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Reading Teacher.
http://www.jstor.org
Bena R. Hefflin
Mary Alice Barksdale-Ladd
American
African
i's
childrei
literature
that
students
Guidelinesand suggested books helps
can help teachersprovide
literaturethatreflectsAfrican themselves:
Americanchildren'sexperiences.
Selection
for
is a powerful medium. Through
construct messages
about
children
it,
in
and roles
their cultures
society.
Literature offers them personal stories, a view of
and insight on them
their cultural surroundings,
children
read books
that are inter
they can find
as
themselves
to them,
and meaningful
for
of
the
process
support
defining
their developing
and understanding
individuals
roles within their families and communities.
From
the time they enter school, most
esting
that
their
about
seldom offers messages
them,
past, or
too
often books used in primary
their future. All
African
American
classrooms
children
contain
read literature
too few African
American
as slaves without
including
or
In
modern
any "nonslavery"
representations.
children often
short, today's African American
in the literature they are
cannot find themselves
Americans
given to read.
of this article
is to suggest
The purpose
African
American
chil
for
selecting
guidelines
literature of high literary and artistic qual
the importance
for
K-3. To validate
Grades
ity
in society, the guidelines
of African Americans
dren's
?l
U
The Read?lg
Teacher
VOI.54, NO.
8
K-3
are for all teachers, whether
they have African
or not.
children
in their classrooms
We also provide a list of selected recent books
context that meet the
with an African American
American
same criteria
for quality.
What ifyou can't findyourself?
To read for years and not encounter
stories
that connect closely with one's own cultural un
and life experiences
is problematic.
derstandings
for reading fiction in
primary motivation
volves the pleasure
that can be taken in relating
to characters,
their lives, their problems,
and
en
their experiences.
When
readers frequently
One
counter
or they include characters who are
characters,
in appearance
of
African American
only. Many
these stories say little about African American
or they present
the history
of
culture,
only
African
guidelines
Grades
Literature
selves. When
find
texts that feature characters with whom
can
connect,
they
they will see how others are
like them and how reading can play a role in
their
lives.
A
love of reading
will
result.
not
encounter
when
readers
do
Alternatively,
characters who are like them, reading is likely to
For chil
be frustrating rather than pleasurable.
is not likely to lead to
dren, repeated frustration
and the development
of a
personal affirmations
love of reading. If teachers continually
children with texts
American
are predominantly
the main characters
African
present
in which
animals
reason
to
it
stands
that
these
people,
to wonder
children may begin
whether
they,
fit into the
their families, and their communities
and white
May 2001
?2OOI
International
Association
Reading
(pp.810-819)
of reading. Our interviews with African
their early years
adults, remembering
in school, speak of this type of reading experi
ence as being one of isolation. (All adult and stu
world
American
dent names
are pseudonyms.)
Recommended high-qualityAfricanAmerican
Barnwell,
I didn't feel a strong connection between my world and
classroom-relatedliterature
experiences.My learningexperi
ences did not speak tome because peoplewho lookedlikeme
weren't inthe literature.Ididn'tvaluemy experienceswith lit
eratureinmy earlyyears of learning.(Tyrone)
Similarly,
students we
ences,
needs,
the third-grade African American
voiced
interviewed
their prefer
and concerns:
Ysaye
There
It'snot that Idon't likewhite people or nothing,butyou'reglad
because you don'tsee a lotof books thathave black people
in them.And it'snot to be rudetowhite people, but you can
imaginewhat they're[blackpeople] thinkingof...itmight give
you a better idea.Again, nothingagainstwhite people,butyou
liketo see blacksbecause [whiteauthors]portrayblackpeo
ple liketheydon'tgot nomanners or nothing.Andwhite peo
ple, theyknoweverythingand theyget a good education.But,
that'snot always truecause theblackpeople, theyget a good
education too. But they portrayus as not having anyman
ners.When you see [black]people likethat, [white]people
thinkthatwe're stupid. (Marisa)
I likereadingaboutmy heritageand I likestories about black
people.There isn'tanythingwrongwithwhite people...they're
justa differentcolor. They'reactually people, so they'rethe
same as us, buta differentcolor.But, Iwould liketosee more,
you know,blackpeople instories. (LaVon)
were
no mirrors
in Nana's
American
111.
to
for her granddaughter
to compare
with
yourself
Curtis, Gavin. The bat boy and his violin (1999 Goretta Scott
E.B. Lewis. Simon & Schuster.
King Honor Award). 1998. 111.
ISBN 0689800991. US$16.00.
A young boy loves to play the violin, but his father needs a bat
boy for his baseball team, not a violin player. The boy decides to
play his violin in the dugout, and he manages to inspire the play
ers.
Cedric Lucas. Albert
English, Karen. Big wind coming! 1996. 111.
Whitman. ISBN 0807507261. US$14.95.
