Just Jerry

Pinkney, Jerry. Just Jerry: How Drawing Shaped My Life. New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2023.
Jerry Pinkney always loved drawing. He would lie on his bunk bed and draw pictures on the wall. He would lie under the piano in the living room of the small house where he lived and draw pictures in his sketchpad. He would ride his bicycle through the streets of Philadelphia and stop to draw more pictures. School was difficult, especially in the 1940s and 50s when few people recognized dyslexia. But when Jerry picked up a pencil and started to draw, he came alive. This memoir is a vivid account of Pinkney’s childhood and young adulthood. Right from the first page, the style of writing pulls a reader into the life of a boy growing up in a city where African Americans didn’t feel safe if they ventured beyond their neighbourhoods. It immerses readers in the life of a large loving family and shows how Pinkney was able to become one of the most famous children’s book illustrators in America. Highly recommended for readers 10 years old and up. 

Jerry Pinkney illustrated over 100 books. Here are a few…

Pinkney, Jerry. Aesop’s Fables. New York: SeaStar Books, 2000

Pinkney, Jerry. The Grasshopper and the Ants. New York: Little Brown & Company, 2015.

Pinkney, Jerry. The Lion and the Mouse. New York: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009.
A dramatic wordless book.

Pinkney, Jerry. The Tortoise and the Hare. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013.
An almost-wordless version.

Pinkney, Jerry. Noah’s Ark. New York: SeaStar Books, 2002. 
A lovely retelling of the Biblical story with lushly detailed illustrations.

More books about artists

More books about writers

More books about – and by – people of African heritage

Counting on Katherine

Becker, Helaine. Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2018.

Katherine was a child who loved numbers. But in the 1920s and ’30s, girls did not grow up to become mathematicians. So Katherine became a school teacher. Until in the 1950s, she finally got a chance to work for America’s National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics. For 35 years, her calculations of flight-paths helped to safely send astronauts around the world, to the moon, and back again to Earth. She died on February 24, 2020 at 101 years of age. This picture book illustrated by Dow Phumiruk is highly recommended for curious readers 9 years old and up.

More biographies

More stories about people of African heritage

Finding Langston

Dear Reader,

Have you ever felt alone? Have you ever felt misunderstood by those who love you? Have you ever found hope in unexpected places? Then you know how the main character feels in this outstanding novel for readers 9 years old and up. Told in present tense from the first person point of view, the sentences come alive with the cadence of the main character’s Southern speech. If you like stories by Patricia MacLachlan, you will love this 104-page novel. 

Cline-Ransome, Lesa. Finding Langston. New York: Holiday House, 2018.

After the death of his mother in 1946, eleven-year-old Langston moves with his father from Alabama to Chicago. Living in a lonely apartment building and bullied at school, Langston finds refuge in the school library where he discovers the magical poetry of Langston Hughes.

More stories of moving

More stories about bullying

More stories set in the past

More stories about people of African heritage

Poetry by Langston Hughes

A post about the power of poetry

Happy reading!

Ms. R. 

I will pray…

Weatherford, Carole Boston. In Your Hands. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017.
A mother tenderly speaks to her young son, telling him of her dreams and her prayers for his future. This exquisitely designed picture book – with soft illustrations and a beautiful font – ends with these words: “Black lives matter. Your life matters. I pray to God each day: Hold my son in your hands.” Author Carole Weatherford and illustrator Brian Pinkney have created a masterpiece that will touch the hearts of all readers. Highly recommended for people of faith. 

“He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Psalm 91.4

“I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16.8

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14.27 

More stories of faith

 

Follow me…

Dowell, Frances O’Roark. Trouble the Water. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016.

An old yellow dog brings Cassie and Wendell – a black girl and a white boy – together in racially segregated Kentucky in 1953. Buddy leads them to a ramshackle cabin in the woods where two invisible boys are waiting to cross the nearby river. Partly historical fiction, partly a ghost story, this memorable novel by a thought-provoking writer is highly recommended for readers 10 to 15 years old.

More stories of African Americans

More historical novels

More dog stories

More stories set all over the U.S.A.

P.S. Do you know the story of how Jesus healed the sick man by the pool of Bethesda? The man who never got to the pool in time to be healed after an angel ‘troubled the water’? You might like to read about it in John 5 after you read Dowell’s story. Then you might like to think about the Pharisees in the Bible and the townspeople in the story. And think about that pool at the end of the novel. Might you be called to be an angel?

Let me learn!

Hopkinson, Deborah. Steamboat School: Inspired by a True Story. Los Angeles: Disney•Hyperion, 2016. 

A law against educating African Americans was established in Missouri in 1847. But a minister – John Meachum – found a way around this restriction by creating a school in the middle of the Mississippi River. Ron Hubbard, the first African American animator at Disney Studios, provides vivid illustrations for this moving story useful as a read-aloud for readers 9 years old and up. An afterward provides additional information including recommended websites and books. [African Americans; Historical fiction; Missouri;  Racism; Schools]

More stories about people of African heritage HERE

More historical fiction stories HERE