6th Grade Page Turners

Kadir Nelson, author and illustrator of “Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans” (Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers). “Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans” is an extensive volume focusing on American history as it intertwines with the lives of African Americans. The story is told from the viewpoint of an elderly woman who shares her life story while highlighting pivotal historical events including abolition, the Great Migration, World War II, and the Civil Rights movement.

Shane W. Evans, illustrator of “Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom” (A Neal Porter Book, published by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership). Effective interplay of dark and light—dark blues and greens that represent fear and oppression; bright golds that signal the joy of freedom—characterizes this portrayal of a band of slaves’ nighttime escape. They run, rest, get help from others, and finally celebrate their hard-won liberation.

Greenfield weaves in the different points of view that men, women and children had as they fled their homes in the South for the promise of a better life in northern cities.  The reader is able to gain insight into how families were separated as fathers went looking for work, the fears of African Americans as they left all they had ever known and the ever present hope that the future held.
Good for use during African American history month.  Offers a look at a topic not widely discussed in elementary circles.  Pair with “The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1964″ to offer a look at why the family moved to Flint, Michigan.         (Review by Stacey Ford)

The author turned to African folklore and history, pulling the Mother Elements of Earth, Fire, Water, and Wind as characters in a free-verse story. Dinga is a blacksmith in Mende (West Africa); his daily work is made possible by earth, fire, water, and wind. When Dinga’s wife dies in childbirth, he opts to raise his son alone – aided by the Mother Elements and the people of his village.

The son, Musafa is captured as a young boy (maybe 10?), and taken away on a slave ship. The Mother Elements try to help – Earth shakes and creates earthquakes to try to stop the captors, Fire scorches the savannahs in her attempts, Water floods the Niger River, but can only watch at Musafa and others are led onto a ship. Three years passed, and Wind returned to Dinga; she had discovered a way that she could search for Musafa – with the help of her sisters. As Wind gathered speed over Mother Earth’s Sahara Desert, Fire added lightning; Wind picked up Water as she spun and twisted across the ocean. She reached the Americas as a hurricane, and found Musafa working as an apprentice for a blacksmith in Charleston. Wind returned to Dinga, sharing the story of their son, proudly carrying on the work of his own father and the six generations before him.






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