Sarah Ann's family prepares for a hurricane by boarding up win
dows and storing water for the family. During the harsh winds,
Sarah Ann realizes that she left her favorite doll outside and
runs off to find her. There is considerable damage, but somehow
the doll is found safely after the storm.
Gilchrist, Jan Spivey. Madelia. 1997 Dial. ISBN 0803720521.
US$14.99.
Madelia can't wait to go home from church to play with her six
jars of watercolors.
ing to paint, she waits
As Madelia
thinks
about
what
for the sermon
impatiently
she
is go
to end.
Suddenly, Madelia becomes inspired and knows precisely what
she will do.
Holman, Sandy Lynne. Grandpa, is everything black bad? 1999.
111.
Lela Kometiani. The Culture Co-op. ISBN 0964465507.
US$18.95.
This picture book describes how a little boy named Montsho
looks
around
his environment
and notices
that
associat
things
ed with blackness are bad. Montsho learns to appreciate his
dark skin when his grandfather teaches him about his African
heritage.
Howard, Elizabeth Fitzgerald. When will Sarah come? 1999. 111.
Nina Crews. Greenwillow. ISBN 0688161804. US$16.00.
While
his
sister
Sarah
goes
off to school,
Jonathan
at home
stays
and plays throughout his busy day. As he anxiously listens and
waits
to come
for Sarah
he rides
home,
his firetruck,
watches
mail falling through themail slot, plays with his teddy bear, and
listens
to the sounds
of the tree
trimmers.
Jonathan
finally
hears the sound of Sarah's yellow school bus. His sister is finally
home!
Howard, Elizabeth Fitzgerald. What's inAunt Mary's room?
1996. 111.
Cedric Lucas. Clarion. ISBN 0395698456. US$14.95.
Susan and Sarah help their aunt locate a key that unlocks the
door
in Great-Aunt
Flossie's
house.
They
are surprised
to discov
er a family Bible inwhich Susan is given permission towrite her
and Sarah's
Hru, Dakari.
runs deep and wide in the context of schooling
in
the United
States. Historically,
the absence of
black images in children's
literature was birthed
African
house
are, and not
just the way you
yourself
other
forms of beauty.
own
The problem of not finding oneself in books
1998.
house.
look into and judge herself against another culture's definition
of beauty. This story about inner beauty teaches how to love
new
Well, we're black, and itdoesn'tmean that Idon't likewhite
people instories, but I likeseeing people inthebook thatare
my same color. I likeseeing black people inbooks because
mostly theyhavewhite people incommercialsand shows and
stuff.And it's likeina bookyou can see blackpeople. (Keisha)
in my Nana's
M. No mirrors
Synthia Saint James. Harcourt Brace. ISBN 0152018255.
US$18.00.
For the first15 years ofmy life, Ididn'tfindmyself inbooks,
and Ididn'trelateto them.Once Idiscoveredbooks and char
acters Icould relateto, Igained the loveof reading.(Tracey)
The joyof reading is instepping intothe experience of the
When the characterslook like,talk like,think like,
characters.
and act likeus, it'seasy to share intheexperience. Ithinkthat
afterwe've had thatexperiencea few times, itbecomes easier
to understandthe experiencesof peoplewho are less likeus.
But inbecominga reader,and learningto lovereading,expe
riencingbooks thatmirrorour own lives is extremely impor
tant?which forme beganwhen Ibecamean adult. (Robin)
literature, K-3
children's
children's
name.
The magic
moonberryjump
ropes.
1996.
111.E B.
Lewis. Dial Books forYoung Readers. ISBN 0803717547.
US$14.99.
(continued)
literature
that helps
students
find themselves
Oil
Recommended high-qualityAfricanAmerican
literature, K-3 (continued)
children's
April and her sister love to jump Double Dutch. But nobody in the
neighborhood wants to jump rope, until Uncle Zambezi arrives
with a pair of brightly dyed jump ropes from Africa and claims
that they will grant wishes.
Sam
Julius.
Lester,
the tigers.
and
111.Jerry
1996.
Dial
Pinkney.
Books forYoung Readers. ISBN 0803720289. US$15.99.
This is a retelling of Helen Bannerman's The Story of Little
Black Sambo (1923, HarperCollins). In this story a little boy
named
Sam
smarts
a gang
are called
out
Sam)
(in fact all of the characters
of hungry
tigers. The tigers turn into a pool of but
ter, and that night Sam and his family have tigerstriped
for dinner.
pancakes
Patricia
McKissack,
G. The
truth.
honest-to-goodness
111.
2000.
Giselle Potter. Atheneum. ISBN 0689826680. US$16.00.
When a young girl is caught in her first lie to her mother, she de
cides to tell only the truth. Soon, she begins to spread the truth
all over town about how Thomas didn't have enough money for
lunch
some
to borrow
and needed
the teacher.
from
learns
She
there's a right and wrong way to tell the truth.
