Opening The Road: Victor Hugo Green and His Green Book

As we enter the second week of Black History Month, I want to share Opening The Road by Keila Dawson with you all.

This inspiring picture book biography details Victor Hugo Green’s creation and distribution of The Negro Motorist Green Book, or as most people call it today, The Green Book.

In the late 1930’s, Black Americans were not guaranteed safe travel throughout the United States. Segregation barred Black motorist’s access to establishments like gas stations, rest areas, or hotels. The high number of “sundown towns”, all white communities that excluded non-white individuals after dark though intimidating and often violent tactics, made it dangerous for Black Americans to travel long distances.

Inspired by a Jewish newspaper, Victor Hugo Green, a US Postal Service worker in Harlem, decided to write a book to help Black travelers find safe options. The Green Book allowed trips to be planned with hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and many other businesses that welcomed Black customers. This travel guide became an invaluable resource for Black Americans throughout the country, and it flew off shelves, eventually selling over two million copies.

I love that the illustrations by Alleanna Harris bring life not just to Victor’s story, but also to the stories of many Black families who were able to safely enjoy family vacations.

Victor’s story highlights the resilience Black Americans have shown amid the countless obstacles facing them throughout our nation’s history. In the face of enormous challenges like segregation and racism, Victor, Alma, and all of Victor’s Postal service friends found a way to distribute vital information throughout the country, allowing numerous travelers safe passage.

The back of the book contains a fantastic author’s note that includes more historical detail, context around why The Green Book is relevant to conversations about safety in Black communities today, and information on current projects inspired by The Green Book, as well as a timeline.

You can purchase a copy of Opening The Road wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: These are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and continue bringing content to you. Your support is always appreciated!)

Keila Dawson is an author, editor, and former teacher based in Cincinnati, OH. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at keiladawson.com.

Alleanna Harris is an artist and illustrator based in New Jersey. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at alleannaharris.com.

I would like to thank Beaming Books for sending me a review copy of this amazing book. I am so grateful to be able to share Victor Hugo Green’s story.

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28 Picture Books For Black History Month

Today marks the beginning of Black History Month, and I want to share a list of 28 books to read this month (one for every day) that both celebrate and educate about Black History.

Black History Month has its roots in America all the way back to 1926, when historian Carter G. Woodson created “Negro History Week”. This celebration eventually evolved into Black History Month, a month dedicated to recognizing the historical people and events that were all too often left out of the history books.

I have to be honest with you all, this is one of the hardest lists I’ve ever had to write. I really struggled, not because of the subject matter or the holiday itself, but because 28 books just isn’t enough. Narrowing the entire Black experience down to one list is simply an impossible task.

Though there are obviously many more stories to be heard, I tried to include a variety of books from different periods of history that will speak to a variety of young readers with varied interests. I also tried to include historical figures that many people may not have heard of yet.

So, without further ado, here are my choices for Black History Month.

The ABC’s of Black History by Rio Cortez, Illustrated by Lauren Semmer (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Letter by letter, The ABCs of Black History celebrates a story that spans continents and centuries, triumph and heartbreak, creativity and joy.

It’s a story of big ideas––P is for Power, S is for Science and Soul. Of significant moments––G is for Great Migration. Of iconic figures––H is for Zora Neale Hurston, X is for Malcom X. It’s an ABC book like no other, and a story of hope and love.

In addition to rhyming text, the book includes back matter with information on the events, places, and people mentioned in the poem, from Mae Jemison to W. E. B. Du Bois, Fannie Lou Hamer to Sam Cooke, and the Little Rock Nine to DJ Kool Herc.”

Little Leaders: Bold Women In Black History by Vashti Harrison (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Featuring 40 trailblazing black women in American history, Little Leaders educates and inspires as it relates true stories of breaking boundaries and achieving beyond expectations. Illuminating narration paired with irresistible illustrations bring to life both iconic and lesser-known female figures of Black history such as abolitionist Sojourner Truth, pilot Bessie Coleman, chemist Alice Ball, politician Shirley Chisholm, mathematician Katherine Johnson, poet Maya Angelou, and filmmaker Julie Dash.

Among these biographies, readers will find heroes, role models, and everyday women who did extraordinary things – bold women whose actions and beliefs contributed to making the world better for generations of girls and women to come. Whether they were putting pen to paper, soaring through the air, or speaking up for the rights of others, the women profiled here were all taking a stand against a world that didn’t always accept them.

