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On the Shelf: Celebrate Black History Month

Central to February is Black History Month, which honors and celebrates the achievements of African Americans. That observance can start with some wonderful new children’s books that are sure to become favorites. Visit your local library or your bookstore to see some of the ones on our list. 

Counting the Stars: The Story of Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by Raúl Colón (Paula Wiseman/Simon and Schuster, ages 4 – 8)

“She ignored the stares and the COLORED GIRLS signs on the bathroom door and the segregated cafeteria, eating instead at her desk. Katherine ignored all of it and did what she was hired to do: make the numbers work.”

Parents will know math pioneer Katherine Johnson from the book and movie “Hidden Figures,” and this beautiful picture book will help children know her as well. Johnson’s “human computer” math skills helped shaped America’s role in the Space Race. She was persistent and courageous through it all, earning the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 following more than 30 years with NASA.

Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace by Ashley Bryan (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, ages 5 and older)

In May of 1942, Ashley Bryan was drafted out of art school to fight in World War II. For the next three years, he would face the horrors of war in a segregated army. This is his story, told in his words with journal entries and captivating art. 

Nighttime Symphony by Timbaland featuring Christopher Myers, art by Christopher Myers and Kaa Illustration (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, ages 4 and older)

No doubt, this will become a treasured bedtime story this year. It is a beautifully told tale that can help little ones go to sleep knowing they are “safe in sound.” Lullabies can merge the songs of raindrops and wind into something unforgettable – much like this book.

The Power of Her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by John Parra (Paula Wiseman/Simon and Schuster, ages 4 – 8) 

This is the powerful story of Ethel Payne, a woman who had “a box seat to history” as she told the story of Civil Rights pioneers and challenged presidents with hard-hitting questions. The content here skews older, so even upper elementary students will benefit from it. It is an important story that is told well. 

By and By: Charles Albert Tindley, the Father of Gospel Music by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, ages 4 – 8)

The story told here in rhyming text is so powerfully matched by the detailed and beautiful illustrations that this book seems destined to defy age recommendations. With roots in history, faith, music and art, it has something for everyone – and something to teach all ages and backgrounds. 

Equality’s Call: The Story of Voting Rights in America by Deborah Diesen, illustrated by Magdalena Mora (Beach Lane Books, ages 3 – 8, available Feb. 18)

This moving story, told in rhyme, challenges and inspires readers of all ages to know how they will answer equality’s call. When children learn from an early age that their vote matters – and that getting it and keeping have not always been easy – they understand its importance.