Medearis,
Rum-a-tum-tum.
Shelf.
Angela
US$16.95.
a young
to the festive, celebratory
late 1800s,
girl wakes
on Market
their produce
of street vendors
busily
selling
in New Orleans,
Louisiana.
She ismesmerized
by Creole
colored
fresh fruits
in red bandannas,
of richly
baskets
In the
sounds
Street
women
and a jazz parade
and vegetables,
Miller,
E.
111.James
1997.
Ransome. Holiday House. ISBN 0823411435.
The
William.
2000.
piano.
lights up the town.
Lee & Low.
111.Susan Keeter.
that
ISBN 1880000989. US$15.95.
This story, set in the early 1900s, is about a unique friendship
between a little girl named Tia and her employer, an elderly
woman
given
Miss
named
her how
teaches
Tia
Hartwell.
to play
a rare and precious
the piano.
Miss Hartwell
loves music;
is
In return Miss Hartwell
gift.
Mollel, Tololwa M.My rows and piles of coins (2000 Goretta
Scott
King
Illustrator
Honor
Award).
Clarion Books. ISBN 0395751861.
1999.
111.E.B. Lewis.
to buy a new
little boy works
very hard and saves his money
have enough.
that he doesn't
only to discover
Lee &
111.Kadir Nelson.
2000.
Jerdine.
Lothrop,
Nolen,
Big Jabe.
bike,
In this modern
US$ 15.95.
tall tale, Addy,
a house
slave
on Simon
Plenty's
plantation, finds a little boy floating down the river in a basket.
Addy is taken by the boy's ability to call fish to jump out of the
In no time at all, the little boy grows
into her wagon.
and
of 50 men
into a giant named
Jabe, who has the strength
to transport
slaves away to freedom.
the ability
river
and
Orgill, Roxanne. If I only had a horn: Young Louis Armstrong.
1997. 111.
Leonard Jenkins. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN
0395759196. US$16.00.
This autobiographical picture book describes how young Louis
Armstrong
trumpet,
success
Pinkney,
the
Before
his first instruments.
received
playing
the bugle and the cornet. His first musical
he played
Band.
Home
in the Colored Waifs'
occurred
Andrea
D. Duke
Ellington:
The
piano
prince
and
his
orchestra (1999 Caldecott Honor Award & 1999 Coretta
(continued)
812
The Reading Teacher
Vol.54,No.8 May2001
the social
inaccurate
African
and lack of understanding
very little change
Americans,
(MacCann,
1998). There was
in characterizations
of African
number
of
texts
or the
Americans
authentic
African
featuring
from 1900 until about 1970
the vast
(Harris, 1997). As a result, historically,
a clear
content of children's
literature connoted
American
characters
children are not val
message: African American
ued in society, and books have little to offer them
that is personal,
relevant,
and affirming
(Harris,
1993; Sims-Bishop, 1987).
the absence
and misrepresentation
Given
and
that so many African Americans?young
about the literature of their youth, we
old?feel
litera
children's
searched for African American
ture of high
for
literary and artistic
quality
K-3. Our plan was to locate literature
as
children
African American
that establishes
Grades
1981),
children
their own world
authenticates
children,
and?most
important?speaks
and
themselves
about
(Clifton,
to these
lives
their
(Harris, 1990; Sims-Bishop, 1993).
But how much
of this literature
is available?
Where do you find it?How do you select high
American
literature
that will
quality African
in which
lead to affirming
reading experiences
to
to
stories and
relate
children will be able
characters?
US$ 15.00.
A
Shepard. ISBN 0688136621.
structures
that slavery imposed.
of
African
that
Americans
images
nur
were
in
literature
from
1830-1900
appeared
a publishing
tured by stereotypes,
industry that
was not invested
in authentic
of
portrayals
from
The
How much African American
children's literature is available?
of African
The number
books
steadily
increased
20th century, especially
American
children's
in the latter part of the
in the 1990s (Harris,
1998; Sims
Foster,
Parker,
In
the in
real
terms, however,
1997).
Bishop,
crease was very small. For example,
in 1998
1997;
Rand,
&
in
4,500 books were published
approximately
the United States for children (Horning, Moore
Kruse, & Schliesman,
1999). Only 3% of these
as main char
books featured African Americans
acters
or focused
on African
American
culture
(Rand et al., 1998). Of this 3%, only two thirds
of the books were created by African American
authors or illustrators (Horning et al., 1999).
Here is thebottom line:Very few books with
Recommended high-qualityAfricanAmerican
are published
for
protagonists
line reduces this number
children. Our bottom
even further: How many of these books are high
African
American
quality works
of literature
for African
children's
Brian Pinkney. Hyperion
Scott King Honor Award). 1998. 111.
