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The following article was posted on February 19th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 50 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 50

What Kids Are Reading

Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America
by Andrea Davis Pinkney
recommended for ages 9 to 12

The American Library Association (ALA) meets annually to honor authors who represent the best in children’s books. The awards include the prestigious Caldecott, Newbery, and Printz awards, and the Coretta Scott King (author) Book Award, which recognizes an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults.


Hand in Hand
This year’s recipient of the King Award is Andrea Davis Pinkney’s beautifully written book Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America. In her preface, Pinkney writes, “This book was ignited by the beautiful hands of a black man. Or, as it were, the hands of several men whose complexions ranged from buff to midnight.”

She continues, “I wanted to create a testament to African American males, a comprehensive book that would also serve as a thank-you gift to all the positive black men who have touched my life and the lives of people I will never meet.” She prefaces the stories of each man with a poem. The stories are arranged chronologically and span America’s history from the Colonial Period through the Civil War and World War I to the Civil Rights movement and modern day.

Her selections include some expected choices, but my favorites are the stories of lesser-known men who played important roles in American history, as well as the history of African Americans. Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) was a free African American who helped survey the original District of Columbia’s borders.

W.E.B. DuBois (1868-1963) was an author and activist who protested lynchings and discrimination.

Labor activist Philip Randolph (1889-1979) organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, which was the first predominantly black labor union.

Pinkney’s stories are also quite candid. She doesn’t candy-coat history. Her story about Muslim minister and human rights activist Malcolm X (1925-1965) includes mention of his criminal history, and how his racial views changed later in his life. She writes, “He thought carefully about some of the beliefs he’d held in the past, and how they supported the idea that he’d been brainwashed by whites. For example, straightening his hair was Malcolm’s attempt to deny his black heritage by trying to look ‘more white.’”

Artist and illustrator Brian Pinkney (Andrea’s husband) has created brilliant color portraits of each man. He’s a two-time Caldecott Honor winner and multiple Coretta Scott King Book Award recipient, who uses a scratchboard technique. He covers a specially treated white board with black drawing ink, then scratches or scrapes off areas that are to appear white in the finished work. He then adds color to these areas using acrylic paint, watercolors, oils, or oil pastels.

Hand in Hand is an excellent book for classroom study and sharing with young readers. The final entry is a discussion of President Barack Obama’s life and his presidency. Andrea Davis Pinkney puts the hard work and achievements of those who came before him into perspective, thus reminding us that history is not merely made, but is lived and experienced.

“What Kids are Reading” is a regular feature in the Sun, highlighting children’s books available for young readers in Santa Maria. This week’s recommendations are made by local writer, humorist, art historian, educator, and grandmother, Ariel Waterman.