Pamela Paul, editor of the Sunday New York Times Book Review and author of How to Raise a Reader, recently wrote an op-ed extolling the virtues of children’s picture books. Her worthwhile article focuses mainly on the unique storytelling power of combining visual feasts with succinct text, of their role in developing literacy both verbal and visual, and that “Picture books are also one of the literary world’s great pleasures.”
All of which is true! But I’d like to focus on some picture books which have been published recently, most within the past year, or two at the most, which also offer multicultural empowerment and inspiration.
Let’s start out with two recent books that feature the inspiring stories of Aretha Franklin and Rita Moreno. Neither A Voice Named Aretha by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrated by Laura Freeman nor A Girl Named Rosita: The Story of Rita Moreno: Actor, Singer, Dancer, Trailblazer! By Anika Aldamuy Denise, Illustrated by Leo Espinosa shy away from the challenges both women of color faced in their careers or from the activism they practiced.
Parents probably already know the stories of those two great singers, but there are plenty of picture books from which you are likely to learn as much as the kids, given that they rescue the stories of lesser-known figures.
We Wait for the Sun, by Katie McCabe, Illustrated by Raissa Figueroa, tells a charming story of a little girl’s nighttime outing with her grandmother to pick blackberries in the woods. The little girl is frightened by the dark forest, but gains courage, first from her strong, caring grandmother, and then from other other berry-picking women who join them. It’s a charming story on its own, but it is also adapted from the autobiography of civil rights activist/lawyer Dovey Roundtree Johnson, who receives author credits for this book although she passed away several years ago at age 104. (Johnson’s autobiography Mighty Justice, was written with the author of this children’s book; there is also a young readers edition of Mighty Justice for middle readers.)