Books forChildren. ISBN 0786801786. US$15.95.
This biographical picture book illustrates the life of the leg
American
children?
"good" African American children's
literature?
to this question
is complex.
The answer
as it turns out, depends on a num
"Goodness,"
read
ber of factors: How the literature evolved,
are
audience
and
appeal
ability, marketing,
of Fame.
Schroeder, Alan. Minty: A story of young Harriet Tubman (1997
Coretta Scott King IllustratorAward). 1996. 111.
Jerry Pinkney.
Dial Books forYoung Readers. ISBN 0803718888. US$16.00.
This fictionalized account based upon real events profiles the
early life of Harriet Tubman and her relationship with her par
considerations
(Temple, Martinez,
two
&
Yokota,
1998). For our purposes,
Naylor,
mark
the
of
characteristics
interrelated
layers
literature:
children's
American
good African
erature
and those
specific
literature.
children's
General
to African
characteristics.
in children's
excellence
to all children's
books
ents. The
essential
American
of
Characteristics
are a result of the
set of terms for looking at the literary
et al.,
books"
(Temple
et
al.'s
1998, p. 7). By drawing
upon Temple
on
the
of
children's
framework
(1998)
qualities
and
and Huck, Hepler,
literature,
Hickman,
accepted
features
and Tomlinson's
Lynch-Brown
for
children's
guidelines
evaluating
we
the
outlined
characteristics
books,
and
thor's
and
illustrator's
craft
that mark
literature.
quality children's
In seeking well-developed
children, readers
primary-grade
works
(1999)
picture
of an au
high
narratives
should
for
look for
that contain
the following
characteristics.
well
include memorable,
in
stories
characters;
contemporary
portrayed
are usually
these characters
the same
children
1. Books
African
American
on the
and
remembers
her
Twi
well.
experiences
teach
rhythms
on a goatskin
drum.
One
slave
day,
arrive
ships
at
Mentu and Twi's island.The slaves refuse to get off the ships be
cause
they
know
they
are not home.
Twi
knows
she must
take
her people back to Africa, so together Twi and the slaves walk
into the ocean for home. Mentu is left all alone, but he grows up
strong, begins a family of his own, and teaches them all that his
1
grandmother
Sierra,
taught
Judy. Wiley
and
him.
the hairy
man.
1996.
111.Brian
Pinkney.
Lodestar Books Dutton. ISBN 0525674772. US$15.00.
This African American folk tale describes how Wiley and his
mother outsmart the Hairy Man by tricking him into doing
mother
things for them. But Wiley's
times
trick the Hairy Man two more
away forever.
Steptoe,
John.
1997.
Creativity.
warns
in order
111.E. B. Lewis.
him
that he must
for the beast
Clarion.
to go
ISBN
0395687063. US$15.95.
An African American child learns to appreciate his similarities
and differences with his friend Hector from Puerto Rico. Once
Charlie befriends Hector he helps him adjust to the new school
and neighborhood. Charlie even tries to help Hector with his
English.
Stewart, Dianne. Gift of the sun: A talefrom South Africa. 1996.
111.
Jude Daly. Farrar Straus & Giroux. ISBN 0374324255.
US$15.00.
This South African tale describes how a farmer named Thulani
I
wants
should
age as the child reader.
2. Books should present a plot that provides
sequence.
interesting events in an understandable
a conductor
she became
es her grandson many things, including how to play ancient
of children's
Kiefer's (2000), Cullinan and Galda's (1994),
in Africa
born
characteristics
literature
tinguish good children's
are for different
"To know what
books'
'good
children requires some intelligent way of talk
and mediocrity
in books?an
ing about goodness
how
Railroad.
Siegelson, Kim. In the time of the drums (2000 Coretta Scott
Brian Pinkney. Hyperion
King IllustratorAward). 1999. 111.
Books forChildren. ISBN 078680436X. US$15.00.
This story is based on the Gullah legend of a slave rebellion at
Ibo's Landing in South Carolina. Mentu's grandmother Twi was
lit
that dis
from the rest.
describes
story
Underground
literary and artistic craft of the author and illus
trator. The skills with which
authors and illus
to tell the
trators use the tools of their medium
tale are the most
Ellington.
'
Pinkney, Andrea D. Bill Pickett: Rodeo-ridin cowboy. 1996. 111.
Brian Pinkney. Gulliver. ISBN 0152021035. US$6.00.
This biography describes how Bill Pickett became themost fa
mous black rodeo performer who ever lived and the first
|
African American to be inducted into the National Cowboy Hall
essential
general
Duke
jazz composer
endary
What are the characteristicsof
those characteristics
literature, K-3 (continued)
to do no more
than
lie in the sun all day. After
a series
of
lopsided exchanges with others tomake his life easier, he finds
that his crop isworth something after all.A pocketful of sun
flower
Tarpley,
seeds
Natasha.
proves
to be very
/ love my
Brown. ISBN 0316522759.
hair.
beneficial.
