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Prepare for Black History Month Commemorations

We've selected books highlighting Black history and voices that would be perfect to add to your shelves just in time for Black History Month! Plus, these titles are only $8 for our valued JLG members! Bonus: Catch our exclusive webcast interview with author/illustrator Don Tate, whose passion is elevating Black history through picture books and children's literature.

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      Overground Railroad

      by Lesa Cline-Ransome

      Feb 2020

      Easy Reading Plus

      In poems, illustrated with collage art, a perceptive girl tells the story of her train journey from North Carolina to New York City as part of the Great Migration. Each leg of the trip brings new revelations as scenes out the window of folks working in fields give way to the Delaware River, the curtain that separates the colored car is removed, and glimpses of the freedom and opportunity the family hopes to find come into view.

      Overground Railroad offers a window into a child's experience of the Great Migration from the award-winning creators behind Finding Langston, Before She was Harriet, Benny Goodman & Teddy Wilson, and Just a Lucky So and So.

      Author’s note. Full-color illustrations were created with paper, graphite, paste pencils, and watercolors.

      War Girls

      by Tochi Onyebuchi

      Jan 2020

      Current Trends High Plus

      The year is 2172. Climate change and nuclear disasters have rendered much of earth unlivable. Only the lucky ones have escaped to space colonies in the sky.

      In a war-torn Nigeria, battles are fought using flying, deadly mechs, and soldiers are outfitted with bionic limbs and artificial organs meant to protect them from the harsh, radiation-heavy climate. Across the nation, as the years-long civil war wages on, survival becomes the only way of life. Two sisters, Onyii and Ify, dream of more. Their lives have been marked by violence and political unrest. Still, they dream of peace, of hope, of a future together. And they’re willing to fight an entire war to get there.

      Slay

      by Brittney Morris

      Jan 2020

      High-Interest High Plus

      By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer: not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the “downfall of the black man.”

      But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for “anti-white discrimination. Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically black in a world intimidated by blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?

      Thurgood

      by Jonah Winter

      Jan 2020

      Biography Elementary Plus

      Thurgood Marshall was a born lawyer—the loudest talker, funniest joke teller, and best arguer from the time he was a kid growing up in Baltimore in the early 1900s. He would go on to become the star of his high school and college debate teams, a stellar law student at Howard University, and, as a lawyer, a one-man weapon against the discriminatory laws against black Americans. After only two years at the NAACP, he was their top lawyer and had earned himself the nickname Mr. Civil Rights. He argued—and won—cases before the Supreme Court, including one of the most important cases in American history: Brown v Board of Education. And he became the first black U.S. Supreme Court Justice in history.

      Like its subject, here is a biography that crackles with energy and intensity—a great introduction to a great man.

      Author’s note, with photographs. Full-color illustrations done in watercolor and collage.

      Who Put This Song On?

      by Morgan Parker

      Dec 2019

      Mature Young Adults Plus

      Trapped in sunny, stifling, small-town suburbia, seventeen-year-old Morgan knows why she’s in therapy. She can’t count the number of times she’s been the only non-white person at the sleepover, been teased for her “weird” outfits, and been told she’s not “really” black. Also, she’s spent most of her summer crying in bed. So there’s that, too.

      Lately, it feels like the whole world is listening to the same terrible track on repeat—and it’s telling them how to feel, who to vote for, what to believe. Morgan wonders, when can she turn this song off and begin living for herself? Life may be a never-ending hamster wheel of agony, but Morgan finds her crew of fellow outcasts, blasts music like there’s no tomorrow, discovers what being black means to her, and finally puts her mental health first. She decides that, no matter what, she will always be intense, ridiculous, passionate, and sometimes hilarious. After all, darkness doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Darkness is just real.

      Dough Boys

      by Paula Chase

      Dec 2019

      Realistic Fiction Middle Plus

      Deontae “Simp” Wright has big plans for his future. Plans that involve basketball, his best friend, Rollie, and making enough money to get his mom and four younger brothers out of the Cove, their low-income housing project. Long term, this means the NBA. Short term, it means being a dough boy—getting paid to play lookout and eventually moving up the rungs of the neighborhood drug operation with Rollie as his partner.

      Rolland “Rollie” Matthews used to love playing basketball. He loved the rhythm of the game, how he came up with his best drumbeats after running up and down the court. But playing with the elite team comes with extra, illegal responsibilities, and Rollie isn’t sure he’s down for that life. The new talented-and-gifted program, where Rollie has a chance to audition for a real-life go-go band, seems like the perfect excuse to stop being a dough boy. But how can he abandon his best friend?

      Ida B. Wells: Discovering History's Heroes

      by Diane Bailey

      Nov 2019

      Biography Elementary Plus

      Ida B. Wells was an African-American journalist and activist who led an anti-lynching crusade in the United States in the 1890s.

