February 2023 Book Recommendations

Celebrate Black History Month with Reading Allowed
This month’s collection of children’s books highlights Black culture, historical figures, and triumphs–as well as the inequities and injustice that still exist–that enable young readers to learn about the Black experience in America.

Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe by Deborah Blumenthal (Grades K-3

As soon as Ann Cole Lowe could walk, her mother and grandma taught her to sew. She worked near her mother in their Alabama family shop in the early 1900s, making beautiful dresses for women who went to fancy parties. When Ann was 16, her momma died, but Ann continued sewing dresses. It wasn’t easy, especially when she went to design school and had to learn alone, separated from the rest of the class.  She went on to design First Lady Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress and the dress actress Olivia de Havilland wore to the Oscars when she won for Best Actress. Rarely given credit, Ann Cole Lowe was a visionary who persevered in times of hardship, making elegant gowns for the women who loved to wear them.

Dream Big Dreams: Photographs from Barack Obama’s Inspiring and Historic Presidency by Pete Souza (Grades 5 and up) 

Throughout his historic presidency, Obama engaged with young people as often as he could, encouraging them to be their best and do their best and to always “dream big dreams.” This book features over seventy-five full-color photographs that show the qualities of President Obama that make him both a great leader and an extraordinary man.

Streetcar To Justice: How Elizabeth Jennings Won the Right to Ride in New York by Amy Hill Hearth  (Grades 3-7)

When Elizabeth Jennings, a young black woman on her way to church, refused to get off a New York City streetcar, she was literally roughed up and thrown off by the driver and a police officer. Luckily there were people who took up her cause for justice, including a young lawyer who went on to become a U.S. president (Chester Arthur). The year was 1854, years before the Civil War and a century before Rosa Parks. Few people know about Jennings and how her case impacted discrimination laws in the northern city where she lived as a free black woman.

A Child’s Introduction to African American History: The Experience, People, and Events That Shaped our Country (Child’s Introduction To…) by Jabari Asim (Grades 3-7) 

A comprehensive, entertaining look at heroes, heroines, and critical moments from African American history. Jabari Asim goes beyond what’s taught in the classroom to reveal a fact-filled history of African American history through politics, activism, sports, entertainment, music, and much more. Filled with beautiful illustrations by Lynn Gaines that bring these figures and events to life, A Child’s Introduction to African American History is a fascinating and comprehensive guide to this often overlooked yet immensely important part of American history.

Stacey’s Extraordinary Words by Stacey Abrams (Grades K-3) 

Before Stacey Abrams became today’s leading voting rights activist and the first Black woman in American history to become a gubernatorial candidate, she was a spelling bee hopeful. Young Stacey loves to read and write, collecting unique words in a notebook dedicated just to that purpose. When her teacher nominates her to represent the class in the school spelling bee, she isn’t sure she can do it. Not only will it mean talking in front of a lot of people but it also means standing up to the class bully who uses words to hurt others. She knows that she will be nervous, but with lots of preparation and practice, she is ready for the bee and a showdown with the class bully.

The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nicole Hannah-Jones (Grades 2-5) 

A young, unnamed Black girl is ashamed that she can’t complete a school genealogy project because she can only trace her family history back three generations. When she shares her problem with her grandmother, the woman calls the whole family together and tells them the story of their history, beginning hundreds of years earlier in the West-Central African kingdom of Ndongo, where their ancestors lived an idyllic life. Then the  Portuguese arrive, kidnap Ndongo’s people, and put them, chained, in the hold of the White Lion to transport them to Virginia, where they are enslaved. The coauthors bring necessary expertise to this important story and celebrate the resilient spirit that informed these individuals’ lives.

Overground Railroad by Lesa Cline-Ransome (Grades K-3) 

One family’s experience of the Great Migration, an important story from African American history. Narrator Ruth Ellen, Mama, and Daddy awaken early to travel to New York without the permission or knowledge of the landowner on whose land they sharecrop. Leaving in secret, “before Daddy’s boss knew, / before our lease was up,” Ruth Ellen and her parents rise before dawn, bid their relatives goodbye, and board the Silver Meteor, an early morning train bound for New York. The “colored car” grows more crowded at each stop, but north of Washington, D.C., they can legally sit in any car. They move to another, ignoring certain passengers’ silent hostility. Every mile carries this family toward “The Promised Land.” Reading a biography of Frederick Douglass, who had traveled north long ago.

Ablaze with Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas by Jeanne Walker Harvey (Grades K-3)

 Meet an incredible woman who broke down barriers throughout her whole life and is now known as one of the most preeminent painters of the 20th century. As a child in Georgia, Alma Thomas loved to spend time outside. And her parents filled their home with color and creativity despite the racial injustices they faced. After the family moved to Washington, D.C., Alma shared her passion for art by teaching children. When she was almost seventy years old, she focused on her own artwork, inspired by nature and space travel.

Celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 14th!

Love Grows Everywhere by Barry Timms (Grades K-3) 

Connecting the love that nurtures plants with the love that nurtures our relationships, this heartfelt story follows a gardener’s daughter as she gathers the courage to extend the love in their community to a new kid.

Love is Powerful by Heather Dean Brewer (Grades K-3) 

Inspired by a young friend of the author who participated in the January 2017 New York City Women’s March, this is an endearing portrait of a Black mother and daughter who take part in a citywide protest. Preparing a crayoned sign with “a message for the world,” Mari wonders how the world will hear or see it; her mother reassures her that others will receive the message because, as their sign says, “love is powerful.”

Valenslime by Joy Keller (Grades K-2) 

Victoria Franken, slime scientist, loved her slime. And her slime loved her back. Ever since the dark and stormy night when Victoria Franken brought her slime to life, she and Goop have been great friends, but when Valentine’s Day rolls around, Victoria realizes that while she has many friends, Goop only has her. The only solution is for her to make him a new friend. But when Victoria gets tired of waiting for lightning to strike twice, things get a bit out of control!

Love Is by Diane Adams (Grades PK-1)

This beautifully illustrated book tells the heartwarming story of a little girl and a duckling, who both grow to understand what it means to care for each other as they learn that love is as much about letting go as it is about holding on.

The Littlest Valentine by Brandi Dougherty (Grades PK-1) 

Emma may be the littlest in the Valentine family, but she knows that she has what it takes to help the family business get ready for the holiday. But Emma just can’t seem to do things the right way like the bigger members of her family, no matter how hard she tries. Will Emma find a way to help her family on Valentine’s Day, or is the littlest Valentine just too little?

Love by Matt de la Pena (Grades K-3) 

This book opens with the loving coos of parents, gazing at their new baby, but the other places where love can be found are less obvious: love can be found “in the smell of crashing waves,” “in the rustling leaves of a gnarled tree,” “in the made-up stories your uncles tell,”and “in the face staring back in the bathroom mirror.”

I am Love: A Book of Compassion (I Am…series) by Susan Verde (Grades K- 3) 

A young girl knows that the best way to help the world is through kindness, empathy, and mindfulness. Loving others can be expressed in many ways; by being a good listener, lending a helping hand, offering comfort, and being gentle.

This Love by Isabel Otter (Grades K-2

“Love is a special language that’s understood by all.” This book, with its simple rhyming text and colorful, painterly illustrations of children and adults in many countries, is a call for appreciating the diversity of families the world over.

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