1998.
111.E.B. Lewis.
Little,
US$15.95.
(continued)
children's
literature
that helps
students
find themselves
813
I
there are specific guidelines
to note with regard to the selection of themost ap
children's
literature.
propriate African American
a more detailed set of guide
We have developed
children's
Recommended high-qualityAfricanAmerican
literature, K-3 (continued)
children's
This picture book celebrates African American identity through
hair. Every night before bedtime Keyana sits down with her
mother to get her hair combed. Ithurts, but her mother gently
reminds her of all the different ways that she can wear her hair.
Thomas, Joyce Carol. J have heard of a land (1999 Goretta Scott
Floyd Cooper.
King Illustrator Honor Award). 1998. 111.
HarperCollins. ISBN 0060234776. US$14.95.
Set in the late 1800s, this lyrical tribute describes what itwas
like forAfrican American pioneers to journey westward to
to receive
were
atAfrican American
chil
specifically
based
the
work
of
literature,
upon
own
our
ex
Banks
(1997),
(1991),
Sims-Bishop
and those of teachers with whom we
periences,
lines aimed
dren's
are specific authors and
solid reputations
illustrators who have established
for publishing
sensitive
literature for
culturally
children. While we would not recommend
that se
have collaborated.
anxious
life. Newly
freed slaves were
to travel to a place where
all people
land and a new beginning.
a new
to begin
railroad
tickets
Oklahoma
free
promised
doesn't
tooth
wobbly
know
comes
finally
itwent.
where
His
out when
he
sneezes.
and
grandfather
of African American
literature for chil
come
from
these works,
exclusively
with
these
and
authors,
illustrators,
familiarity
accom
in becoming
their works
is very helpful
lections
But he
the tooth
at selecting
plished
with children.
fairy
get a shock when they look under his pillow later that evening.
Woodtor,
Dee
Parmer.
During
111.Dolores
Big meeting.
& Schuster. ISBN 0689319339.
the midsummer
heat,
from
all over
cross
the
wooden bridge at Pigeon Greek and travel to grandma and
grandpa's
home
for a special
reunion.
They
at church
gather
recommend
for
fellowship, to learn about their heritage, and to celebrate the
that teachers
that have
books
well
developed
istic contexts.
to build
excitement
and
produce
readers plots should
suspense. For primary-grade
so
will not have
children
clear
that
be direct and
of
the sequence
events, yet
following
difficulty
plots should be complex enough to capture the at
and
tention and lead to predictions,
questions,
In
should
stories
the
realistic
plot
wonderings.
deal with problems, events, or issues that children
will
they can relate.
well-crafted
incorporate
and to which
understand
should
3. Books
that is concrete
language
should
read
guage
mood of the story.
4. Books
and vivid?the
smoothly
should contain
and
reflect
lan
the
a worthy
and truth
by the author.
these characteristics,
1 outlines
along
so they can be readily used
with key questions,
to rate (from 1-5) the overall quality of a chil
dren's book.
In addition to these
Specific characteristics.
814
The Reading Teacher
correctly
in authentic,
real
that is authen
realistic,
dialogue
particularly
dialect
portrays African American
to the character.
that
ap
propriate
3. Books
should
illustrations
incorporate
and other charac
that portray African American
ters and settings authentically
and realistically.
informa
4. Books
should present accurate
tion.
We
as outlined
have found these guidelines,
to
tenets
for
the
selection
be
workable
2,
of high-quality
erature. While
African
American
children's
lit
all of these story elements may
in every good African American
that are
the more
elements
book,
not be found
presented
Table
considerations
and
in Table
ful theme. Further, the illustrator's work should
the story
catch the attention of the reader, move
tone
and
the
enhance
and
forward,
meanings
general
tic
and portrayed
should use language
2. Books
conflict
look for
and parents
characteristics.
characters who are
the following
should include
1. Books
gospel.
Plots
to share
(in addition to draw
general guidelines
from
works
well-known
established
ing
by
African American
authors and illustrators) we
US$16.00.
families
texts
high-quality
As
Simon
Johnson.
There
dren
Paul
Wilkins, VernaMette. Dave and the toothfairy. (1998). 111.
Hunt. Gareth Stevens. ISBN 0836820894. US$21.00.
Dave's
literature,
for selecting
high-quality
Vol.54,No.8 May2001
children's
found, the greater the likely appeal for all chil
dren. These guidelines
also include key ques
tions and a rating scale (from 1-5) to evaluate the
children's
literature.
quality of African American
How do the characteristicsapply to a
specific piece of literature?
