5 Picture Books About Civil Rights


Written by Veronica Chambers
Illustrated by Rachelle Baker

Verbs are words about “doing,” Veronica Chambers explains at the beginning of “Shirley Chisholm Is a Verb!” “Verbs are words that move the world forward,” as did Congresswoman Chisholm, a daughter of immigrants and the first African-American, and first woman, to make a serious bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. She believed that “service to others is the rent you pay for your room on earth.” Instrumental in the creation of programs like Head Start and W.I.C. (which assists women, infants and children in need of food) and the formation of the Congressional Black Caucus, Chisholm felt strongly about making room for others. Just as Chambers’s words highlight a life punctuated by movement, Rachelle Baker’s illustrations render Chisholm as a “doer,” too, through expressive, determined lines and gestures. On almost every page, verbs such as speak, improve, listen, create and do, in teal capital letters, pop against a white background, illuminating the vision and drive of this woman who pushed against and cracked glass ceilings. Though a timeline would have enhanced our understanding of how she lived each day as a voice of “the people of America,” “Shirley Chisholm Is a Verb!” succeeds as an inspirational exploration of what it means to be a true woman of action.

40 pp. Dial. $18.99. (Ages 4 to 8)

40 pp. Atheneum. $17.99. (Ages 5 to 8)

Written by Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein
Illustrated by James E. Ransome

Five years after Michael S. Bandy, Eric Stein and James E. Ransome collaborated on “Granddaddy’s Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box,” they’ve come together again to show how Bandy’s first train ride in the early 1960s from Alabama to Ohio opened his eyes to the unfair barriers created by segregation. Through Ransome’s detailed and richly expressive watercolors of the lush fields and “glittery” cityscapes the passengers see as day turns into night, readers hear the chug of the train and feel its rumblings under their feet as Michael sets out to explore, only to be halted by a “WHITES ONLY” sign separating him and the other Black passengers from the rest of the train’s offerings. Bandy and Stein give an intimate and affecting account of how segregation plays out in the everyday lives of two new friends — one Black, one white — who find companionship when the signs between cars come down as the train reaches Atlanta. Soon they’re able to discover a dining car, sleeping nooks and each other, all because a city has “some different rules from home.” Back up go the signs when they hit Chattanooga, and back down when they get to Cincinnati. Filled with touching slivers of a budding friendship — sharing plastic green soldiers and even “battle” scars — “Northbound: A Train Ride Out of Segregation” skillfully depicts how even the subtlest aspects of division cannot stand in the way of hope, goodness and friendship.

40 pp. Candlewick. $17.99. (Ages 6 to 9)


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