By Terri Schlichenmeyer
Your parents and your teachers try to tell you about the past.
You like the stories they share, the things your grandparents did and the important celebrities that lived long ago. It’s history and it’s fun to know, so why not reach for these Black History Month books for kids ages 5 to 8…?
Who doesn’t love ice cream? If you do, then you’ll love reading “Ice Cream Man” by Glenda Armand and Kim Freeman, illustrated by Keith Mallet (Random House Kids, $18.99). It’s the story of Augustus Jackson, who was born a slave in Philadelphia and worked for a time at the White House, but he never forgot his dreams. Jackson wanted to give everyone a chance to have ice cream, which was then only available to rich people. How could he make the treat and get it to new neighborhoods without it melting into a sticky puddle?
Kids will find the answer here.
The child who wants to be like his favorite hero will enjoy “Me and Muhammad Ali” by Jabari Asim, illustrated by AG Ford (Nancy Paulsen Books, $17.99). Here, young Langston is a big fan of boxer Muhammad Ali, in part because Ali’s swagger gives Langston confidence. Like Ali, Langston wants to “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee” but a chance to see his idol might fly away like a bird. Then a hero steps in and saves the day.
Be sure to read the author’s note at the end, for the full effect of this charming tale.
For the kid who wants a wider story with thrilling patriotism, there are two books to look for: first, “My Red, White, and Blue by Alana Tyson, illustrated by London Ladd (Philomel, $18.99) is the story of our flag and the time when it didn’t seem to represent everyone in America. Once, the flag had a history of scars with the stars and strife with the stripes but all that changed when people began to use their voices. Today, the flag means diversity for all, especially for a brown child who loves the red, white, and blue – and especially for your child, who will love the thoughtful rhyme that makes this book.
Then, “An American Story” by Kwame Alexander, art by Dare Coulter (Little, Brown, $18.99) is a tale of freedom, equality, “yesterday’s nightmare” and the courage to make today better. It’s a story about a story, and how there are times when things aren’t fair but people can work to make it better. This is a beautiful book but beware of one important thing: some of the words might be scary for very young children and the artwork, though gorgeous, can be harsh. Read it through once before reading it aloud.
And if these books aren’t enough for your storytime, be sure to check with your librarian or bookseller. There are lots more Black History books to bring home and to enjoy with your 5-to-8-year old or for kids of any age, because Black History is American history, too.