Media Reviews: Books for Kids

Laura Nawojchik
“Mae Among the Stars”

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed, illustrated by Stasia Burrington

This simple story for young children tells a fictionalized account of the early childhood of Mae Jemison, who became the first black female astronaut. The emphasis is on imagining of a future for yourself and making it happen, with the refrain, “If you dream it, if you believe it and work hard for it, anything is possible.” There is a setback when Mae’s teacher discourages her aspiration, but it is quickly resolved when her parents encourage her once more. A short biography of Jemison’s accomplishments is included. FOR AGES 3-7

Young, Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present by Jamia Wilson, illustrated by Andrea Pippins

The 52 heroes are from different times, countries and all types of fields, including sports, the arts and politics. But each person is inspiring in terms of what they accomplished and, often, in the hardships they overcame. A short and fascinating biography is included for each, along with a powerful quote. The creators’ goal seems well-represented by Kofi Annan’s words, “Knowledge is power, information is liberating.” The vibrant, colorful illustrations on the cover and on each page will attract readers. FOR AGES 7-12

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson

Candice is spending a lonely summer in Lambert, South Carolina, staying at her late grandmother’s house. Then she discovers a letter in the attic that sends her on a treasure hunt—the same quest that her grandmother attempted and that ended with her having to resign in shame from her job as city manager. With a new friend, Candice explores Lambert’s past and discovers a history of racism and hateful deeds but also of love and bravery. This book succeeds in both teaching about complex social justice issues and history and absorbing young readers into a thrilling story. FOR AGES 9-13

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

In the present, Rowan discovers a mysterious skeleton in an outbuilding of her parents’ property in Tulsa, Oklahoma. One hundred years ago, Will is living in Jim Crow-era Tulsa when a horrific race riot occurs. The book alternates between these two characters as the past comes to life, and an often-forgotten tragedy is brought into the light. The action is fast-paced and intense, and the characters well-drawn. Readers will be caught up in learning who the skeleton is and how the past connects to the present. Along the way, they will learn about a true event from America’s dark history that is rarely taught. FOR TEENS

Laura Nawojchik is a youth services librarian at the Whetstone Branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.


National Museum of African American History & Culture

You may not be able to visit the newest Smithsonian Institution museum in Washington, D.C., but you can explore their well-curated website. There are detailed pages for different exhibitions and collections, including many photos of actual museum artifacts. “Collection stories” elaborate on the history of items from the museum’s vast holdings. Site visitors also can check out several blogs, including “Our American Story,” which gives a snapshot of an event from America’s past, including historic photographs and objects. Hours could be spent exploring all this site has to offer.