BOOKS: Children - African American
Keats's Neighborhood: An Ezra Jack Keats Treasury (and various others books)
Ezra Jack Keats

Ezra Jack Keats is widely acknowledged as one of the first people to feature realistic, friendly, multi-ethnic urban settings in his picture books-forever changing the landscape of children's literature in the process. Now this beautiful collection brings together nine of his best-loved stories, including the 1963 Caldecott Medal-winning book The Snowy Day and Caldecott Honor book Goggles!, plus Whistle for Willie, Peter's Chair, Apt. 3, and others. Also included is artwork from an unfinished picture book, The Giant Turnip, published here for the very first time. An introduction by celebrated critic of children's literature Anita Silvey outlines Keats's career and inimitable contributions. In addition, five of the most important writers and illustrators working in the field today share their thoughts on Keats and the legacy he left behind. An afterword describes his incredible life, from his childhood in Brooklyn to children's book legend.

No Mirrors in My Nana's House: Musical CD and Book
Ysaye M. Barnwell & Ysaye M. Barnwell

The song itself, the heart of the book, was composed by Barnwell and sung by world-renowned a capella quintet "Sweet Honey in the Rock" for years. This soul-warming tribute in upbeat, five-part harmonies (deeply rooted in the spirituals, hymns, and gospel of the black church) enhances the book-reading experience a hundredfold. Nana's house had no mirrors to reflect her granddaughter's clothes that didn't fit, or "the things that she missed." When the girl viewed the world through her Nana's eyes she saw love and beauty, not poverty or racism. Saint James's artwork is colorful and stylized–the characters have no faces, but their movements–arms outstretched, exalted; a loving embrace between the grandmother and granddaughter–communicate plenty of emotion.

Shades Of Black
Sandra L. Pinkney and Myles Pinkney

Ages 3-7. Indeed, there are many shades of black, and they are beautifully exemplified in this photo album that depicts the varied palette that makes up black skin. These gorgeous children are "gingery brown like a cookie," "brassy yellow like popcorn," and "midnight blue like a licorice stick." And yes, "black" can be creamy white like vanilla ice cream. But the author and illustrator don't stop there. They also look at eyes and hair, showing the beauty and uniqueness of eyes with hints of tiger-eye yellow and sturdy, coiling, woollike hair. All of it is black. All of it is beautiful. This may be just the kind of book that black children don't see enough of, but it can certainly be appreciated by children of any color.

Nappy Hair Nappy Hair
Carolivia Herron

At a family picnic, everyone pokes fun at the youngest girl's nappy hair. Devised as a call-and-response dialogue, the interchanges offer explanations and comments on why Brenda's hair is the nappiest, the curliest, the twistiest hair in the family. The answers involve African origins, God's intent, and pride in one's self.

Children Just like me
Anabel Kindersley and Barnabas Kindersley

A delightful, attractive look at children from around the world. The authors spent two years meeting and photographing youngsters from every continent and more than 140 countries. The volume is divided by continent, which is introduced with photos of children, their names, and nationalities. Then a double-page spread features pictures of each child's food, eating utensils, housing, school, friends, and family. The text gives the young people a chance to comment on their favorite games, friends, and hopes for the future. The final section includes excerpts from the Kindersleys' travel diary. This book is factual, respectful, and insightful. It provides just the right balance of information and visual interest for the intended audience

Happy to Be Nappy
Bell Hooks

Renowned feminist and social critic bell hooks takes on… hair! "Hair for hands to touch and play! Hair to take the gloom away." This rhythmic read-aloud is, on the surface, all about hair: nappy, plaited, long, short, natural, twisted, "soft like cotton, flower petal billowy soft, full of frizz and fuzz." Comb through the surface and find a celebration of childhood and girls and the freedom to express individuality. The rituals implied in the book are rooted in the traditions of hooks's own childhood, when "doing" hair was just as much an excuse for girls to laugh and tell stories and just be together. Going still deeper is the much-needed message encouraging girls to love and accept themselves (and others) just the way they are.

I Like Myself!
Karen Beaumont

This curly haired African-American moppet really likes herself. No matter what she does, wherever she goes, or what others think of her, she likes herself because, as she says, "I'm ME!" Catrow's watercolor, ink, and pencil illustrations bring even more humor to the funny verse. The brightly colored art and rhymes are reminiscent of Dr. Seuss's work with their quirky absurdity, especially the full spread of the child and her highly unusual bicycle.

The Colors of Us
Karen Katz

Lena's mother is an artist, so she knows whereof she speaks when she insists that there are many different shades of brown. The two take a walk through their neighborhood by way of illustration, and the friends and relatives they meet along the way aptly reinforce Mom's contention. Their skin colors are compared to honey, peanut butter, pizza crust, ginger, peaches, chocolate, and more, conjuring up delicious and beautiful comparisons for every tint. Katz's pencil-and-gouache pictures joyously convey the range of human pigmentation. Positive and useful.

I Love My Hair!
Natasha Anastasia Tarpley

A young African-American girl describes the familiar mother-daughter nightly ritual of combing the tangles out of her hair. When she cries because it hurts, her sympathetic mother tells her how lucky she is to have such beautiful hair. Imaginatively, the woman goes on to say that she can spin it into a fine, soft bun or "plant rows of braids" along her scalp, prompting her daughter to think of other wonderful things she likes about her hair.

Something Beautiful
Shannon Dennis Wyeth

This moving picture book offers a shining testament to the ability of human beings to find "something beautiful" in even the most unlikely places. An African American girl initially sees only the ugliness of her neighborhood. Searching for something beautiful, "something that when you have it, your heart is happy", she polls various neighbors. For an old man it is the touch of a smooth stone; for Miss Delphine, it's the taste of the fried fish sandwich in her diner; for Aunt Carolyn, it's the sound of her baby's laugh. When the girl decides to create her own "something beautiful," she picks up the trash, scrubs her door clean and realizes, "I feel powerful."

Red in the Flower Bed: An Illustrated Children's Story about Interracial Adoption
Andrea Nepa

The journey of adoption is beautifully depicted with the comforting imagery of a poppy flower who is welcomed into a garden family. It is a charming story of seeds being planted in the perfect place - exactly where they belong. Children and adults will enjoy this simple yet meaningful story and homespun illustrations. The book's loving approach helps children to understand adoption. Andrea Nepa has captured the essence of adoption and family, and has illustrated it beautifully with images and poetry that even a small child can comprehend and enjoy.