Wednesday, March 8, 2017


In March, we look forward to Winter saying goodbye, so that we can welcome our friend, Spring. Basketball fans cheer for their favorite college team during NCAA's annual tournament, an event referred to as March Madness. We nerds even have our book version of March Madness, replacing team brackets with beloved books. However, March has an even greater significance.

I didn't see the recent movie about the March to Selma. I knew the basic overview, but not the specifics. I am extremely glad that Civil Rights Leader and House Representative Mr. John Lewis shared this story in March Book Three. There were actually dozens of marches on Selma for voting rights. The most famous of these was a 50 mile journey on foot from Selma to Montgomery, the state capital of Alabama. The first attempt was on March 7, 1965. Marchers were attacked by state troopers. Even despite injuries and hospitalizations, they didn't give up. The perseverance of John Lewis and the other marchers was a sacrifice that led to government enforcement of rights guaranteed by the  U.S. Constitution. Every American owes these participants a debt of gratitude. 

The book also opened my eyes to understanding the history behind the resentment of "white liberals" from African Americans. I think we need to acknowledge that it is impossible to understand the perspective of a person of color (unless you are one). White privilege and racism still marginalize the rights of many, many Americans. We need to be thoughtful, respectful and sensitive. Well-intentioned, yet ignorant actions/words from white liberals can cause damage, just like overtly racist ones do. 

I was present in Atlanta on January 23, 2017 when March was chosen as the recipient of 4 American Library Association Youth Media Awards. I cheered along with the crowd as the National Book Award winner was mentioned again and again as awards were announced. Read March Book Three immediately if you haven't. We celebrate Spring, basketball and books this month; we should also remember the marchers to Selma and celebrate the freedom they helped attain for all Americans. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

SLJ 's Battle of the Kids' Books: Round 1

Every year I enjoy School Library Journal's version of March Madness, which includes 16 books battling out to see which one is the best. The judges are those who write children's or young adult literature. An exciting change this year is the addition of picture books.

The first two books are Ashley Bryan's Freedom Over Me and Carole Boston Weatherford's Freedom in Congo Square.

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Accurate depictions of life as a slave show that is was unbearable. However, those living in New Orleans were given every Sunday off. They required by law to congregate only in Congo Square. The slaves created a culture experience, bringing traditions like African music, which was banned in the fields and their homes. The story counts down the week to Sunday afternoon in Congo Square. The illustrations are bright and colorful, reflecting what was undoubtedly a mood of brief celebration and joy in an otherwise dismal existence. The book contains a Forward and Author's note providing background information.

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As she explains in her author's note, the idea for Freedom Over Me originated in some papers Ashley Bryan found from a former estate. Many slaves were uneducated, and history accounts often overlook the perspective of marginalized people. This means the stories, hopes, dreams and feelings of slaves are forever lost. Bryan recreates roles and uses beautiful poetry to give a voice to these slaves.

Both of these books are very similar and I could see either one advancing to the next round. Since Carole Boston Weatherford is from my home state of North Carolina, and I know Freedom In Congo Square would make a wonderful read-aloud, I hope it is chosen as the winner in this battle.