. Soon the gutter has sucked up everyone in the book, and it's up to the reader to set them free. We're asked to shake the book—keep shaking!—until everyone reappears . . . almost as good as new. Coming September 30.
Just as you'd expect, Novak's debut picture book has absolutely zero pictures—not even an author photo on the jacket flaps. This innovative story is not really a story so much as a challenge to parents, to drop the ego and get silly. The concept works, though, as it calls into question the real balance of power in the relationship between reader and listener. When a reader has to read what is written—no matter what is written, no matter how ridiculous or how little it makes sense—things can get very, very silly. Coming September 30.
BookPage contributor Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators on her children's literature blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Her book, Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature, written with Betsy Bird and the late Peter D. Sieruta, is out now. This lively and well-researched book sheds light on some of the common misconceptions about children's literature, shares behind-the-scenes anecdotes and thoughtfully explores the changes and realities of the industry. (Read our review.)
To celebrate her book's release, we asked Danielson (known as "Jules" to her Seven Imp fans) to select 10 of her favorite new picture book illustrators.
Next to the coffee bean, a good picture book is my favorite thing. To be asked to weigh in on my 10 favorite new illustrators is both a little bit thrilling, as well as very challenging. And that’s because I think there are a lot of talented up-and-coming illustrators in children’s literature today. I may or may not have gnashed my teeth for weeks, fine-tuning this list. (Case in point: I can’t help but cheat and zippy-quick add two bonus illustrators to my list. Just humor me. I love my picture books.) But I like how my list turned out, and if these illustrators are entirely new to you, I highly recommend you check out their work.
I don’t think this list would be worth its salt without the inclusion of Aaron Becker. His debut picture book, Journey, is a 2014 Caldecott Honor Book. This fall’s epic Quest will be a sequel, and fans will eventually be treated to a third picture book in what Becker calls the Journey trilogy.
Check out my Breakfast interview with Becker, and keep an eye out for a Meet the Illustrator interview in the September issue of BookPage.
Robinson is one of my favorite illustrators, and I’m not alone: He is the 2014 Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award winner, and Patricia Hruby Powell’s vibrant Josephine, which he illustrated, is a 2014 Boston Globe-Horn Book Nonfiction Honor Winner. It’s also, thus far, one of my very favorite picture books of all of 2014.
Keep your eye on Ms. Wheeler. Her debut picture book, last year’s Miss Maple’s Seeds, was a tender story of friendship. And her illustrations for this year’s The Grudge Keeper, an original fable of sorts written by Mara Rockcliff, are just as inviting.
Wheeler shares some sketches here.
Campbell not only illustrated the reigning Newbery winner, Kate DiCamillo’s Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, but he’s also received both the 2013 and 2014 Ezra Jack Keats Award New Illustrator Honor (for, respectively, Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters, which he also wrote, and Ame Dyckman’s Tea Party Rules). His illustrations for The Mermaid and the Shoe are some of the most beautiful you’ll see this year.
View some of his illustrations here.
Originally from Mexico City, Dominguez has three picture books on shelves and Knit Together coming early next year. The delightful Maria Had a Little Llama with a text in both Spanish and English is a 2014 Pura Belpré Award Illustrator Honor Book.
Angela shares some sketches here.
The Brothers Hilts
Brothers Ben and Sean managed to make the night-time palette of Karina Wolf’s The Insomniacs warm and inviting. For that, they received the Society of Illustrators’ 2012 Founders Award, an award given to new talent. I can’t wait to see what’s next on their plate.
Check out my Breakfast interview with the Brothers Hilts.
Theodore Taylor III
The recipient of the 2014 John Steptoe Award for New Talent, Taylor’s been working for years in graphic design, web design, photography and more, but it was last year’s illustrations for Laban Carrick Hill’s When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop that proved he’s also one to watch in picture book illustration.
View some of Taylor's work here.