To illustrate how these general and specific
characteristics work in practice, we applied them
to the African American
children's
biography
Table 1
General characteristicsof high-qualityprimary-gradepicturebooks
Feature
Questions
Rating
Does
the story contain a memorable
acter who
is about the same age
Character
3
Medium
4
12
Low
3
Medium
4
12
Low
3
Medium
4
12
Low
3
Medium
4
3
Medium
4
Low
12
Low
3
Medium
4
charas the
2
1
Low
5
High
students?
?Is the
plot direct, clear, and stimulating?
?
the problems,
Will
students understand
events, and issues?
Plot
5
High
Will studentsbe able to easily follow the
sequence
of events?
*
Will
studentsenjoy the story?
Well-crafted
the story contain
Does
language
vivid
natural,
lan
guage?
Do
the words
of characters
evoke clear, concrete
and actions?
5
High
images
Does the languagereflect themood of the
story?
Worthy,
Is the story's
subtle, and truthful theme
theme one
that students will
find worthy, subtle,and truthful?
Will the theme intereststudents?
Is the author's
intended
message
5
High
under
standablewithout being heavy-handed?
?Does
Quality of illustrations
design,
2
1
the illustrator use elements of media,
and style in original and expressive
5
High
ways?
Function
?Do
the illustrations
the mood,
establish
theme, and setting as the story unfolds?
of illustrations
?Do
they add or clarify information?
?Do
theyenrich the story?
Prince
The Piano
Ellington:
Orchestra
Andrea
by
Davis-Pinkney
Duke
and His
and Brian
Character.
as it introduces
Pinkney (Hyperion, 1998).Although biography is
does
it can be evaluated similarly to fiction
nonfiction,
due to its narrative form. However,
there is an ad
finds
ditional
requirement
for biography?accuracy.
The story describes the life of legendary
Edward
vides
Kennedy
a glimpse
music
and pro
"Duke" Ellington
into one of the liveliest eras of
In this tribute to the
history.
is
the
music
jazz legend,
portrayed through illus
trations that represent constant motion with vivid
American
and colorful
swirls. Table 3 il
spirals, waves,
we
how
the
lustrates
applied
general characteris
to the story. Our
tics of children's
literature
is noted in
rating for each of the characteristics
Table
3.
African
American
The
5
High
text is realistic
a young
and engaging
who
Ellington
Duke
not enjoy playing
the piano because
it boring. As the story progresses, Duke
a teenager
and rhythms
comes
sounds
and
begins
that he finds
a unique
time, Duke develops
forms the music
industry.
Plot.
The book
chronicles
career. The
musical
D.C.?and
incorporating
exciting. Over
style that trans
Duke
with
Ellington's
his child
story begins
in 1899 in Washington,
an adult and
ends when he became
was
hood?he
he
be
born
played at New York City's Carnegie Hall on
The story is presented chrono
January 23,1943.
so
it
is
to follow;
easy for children
logically,
so as to keep children
it is written
however,
children's
literature
that helps
students
find themselves
815
Table 2
of
characteristics
high-qualityAfricanAmerican children's literature
Specific
Feature
Character
Questions
Does
portrayal
the author
African
identify
as
the characters
include
beliefs,
traditions,
cultural referents?
1
Low
American?
Does
the author
rate information
Does
Rating
3
Medium
4
High
current and accu
about African American
shared values, and other
the author present realistic and posi
of African Americans?
tive images
Language
use
?Does
the
dialogue
correctly
African American dialect?
?Is
authentic
the language
portray
1
3
Low
Medium
1
3
Medium
4
3
Medium
4
High
and realistic?
?
students understand, identify with,
Will
and accurately
reflect upon
the characters'
language?
Illustrationauthenticity
?Do the illustrationsreflect
reality?
?Do
reveal
in settings
and
they
variety
features and
African American
physical
colored
coloring, or are characters merely
brown?
?Do the illustrations
present positive
Low
5
High
images
of African Americans in aesthetically
ways?
pleasing
Information
?Does
accuracy
the
authentic
story
aspect
a motif
or an
contain
of African
American
1
Low
5
High
history?
?Is the information accurate?
?Does
the story add a distinctive
worldview?
about what will happen and where
wondering
the story will lead.
it ad
Students will enjoy the story because
dresses a problem that is common for many chil
was introduced
to a new
dren. Duke Ellington
that practice
skill, and, although he understood
was essential
this skill, he found
in developing
that practice was very boring. Duke addressed
set
in a unique way that involved
the problem
goals (facets
personal
ting and accomplishing
life that parents and teachers alike
of a child's
impress upon young children). Duke Ellington
because he was talented and
became
successful
to
and encouragement
had the resourcefulness
build upon his talents.
language. The story contains
Well-crafted
natural, vivid language used in culturally appro
ways. For example,
priate, soulful, descriptive
one line reads, "Duke's Creole Love Call was
816
The Reading Teacher
Vol.54,No.8 May2001
voice
or
spicier than a pot of jambalaya. His Mood
was a musical
stream that swelled over
Indigo
the air
waves"
(p. 11).
