Ms. Donnelly Reads

"A Reader Lives a Thousand Lives" George R.R. Martin

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February is such an important month. While still trying to create a culture of reading in the junior high, I chose some high impact fiction and nonfiction for the kids. Over 50% of what I purchased for the library were written by authors of color. More faces that my students can recognize and relate to. They pushed and shoved their way through the new titles and while part of me cringed, most of me *squeed* with joy that they dove into them. Not too many of the bulletin board books were checked out… You can’t win all of them!

Here’s to the movers and shakers that fought, died, and continue to struggle for social, political, and economic equality! I chose books that reflected the strength, hopes, dreams,  celebrations, and courage of African American leaders with the same kinds of characters.

Here are this month’s books (all summaries come from Amazon and books are linked for purchase- I am NOT compensated for this):

  1. For Every One– Jason Reynolds

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For Every One is exactly that: for every one. For every one person. For every one who has a dream. But especially for every kid. The kids who dream of being better than they are. Kids who dream of doing more than they almost dare to imagine. Kids who are like Jason Reynolds, a self-professed dreamer. Jason does not claim to know how to make dreams come true; he has, in fact, been fighting on the front line of his own battle to make his own dreams a reality. He expected to make it when he was sixteen. Then eighteen. Then twenty-five. Now, some of those expectations have been realized. But others, the most important ones, lay ahead, and a lot of them involve kids, how to inspire them: All the kids who are scared to dream, or don’t know how to dream, or don’t dare to dream because they’ve NEVER seen a dream come true. Jason wants kids to know that dreams take time. They involve countless struggles. But no matter how many times a dreamer gets beat down, the drive and the passion and the hope never fully extinguishes—because simply having the dream is the start you need, or you won’t get anywhere anyway, and that is when you have to take a leap of faith.

A pitch-perfect graduation, baby, or inspirational gift for anyone who needs to me reminded of their own abilities—to dream.

2.Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom– Lynda Blackmon Lowery

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As the youngest marcher in the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Albama, Lynda Blackmon Lowery proved that young adults can be heroes. Jailed eleven times before her fifteenth birthday, Lowery fought alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. for the rights of African-Americans. In this memoir, she shows today’s young readers what it means to fight nonviolently (even when the police are using violence, as in the Bloody Sunday protest) and how it felt to be part of changing American history.

Straightforward and inspiring, this beautifully illustrated memoir brings readers into the middle of the Civil Rights Movement, complementing Common Core classroom learning and bringing history alive for young readers.

3. Copper Sun– Sharon M. Draper

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Copper Sun is the epic story of a young girl torn from her African village, sold into slavery, and stripped of everything she has ever known—except hope.

4. Elijah of Buxton– Christoper Paul Curtis

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Elijah of Buxton, recipient of the Newbery Honor and winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, joins the Scholastic Gold line, which features award-winning and beloved novels. This edition includes exclusive bonus content!

Eleven-year-old Elijah lives in Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway slaves near the American border. Elijah’s the first child in town to be born free, and he ought to be famous just for that — not to mention for being the best at chunking rocks and catching fish. Unfortunately, all that most people see is a “fra-gile” boy who’s scared of snakes and tends to talk too much. But everything changes when a former slave steals money from Elijah’s friend, who has been saving to buy his family out of captivity in the South. Now it’s up to Elijah to track down the thief — and his dangerous journey just might make a hero out of him, if only he can find the courage to get back home.

5. The Crossover– Kwame Alexanderthe crossover

“With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering,” announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he’s got mad beats, too, that tell his family’s story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood from Kwame Alexander.

Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story’s heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.

6. March Book 1– John Lewis

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Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell (winner of the Eisner Award and LA Times Book Prize finalist for Swallow Me Whole).

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

Book One spans John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.

Many years ago, John Lewis and other student activists drew inspiration from the 1958 comic book “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story.” Now, his own comics bring those days to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.

7. Piecing Me Together– Renee Watson

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Acclaimed author Renee Watson offers a powerful story about a girl striving for success in a world that too often seems like it’s trying to break her.

Jade believes she must get out of her poor neighborhood if she’s ever going to succeed. Her mother tells her to take advantage of every opportunity that comes her way. And Jade has: every day she rides the bus away from her friends and to the private school where she feels like an outsider, but where she has plenty of opportunities. But some opportunities she doesn’t really welcome, like an invitation to join Women to Women, a mentorship program for “at-risk” girls. Just because her mentor is black and graduated from the same high school doesn’t mean she understands where Jade is coming from. She’s tired of being singled out as someone who needs help, someone people want to fix. Jade wants to speak, to create, to express her joys and sorrows, her pain and her hope. Maybe there are some things she could show other women about understanding the world and finding ways to be real, to make a difference.

8.  Portraits of African American Heroes– Tonya Bolden

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Here, ideal for African-American History Month, is a stunningly beautiful book consisting of portraits-in pictures and words-of twenty outstanding African-Americans. The individuals range from historical to contemporary figures, such as the dancer Judith Jamison, and represent diverse fields of endeavor, from the law (Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall) to athletics, science, and more. For each individual, there is a three-page biography by the noted author Tonya Bolden and a striking black-and-white portrait that captures not only the subject’s likeness but is a work of art in itself. A book to inspire, to teach, or to display, with its large trim size and striking design, it is as handsome as it is important.

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