Idle’s been illustrating books for more than a couple of years, but it’s been in just the last year that she’s gained copious recognition for her work. A 2014 Caldecott Honor (for the utterly charming Flora and the Flamingo) will do that. Flora fans will be in for a treat, come September, with Flora and the Penguin.
Check out my Breakfast interview with Idle.
Greg didn’t waste any time showing readers what he’s capable of when his debut picture book, last year’s very funny The Watermelon Seed, up and won the 2014 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for the most distinguished beginning reader book. This year’s Number One Sam is a winner, too.
Check out my Breakfast interview with Pizzoli.
Tonatiuh’s work, more prominent in the past couple of years, has been recognized by the Tomás Rivera Mexican American children's book award, as well as multiple Pura Belpré Award committees. Last year’s Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale was awarded 2014 Pura Belpré Award Honors in the categories of both Author and Illustrator.
View some of Tonatiuh's sketches here.
BONUS (because I can’t help it)
Hop outside of the States with me for a moment, will you?
Iranian artist Hoda Hadadi illustrated last year’s Deep in the Sahara, written by Kelly Cunnane. She’s not new to illustration, but she’s new to Americans. Schwartz & Wade, who published Cunnane’s book, tells me that Hadadi has nothing else lined up for publication in the U.S.—at least not in the immediate future and not as far as they know—but I hope that changes soon. View some of Hadadi's work here.
Finally, hailing from Iceland (but currently living in Sweden) is author-illustrator Birgitta Sif. Her debut, Oliver (2012), is the picture book I’d point to that most accurately gets what it is to be an introvert. And Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance and Dance, coming at the end of August, pretty much nails shyness. And Sif executes it all with style and warmth.
Alright. I’m making myself stop now.
Readers, what new illustrators would you add to this list?
We all have our favorite heroines from children's and young adult literature: Eloise, Pippi, Hermione, Katniss, Matilda—the list goes on and on. And then there are the real-life historical figures who paved the way for little girls everwhere: Marie Curie, Amelia Earhart, Rosa Parks and so many others.
In honor of Women's History Month, we're highlighting 10 new books that give young readers a fresh batch of heroines, from new fictional favorites to historical role models getting some much-deserved attention:
"Ellen, 'born with saltwater in her veins,' spent her days at the shore and learned at a young age from her father how to navigate a ship and operate a sextant. Because of Ellen’s desire for adventure and her competitive nature ('there is no glory in second place'), her father would often caution her—a recurring theme in this story—that 'a true navigator must have the caution to read the sea, as well as the courage to dare the wind.'" Read our full review.
"Whether you’re an adult or a child, this new picture book biography gives an informed overview of intriguing nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale. . . . [S]he felt that God wanted her to help people through nursing, even though the idea 'horrified' her parents." Read our full review.
"When a job lands Kate in San Diego, she sets her mind on transforming the dry, barren town into a site of tree-filled splendor. The story of how she makes her vision a reality is a remarkable one." Read our full review.
"With grace, simple shapes and lots of style and movement, this book perfectly captures Josephine, with a varied and vibrant color palette that complements her dynamic personality. Josephine is an extraordinary tribute to an American legend." Read our full review.
"Sulking around the White House one night, Audrey discovers a hidden compartment containing a diary written by a previous First Daughter, Alice Roosevelt. Alice’s desire to 'eat up the world' and claim an independent identity for herself—including bringing her pet snake to state functions, dancing on the roof and sneaking a boy past White House guards—inspire Audrey to try similar antics, with results that don’t always end up as planned." Read our full review.
"On the heels of solving her first mystery in the Newbery Honor book Three Times Lucky, Mo LoBeau faces more intrigue in her tiny North Carolina town of Tupelo Landing. . . . Small-town charm, clever dialogue and Mo’s unyielding wit are excellent reminders of why the first book was so successful." Read our full review.