      On one fateful train ride from Memphis to Nashville, in May 1884, Wells reached a personal turning point. Having bought a first-class train ticket, she was outraged when the train crew ordered her to move to the car for African Americans. She refused and was forcibly removed from the train—but not before she bit one of the men on the hand. Wells sued the railroad, winning a $500 settlement. However, the decision was later overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court.

      This injustice led Ida B. Wells to pick up a pen to write about issues of race and politics in the South. Using the moniker “Iola,” a number of her articles were published in black newspapers and periodicals. Wells eventually became an owner of the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight, and, later, of the Free Speech. She even took on the subject of lynching, and in 1898, Wells brought her anti-lynching campaign to the White House, leading a protest in Washington, DC, and calling for President William McKinley to make reforms.

      Ida B. Wells never backed down in the fight for justice.

      Epilogue. Glossary. Endnotes. Bibliography.

      The Stars and the Blackness Between Them

      by Junauda Petrus

      Nov 2019

      City High School

      Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won’t lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. “America have dey spirits too, believe me,” she tells Audre.

      Minneapolis. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels—about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner.

      Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer, and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.

      Music playlist inspired by the events of the novel.

      Kingdom of Souls

      by Rena Barron

      Nov 2019

      Fantasy/Science Fiction High Plus

      Born into a family of powerful witch doctors, Arrah yearns for magic of her own. But as she fails at bone charms, fails to call upon the ancestors, and fails to see the future, her ambitious mother looks upon her with ever-growing disapproval. There is only one thing Arrah hasn’t tried, a deadly last resort: trading years of her own life for scraps of magic. Until the city’s children begin to vanish, and Arrah is desperate to find the culprit.

      What she uncovers is even more horrifying. The Demon King, whose hunger for souls nearly destroyed the world before he was defeated and imprisoned by the ancient orishas, is stirring. Arrah’s only hope of stopping him is to sacrifice more and more of her years for magic. But she’ll do anything to save the people she loves. Even if it kills her.

      My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich

      by Ibi Zoboi

      Oct 2019

      Advanced Readers

      In the summer of 1984, 12-year-old Ebony-Grace Norfleet makes the trip from Huntsville, Alabama, to Harlem, where she’ll spend a few weeks with her father while her mother deals with some trouble that’s arisen for Ebony-Grace’s beloved grandfather, Jeremiah. Jeremiah Norfleet is a bit of a celebrity in Huntsville, where he was one of the first black engineers to integrate NASA two decades earlier. And ever since his granddaughter came to live with him when she was little, he’s nurtured her love of all things outer space and science fiction—especially Star Wars and Star Trek, both of which she’s watched dozens of time on Grandaddady’s Betamax machine.

      So even as Ebony-Grace struggled to make friends among her peers, she could always rely on her grandfather and the imaginary worlds they created together. In Harlem, however, she faces a whole new challenge. Harlem in 1984 is an exciting and terrifying place for a sheltered girl from Hunstville, and her first instinct is to retreat into her imagination. But soon 126th Street begins to reveal that it has more in common with her beloved sci-fi adventures than she ever thought possible, and by summer’s end, Ebony-Grace discovers that gritty and graffitied Harlem has a place for a girl whose eyes are always on the stars.

      Black-and-white illustrations.

      The Usual Suspects

      by Maurice Broaddus

      Sep 2019

      Realistic Fiction Middle Plus

      Thelonius Mitchell is tired of being labeled. He’s in Special Ed, separated from the “normal” kids at school who don’t have any “issues.” That’s enough to make all the teachers and students look at him and his friends with a constant side-eye. (Although his disruptive antics and pranks have given him a rep too.)

      When a gun is found at a neighborhood hangout, Thelonius and his pals become instant suspects. Thelonius may be guilty of pulling crazy stunts at school, but a criminal? T isn’t about to let that label stick.

      With his computer geek best bud, Nehemiah, at his side, Thelonius searches for information that might lead to the real culprit. But sniffing around for the truth is anything but easy when Thelonius’s loyalty is called into question.

      Rise!: From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou

      by Bethany Hegedus

      Sep 2019

      Biography Elementary Plus

      In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, this beautiful biography of Maya Angelou describes how she rose above a childhood of trauma and emotional pain to become one of the most inspiring voices of our lifetime.

      Writer, activist, trolley car conductor, dancer, mother, and humanitarian - Maya Angelou's life was marked by transformation and perseverence.  In this comprehensive picture-book biography geared towards older readers, Bethan Hegedus lyrically trances Maya's life from her early days in Stamps, Arkansas through her work as a freedom fighter to her triumphant rise as a poet of the people.

      Foreword by Colin Johnson. Time line with photographs. Author’s note with resources. Selected bibliography. Quotation sources. Full-color illustrations were rendered in acrylic and oil paint.
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