Worthy, subtle, and truthful
will identify with and remember
theme. Students
the theme of the
up and finding
story?growing
yourself?
in an entirely believable
it is presented
because
way. In addition, this is an appropriate literary el
ement for young readers to reflect upon as they
of
and their own processes
look at themselves
as
individu
and
themselves
growing up
finding
als with
talents and qualities.
The illustrator uses
illustrations.
Quality of
the elements of shape, color, texture, rhythm, va
and represen
riety, space, paint, expressionism,
tation in divergent,
artistic ways.
self-expressive,
unique
Function
The illustrations
of illustrations.
are eye catching. The bold, vibrant colors and in
scenes set the mood
and add
tricately detailed
Table 3
General characteristicsof high-qualityprimary-gradepicturebooks applied toDuke Ellington:
ThePiano Prince andHis Orchestra
Feature
Rating
Response
12
The story begins with a child protagonist
(DukeEllington) and follows him in his Low
Character
A chronological plot follows the chal
lenges
life.
Well-crafted
and successes
for understanding
Worthy,
of Duke
Ellington's
The language is used inways appropriate
language
growing
jazz.
Quality of illustrations
The
up and finding
illustrator
uses
the visual
elements
are integral
illustrations
and extend the text.
of illustrations
how we
the
applied
of African American
chil
specific characteristics
dren's literature to the story. The ratings for the
are noted in Table 4.
characteristics
4 demonstrates
Ellington's
sire was
American
and his band" (p. 23). This dialogue represents
ac
dialect that is historically
American
for the period of time in which Duke
lived. Had the entire story been written
Ellington
African
curate
in thisway, itmight have been difficult formany
African
American
3
4?
Medium
2
High
4
3
Medium
12
3
Low
?
High
4?
Medium
High
to understand.
Instead, the author has
to intersperse
this type of dialect
in the
on
a
readers
with
text, providing
perspective
use
in the world of
African American
language
the reader en
Duke
and, thus, helping
Ellington
ter the world of Duke Ellington.
Illustration
The
authenticity.
the story
reveal
fingertips" while
darker in color?a
characters
is used in several parts of the story.
a section reads, "Yo, you got the
For example,
some King
of the Keys,
Duke?"
"Slide me
me
and
that
Piano Prince
"Gonna
please!"
play
High
students
about Duke
realistic
message
career. Duke Ellington's
de
musical
to celebrate
the history
of African
culture through his music. He accom
plished this goal through songs about "the glories
of dark skin, the pride of African heritage, and the
triumphs of black people from the days of slavery
to years of civil rights struggle" (p. 26).
use. The story is a narrative
in
Language
true
to
the
which African American
dialogue
4?
chosen
features
physical
Duke
is referred
the characters
a positive,
3
Low
The author identifies
portrayal.
as African American
and presents
Character
High
Medium
2
1
of
to the story
The
luster to the story. The dancers leap off the page
while
of the music
the visual
interpretations
serve as devices
that transport the reader to this
era of music history.
Table
12
Low
1
4?
Medium
Low
yourself.
line, shape, and color effectively.
Function
High
3
12
Low
Students will identifywith the theme of
subtle, and truthful theme
4?
career.
adult life through his musical
Plot
3
Medium
illustrations
in African
variety
and coloring.
in
American
For
example,
to as having
"honey-colored
other characters
appear to be
of reality (p. 21).
reflection
also present positive
images of
as in the scenes portraying
New York City's Carnegie Hall and the Cotton
Club in Harlem.
Information accuracy. The book contains au
The
illustrations
African
Americans
thentic information
about Duke Ellington's
musi
cal career. The story highlights the African
American experience by describing how African
to
and enjoyed
listening
supported
At
in
music.
the
author
the
end,
Ellington's
cludes facts about Duke Ellington's
life and pro
Americans
Duke
vides
the sources used
to obtain
the information.
Valuable book, valued readers
in this article pro
The guidelines
presented
vide a way for teachers and parents to thoughtfully
children's
literature
that helps
students
find
themselves
817
Table 4
Specific characteristicsof high-qualityAfricanAmerican children's literatureapplied toDuke Ellington:
ThePiano Prince and His Orchestra
Feature
Character
Response
?The author
presents accurate and positive
images of an African American whose
portrayal
outstanding
Language
Rating
musical
career
4? 3
Medium
12
Low
Medium
4?
High
is portrayed.
?The
dialogue accurately portraysAfrican
American dialect of the time.
?The
languageof the text is rich and flows
use
12
Low
3
High
well.
Illustration
?The
authenticity
illustrations
The
physical
illustrations
settings.
The illustrations
of African
Information
variety in African
features and coloring.
a variety
of
reveal
reveal
American
present
Americans.