"Sloan has created a story where the line between youth and adulthood moves back and forth, often more than once in a single day—and where kids and adults 'have relationships that are real and go both directions,' she says. The book is a moving, often funny reminder that such relationships are worth cultivating, and that being open to new people and experiences—however strange or difficult they may seem—can lead to wonderful things." Read our full interview with Sloan.
"Laila is observant, analytical and introspective, regularly comparing American customs to her family’s old existence of royal restriction. She neither fully condemns nor endorses either one of her lives or the people associated with them, but rather walks the common ground between them and begins to understand them." Read our full review.
"Eighteen-year-old American pilot and amateur poet Rose Justice has pulled some strings to land a spot with Great Britain’s Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA). As the daughter of a flight school director, she has been flying since she was 12, and after three months with ATA, she can deliver new and repaired Spitfire fighter planes to airfields without batting an eyelash." Read our full review.
"As Emily attempts to fit in at ASG and strives to articulate her feelings about the events surrounding her boyfriend’s recent death, she begins to feel a real kinship with Dickinson, whose work proves 'to other daughters of America, the ones who endure, who rise like rare birds from the ashes, that they are not alone.'" Read our full review.
We'd love to hear from you! Leave a comment below about your favorite young adult or children's book that stars a kick-butt heroine.
February is Black History Month, the perfect time to remind young readers of beloved heroes and heroines like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman. This year, new books focus on other important figures, including Malcolm X, the many voices of the Harlem Renaissance and unexpected champions of equality, from unstoppable performers to long-forgotten slaves.
We picked our 10 favorite new books for honoring African-American heroes and heroines. Some of these stories are inspiring, some brutal and unflinching, but all are valuable and educational.
"Kristy Dempsey revisits a watershed moment in performing arts history in her sparkling new book, A Dance Like Starlight. The story’s spirited young heroine, an African-American girl who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer, lives with her mother in Harlem. The year is 1951." Read our full review.
"This lyrical tribute to Sugar Hill, the historic Harlem neighborhood of the 1920s and ‘30s, and its legendary inhabitants packs a lot of information with an economy of words and R. Gregory Christie’s colorful, stylized paintings." Read our full review.
"With appeal for younger and older readers alike, Under the Freedom Tree is both a beautiful tribute to a lasting symbol of freedom and a powerful reminder that one brave action can change the course of history." Read our full review.
"Malcolm Little is a terrific introduction to a polarizing historical figure and an inspiring tale that children can apply to their own lives. We all face adversity at one time or another; it’s how we respond that counts." Read our full review.
"In Josephine, Patricia Hruby Powell writes with great reverence and a vigor fitting to the life of the illustrious performer Josephine Baker. This handsomely designed tribute to Josephine’s life is refreshingly uncluttered in every way: Powell’s free-verse text doesn’t waste any words, and Christian Robinson’s minimalist acrylic illustrations communicate the very essence of Josephine’s vivacious spirit." Read our full review.
The Sittin' Up by Shelia P. Moses
Putnam | Ages 10 and up
"While most African-American children’s literature focuses on either slavery or the Civil Rights movement, Moses gives middle grade readers a glimpse of a time when slavery was recent enough to weigh heavily on the minds and hearts of African Americans, yet a more equitable future was also imaginable." Read our full review.
"Using the framework of Sarah’s unlikely wealth, Bolden offers a wide-ranging book discussing the creation of the Indian Territory and Oklahoma, the rise of black towns and boomtowns, and the greed and corruption that surrounds money. Searching for Sarah Rector draws upon photographs, census records, sensationalist newspaper articles and first-person interviews to tell a fascinating account of a little-known time in American history." Read our full review.
The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin
Roaring Brook | Ages 10 to 14
"In The Port Chicago 50, Steve Sheinkin, author of the Newbery Honor book Bomb, tells the harrowing story of the fight for the lives and rights of 50 black sailors." Read our full review.
