02/01/2022 - Black History Month

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In honor of Black History Month, I have always shared a number of book recommendations on the Build Your Library blog that dealt with civil rights and famous African Americans. This year I have decided to transfer that tradition to History Book By Book and have the Featured Weekly Book Suggestions contain highlighted Black History Month topics, starting on January 31.

Week One Recommendation - Ophie's Ghosts - (January 31 - February 6, 2022)

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Ophie's Ghosts (by: Justina Ireland, 2021, MG, UMG)

Emily's Review: Wow, this story. I absolutely loved this book. It's powerful and hard-hitting, while also being a heartfelt story about a girl handling grief. The cover was what drew me in initially, and the fact that the author was one I had been wanting to give a second chance (I read Dread Nation a few years ago and didn't love it, but liked the writing style). This story was everything I could want in a middle-grade book - there's a supernatural element, a mystery, a girl finding her place in the world, a historical setting, and the writing was just phenomenal.

Ophie and her mother have just moved to Pittsburgh after her father's death, and they struggle to make a life for themselves. Ophie has a secret - she can see ghosts. Over the course of this story, she learns why she has this talent as well as what to do with it.

But this story is so much more than just a girl and the ghosts who seek her out. This is a story about racism and injustice - the ugly history that is so often swept under the rug in America. The characters in this story are all so vivid and well-written. The supernatural element is well-crafted as well. The author built a fascinating world within our world. I loved watching Ophie come into her own in this story. She is a wonderful heroine.

I recommend this book for ages 10+. There are some upsetting and frightful moments that might be too much for a younger reader.

Week Two Recommendation - Born on the Water - (February 7-13, 2022)

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The 1619 Project: Born on the Water (by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Renee Watson, 2021, LE, MG)

Emily's Review: This book... it's gorgeous, and moving, and I want to hand it to everyone I've ever met.

This is a story about a people, about resistance, about where they came from and where they are going.

It opens with a girl feeling discouraged, because her teacher asked her class to research their ancestry and learn about where their families came from. But she could only trace as far back as her great grandparents, who were born in the US. So her grandmother tells her the story of her people - of all African Americans.

I love that this is such an empowering book. The authors wrote beautiful poetry about the resilience of the Africans who were violently taken from their homes and forced into slavery. They built America, and they fought all through history, even today, to be able to live fully in this country.

The artwork is stunning and blends in so beautifully with the tone of the poetry.

This picture book is one that I think has a wide age appeal. I plan to read it with my 12-year-old.

Week Three Recommendation - Concrete Rose - (February 14-20, 2022)

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Concrete Rose (by Angie Thomas, 2021, YA, A)

Sarah's Review: One of Angie Thomas’ greatest strengths is her ability to create full, rich, complex characters. Concrete Rose offers a new glimpse into the life of Maverick, Starr’s father from The Hate U Give, and this was a wonderful perspective to explore. This novel is much quieter in tone, but no less powerful. Concrete Rose is the story of a Black teenage boy in the late 90s and the mistakes he makes, but also the resilience he has to pave his way towards a brighter future for himself and his growing family. It’s not particularly common in YA for stories about teen dads, which is yet another reason why this novel is so unique and important. This is a novel you won’t want to miss out on.

Week Four Recommendation - And We Rise - (February 21-27, 2022)

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And We Rise (by Erica Martin, 2022, YA, A)

Emily's Review: And We Rise is such a powerful book. I've read quite a bit about the Civil Rights movement over the many years I've homeschooled my children, but I was today years old when I learned about Claudette Colvin, who refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white person before Rosa Parks did. What this book does, in such a powerful and elegant way, is to strip away the whitewashing that often accompanies the Civil Rights Era when it is taught in schools. We rarely get even a glimpse of how utterly ugly that period actually was. It is gut-wrenching to read, but so important that we do. The poems are haunting and honest.

In today's climate of fear of real history, books like this are so important. Martin's poetry paints a vivid picture of a period of time that really wasn't that long ago. This book of poetry makes it not only accessible to teens, but will hopefully inspire them to dig deeper and learn more. The author includes a bibliography in the back as well as a timeline, making it easy to find more reading on this subject matter.

This book should be included in every teen's study of the Civil Rights Era.

Week Five Recommendation - The Harlem Hellfighters - (February 28 - March 6, 2022)

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The Harlem Hellfighters (by Walter Dean Myers, 2006, UMG, YA)

Emily's Review: The Harlem Hellfighters is a great introduction to the topic of African Americans joining the American military. It does a great job of setting the stage for the 369th Infantry Regiment by exploring how African Americans had participated in American wars as far back as the Revolutionary War. The writing is clear and concise, perfect for the target audience, and the book is very informative.

I felt inspired by the courage and determination of the black men who signed up to fight for a country that didn't see them as whole people. To risk your life to prove yourself to people who refuse to see you takes so much bravery and courage.

I especially appreciated the use of primary documents throughout, making this a great addition to any WWI study.

Complete African American History Booklist

For all of our book suggestions pertaining to African American History, check out our booklist containing titles ranging from Pre-1699 American topics through present day.

Previous BHM Picks from the Build Your Library Archives


About the Author

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Emily Cook is the curator of History Book By Book, and the creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-12 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full-year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 18 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also make incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books, and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on BYL / HBBB Facebook, BYL Twitter, and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.