3
Medium
?
High
4? 3
Medium
High
images
positive
?The
story contains authentic, accurate informationaboutDuke Ellington'smusical
accuracy
1
Low
1
Low
2
career.
evaluate the quality of African
and purposefully
literature for the primary
American
children's
quality, in this case, lies in the
grades. Determining
to select literature that is affirming and lib
erating to children. Historically, African American
children did not have literature that reflected their
experiences. To find the best of this literature, then,
in books.
is to help these children find themselves
ability
To read literature thatmirrors themselves and their
have power.
lives is to feel valued?to
children encounter
When African American
about them, their
literature that offers messages
culture, and their roles in society, they have en
to reflect upon themselves
hanced opportunities
as people and their own development.
Culturally
sensitive
stories, views, and insights can allow
to realize that literature has value for
children
them as individuals. To select a balanced collec
tion of stories, we
included
in our bibliography
(see Sidebar) literature that plays and riffs with
life and lit
everyday events of African American
ac
erature that represents
authentic
accurate,
to
counts of slavery. With
exposure
repeated
literature in which children find them
engaging
with
connections
selves establishing
personal
is great that reading
the likelihood
characters,
will become an appealing activity. Over time, the
818
The Reading Teacher
Vol.54,No.8 May2001
love of reading may empower
readers and as individuals.
For
teachers
ing African
students
both
as
in find
and parents interested
children's
literature, we
American
have carefully crafted an annotated
of books from 1996-2000
that meet
bibliography
our selection
for high-quality
African American
literature. We suggest the bibliogra
liter
phy be used as a starting point in selecting
ature, and note that the list should be expanded
guidelines
children's
to individual needs
according
are recommended
The books
and preferences.
for beginning,
and early intermediate
readers (K-3).
young,
The title, author, illustrator, year, summary, pub
lisher, ISBN (International Standard Book
for each book.
and price are provided
Number),
order be
The books are arranged in alphabetical
name.
with
the
last
author's
ginning
Hefflinteachesat theUniversity
inPennsylvania
ofPittsburgh
of
of
Instruction
& Learning,
Department
(School Education,
PA 15260,USA).Barksdale
4H01PosvarHall,
Pittsburgh,
at theUniversity
ofSouthFloridainTampa,
Laddteaches
USA.
Florida,
References
Lynch-Brown,
J.A. (1991). Teaching
strategies
ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Banks,
for
ethnic
studies
(5th
Clifton, L. (1981).Writing for black children.TheAdvocate, 7,
32-37.
B.E., & Galda, L. (1994). Literature and the child (3rd
ed.). New York: Harcourt Brace.
children's
literature: The
Harris, V.J. (1990). African American
first one hundred years. Journal
Education,
59,
of Negro
540-555.
Cullinan,
Harris, V.J. (1993). Contemporary
griots: African-American
writers of children's
literature. In V.J. Harris (Ed.), Teaching
in grades
multicultural
literature
K-8
(pp. 57-108).
Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon.
literature depicting
blacks.
In
Harris, V.J. (1997). Children's
V.J. Harris
in the K-8
literature
(Ed.), Using multiethnic
classroom
(pp. 21-58). Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon.
M.
K., Moore-Kruse,
G., & Schliesman,
(1999).
Children's
Book Center choices 1998. Madison,
Cooperative
WI: Friends of the Cooperative
Children's
Book Center.
Horning,
B. (2000).
Huck, C,
S., Hickman,
J., & Kiefer,
Hepler,
Children's
literature in the elementary
school (7th ed.). New
York: McGraw-Hill.
C,
& Tomlinson,
CM.
(1999). Essentials
of chil
dren's literature (3rded.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn &
Bacon.
D. (1998). White supremacy
in children's
literature:
MacCann,
New
1830-1900.
Characterizations
of African Americans,
York: Garland.
Rand, D., Parker, T., & Foster, S. (1998). Black books galore!
Guide to great African American
children's books. New York:
JohnWiley & Sons.
Sims Bishop, R. (1987). Extendingmulticultural understanding
lit
(Ed.), Children's
through children's books. In B. Cullinan
erature
in the reading program
DE:
Newark,
(pp. 60-67).
International Reading Association.
Sims Bishop, R. (1993).Multicultural literaturefor children:
informed choices. In V.J. Harris (Ed.), Teaching mul
Making
ticultural
in grades K-8
literature
(pp. 37-53). Norwood,
MA: Christopher-Gordon.
Sims Bishop, R. (1997). Selecting
literature for a multicultural
curriculum.
In V.J. Harris (Ed.), Using multiethnic
literature
in the K-8 classroom
(pp. 1?19). Norwood, MA: Christopher
Gordon.
A.
M., Yokota,
J., & Naylor,
Temple, C, Martinez,
Children's
books in children's hands: An introduction
literature. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
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819