"Cy in Chains is a difficult, painful novel, but it’s an important one. Cy quickly morphs from a kind, compassionate boy, looking out for his friend before the accident, to a young man who’s been broken by a life of hard work and cruelty, and who comes to see compassion as a weakness he can’t afford." Read our full review.
"In a highly credible fashion, Willow grapples with her choices—she is as afraid of the path of freedom as she is of the certain horrors of continued enslavement. Perhaps most important to Willow, however, are the secrets she learns about the fate of her own mother, a beautiful and educated African woman." Read our full review.
An outstanding year in children's and young adult literature awaits! More exciting books will be announced throughout the year, but there are plenty of picture books, middle grade and teen novels that we just can't wait to read.
Read on for our most anticipated children's and teen books of 2014—so far:
The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage
February 2014 | Kathy Dawson Books | Middle grade
Turnage's debut novel for young readers, the Newbery Honor winner Three Times Lucky, was one of our favorites of 2012. Precocious Mo LoBeau, who reminds us of Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird, is back for another Southern mystery that we're already loving. Look for our review in the February issue of BookPage!
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Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
February 2014 | Dutton | Teen
Smith, author of The Marbury Lens and last year's excellent Winger, has completely blown our minds with this end-of-the-world tale featuring giant praying mantises and teenage sexual confusion. Look for our review in the February issue of BookPage!
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Hi, Koo! by Jon J. Muth
February 2014 | Scholastic | Picture book
Muth, author/illustrator of the Caldecott Honor-winning Zen Shorts, will undoubtedly charm us with these 26 haiku about the four seasons.
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Stay Where You Are and Then Leave by John Boyne
March 2014 | Holt | Middle grade
The author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas once again offers a child's view of war. A young boy named Alfie experiences the lasting effects of war when his father returns home with shell shock.
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The Here and Now by Ann Brashares
April 2014 | Delacorte | Teen
This is Brashares' (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) first teen novel in 10 years, and we can't wait to read this epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future. Seventeen-year-old Prenna James immigrated to New York—from the future, where a pandemic has left the world in ruins. Swirl a little romance into the mix, and this one sounds like a must-read.
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Noggin by John Corey Whaley
April 2014 | Atheneum | Teen
Whaley (Where Things Come Back) immediately hooked us with this truly unusual premise: Sixteen-year-old Travis Coates' head is attached to someone else's body.
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Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson and Peter Sieruta
August 2014 | Candlewick
OK, it's not exactly a children's book, but it still belongs on this list. Three children's literature bloggers, including BookPage contributor Julie Danielson of Seven Impossible Things, look behind the scenes of some of our favorite stories for kids.
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The Eighth Day by Dianne K. Salerni
April 2014 | HarperCollins | Middle grade
Salerni's YA novel, The Caged Graves, was one of our favorite books of 2013. This thrilling fantasy is her middle grade debut and the first in a new series, and it sounds really fun: Jax Aubrey discovers a secret eighth day with roots tracing back to Arthurian legend.
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We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
May 2014 | Delacorte | Teen
Lockhart's a National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree, and her new book for teens has a raving John Green blurb: "Thrilling, beautiful, and blisteringly smart, We Were Liars is utterly unforgettable." We're sold.
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The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
May 2014 | Amulet | Middle grade
We loved Auxier's 2011 debut, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. This new standalone novel is a ghost story that promises to be creepy, mysterious and 100% fun.
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City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare
May 2014 | Margaret K. McElderry Books | Teen
It's the conclusion to the Mortal Instruments, duh.
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The Pilot and the Little Prince by Peter Sís
May 2014 | FSG | Picture book
Hans Christian Andersen Award winner Sís (The Conference of the Birds) celebrates the life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince, who loved to fly his plane high above the clouds.
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Mogie by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Marc Rosenthal
June 2014 | Atheneum | Picture book
Appelt (The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp) tells the real-life story of Mogie, a Labradoodle with a special talent as a hospital service dog. Prepare to have your heart warmed.
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The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
July 2014 | Holt | Teen
Pearson, author of the Jenna Fox Chronicles, kicks off a new series with a fantastical tale of a princess fleeing from an arranged marriage.
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Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray
August 2014 | Little, Brown | Teen
It feels like we've been waiting for Bray's sequel to The Diviners for FOREVER. The long wait is over, and Diviner Evie O'Neill returns as "America's Sweetheart Seer." But not everyone is accepting of Evie's abilities, and then a mysterious killer begins claiming lives . . .
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The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm
August 2014 | Random House | Middle grade
Holm, author of three Newbery Honor Books, asks questions about the bounds of science and immortality in will surely be a thought-provoking read.
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What children's and teen books are you most looking forward to this year?
Correction, January 8, 2014:
Wild Things! has been moved from April 2014 to August 2014.
Correction, January 30, 2014:
The Night Gardener is not a sequel. It is a standalone novel.
Writing a picture book is like writing War and Peace in Haiku.
• Mem Fox •
In our office we discuss and anticipate the announcement of the Newbery, Caldecott and Printz Awards with passion and glee—and let's just say that this morning there was a fair bit of squealing when the ALA named this year's recipients.
Perhaps most of all, we are thrilled that Jon Klassen was awarded the Caldecott Award for This Is Not My Hat, the story of a big fish in pursuit of a tiny thief. For the October 2012 issue of BookPage, Klassen hand-illustrated a Q&A for us. We loved the result (and of course we loved the book itself!):
We are also tickled that Katherine Applegate won the Newbery Award for The One and Only Ivan, which we reviewed in January 2012. Reviewer Keven Delecki praised this "brave, moving story" about the animals who live at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall.
The Printz Award went to In Darkness by Nick Lake, which BookPage reviewer Kimberly Giarrantano described as "an incredible novel." It's a harrowing and compelling story about a teen boy in the aftermath of the 2010 Haitian earthquake.
For more on these award-winning books—and other fantastic picks for young readers—subscribe to Children's Corner, our bimonthly e-newsletter. The next edition goes out Wednesday and will feature some very special interviews. (Hint, hint.)
And without further ado, here is a (partial) list of the 2013 Youth Media Award winners. Find the full list here, and click the links below to read coverage in BookPage.
2013 NEWBERY AWARD
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (HarperCollins)
2013 CALDECOTT AWARD
This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen (Candlewick)
2013 PRINTZ AWARD
In Darkness by Nick Lake (Bloomsbury)
For even more recommendations for fantastic children's and teen books, see our list of the Best Children's Books for 2012.
Noticed this on our website?
Already receive Reading Corner? You’re still in for a treat . . . starting with our next issue (September 14), the newsletter will have a fresh new look, and its name will be Children’s Corner. Everything else is staying the same; we'll still be bringing you all the news, features and reviews of the best in books for children and teens.
If you’re a current subscriber, you can also put your name in the hat for 20 free books by sharing one of our September issues. Just click one of the share buttons in the upper-right corner of the newsletter, and share away.
See our latest issue, if you'd like an example of what I'm talking about.
I hope you enjoy our newsletter. Make sure to leave a comment on this blog post if you have any suggestions for what you’d like to see in Children’s Corner.
In BookPage's picture book roundup in celebration of Black History Month, contributor Robin Smith praises the "stunning simplicity" of Evans's illustrations; his book is perfect for young readers being first introduced to the story of the Underground Railroad.
Here's a preview from the Q&A with Evans about Underground:
Do you have a favorite book to read in honor of Black History Month?
That is a GREAT question . . . there are so MANY. The one that comes to mind actually is The Middle Passage by Tom Feelings . . . this is more about FEELING and when I pick this book up I have to go into a sad and scary part of my imagination . . . this helps me truly appreciate all of the work that has been put into building this history of ALL people.
Keep reading the Q&A on BookPage.com, and tell us:
What is your favorite book to read in honor of Black History Month?