The leaders in this book may be little, but they all did something big and amazing, inspiring generations to come.”

Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History by Vashti Harrison (Bookshop | Amazon)

“An important book for readers of all ages, this beautifully illustrated and engagingly written volume brings to life true stories of black men in history. Among these biographies, readers will find aviators and artists, politicians and pop stars, athletes and activists. The exceptional men featured include writer James Baldwin, artist Aaron Douglas, filmmaker Oscar Devereaux Micheaux, lawman Bass Reeves, civil rights leader John Lewis, dancer Alvin Ailey, and musician Prince.

The legends in Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History span centuries and continents, but each one has blazed a trail for generations to come.”

Overground Railroad by Lesa Cline-Ransome, Illustrated by James Ransome (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Climbing aboard the New York bound Silver Meteor train, Ruth Ellen embarks upon a journey toward a new life up North– one she can’t begin to imagine. Stop by stop, the perceptive young narrator tells her journey in poems, leaving behind the cotton fields and distant Blue Ridge mountains.

Each leg of the trip brings new revelations as scenes out the window of folks working in fields give way to the Delaware River, the curtain that separates the colored car is removed, and glimpses of the freedom and opportunity the family hopes to find come into view. As they travel, Ruth Ellen reads from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, reflecting on how her journey mirrors her own– until finally the train arrives at its last stop, New York’s Penn Station, and the family heads out into a night filled with bright lights, glimmering stars, and new possiblity.

James Ransome’s mixed-media illustrations are full of bold color and texture, bringing Ruth Ellen’s journey to life, from sprawling cotton fields to cramped train cars, the wary glances of other passengers and the dark forest through which Frederick Douglass traveled towards freedom. Overground Railroad is, as Lesa notes, a story “of people who were running from and running to at the same time,” and it’s a story that will stay with readers long after the final pages.”

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Faye Duncan, Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Bookshop | Amazon)

“This picture book tells the story of a nine-year-old girl who in 1968 witnessed the Memphis sanitation strike – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final stand for justice before his assassination – when her father, a sanitation worker, participated in the protest.

In February 1968, two African American sanitation workers were killed by unsafe equipment in Memphis, Tennessee. Outraged at the city’s refusal to recognize a labor union that would fight for higher pay and safer working conditions, sanitation workers went on strike. The strike lasted two months, during which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was called to help with the protests. While his presence was greatly inspiring to the community, this unfortunately would be his last stand for justice. He was assassinated in his Memphis hotel the day after delivering his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” sermon in Mason Temple Church. Inspired by the memories of a teacher who participated in the strike as a child, author Alice Faye Duncan reveals the story of the Memphis sanitation strike from the perspective of a young girl with a riveting combination of poetry and prose.”

What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?: The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan by Chris Barton, Illustrated by Ekua Holmes (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Even as a child growing up in the Fifth Ward of Houston, Texas, Barbara Jordan stood out for her big, bold, booming, crisp, clear, confident voice. It was a voice that made people sit up, stand up, and take notice.

So what do you do with a voice like that?

Barbara took her voice to places few African American women had been in the 1960s: first law school, then the Texas state senate, then up to the United States congress. Throughout her career, she persevered through adversity to give voice to the voiceless and to fight for civil rights, equality, and justice.

New York Times bestselling author Chris Barton and Caldecott Honoree Ekua Holmes deliver a remarkable picture book biography about a woman whose struggles and mission continue to inspire today.”

Gordon Parks: How The Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by Jamey Christoph (Bookshop | Amazon)

“His white teacher tells her all-black class, You’ll all wind up porters and waiters. What did she know? Gordon Parks is most famous for being the first black director in Hollywood. But before he made movies and wrote books, he was a poor African American looking for work. When he bought a camera, his life changed forever. He taught himself how to take pictures and before long, people noticed. His success as a fashion photographer landed him a job working for the government. In Washington DC, Gordon went looking for a subject, but what he found was segregation. He and others were treated differently because of the color of their skin. Gordon wanted to take a stand against the racism he observed. With his camera in hand, he found a way. Told through lyrical verse and atmospheric art, this is the story of how, with a single photograph, a self-taught artist got America to take notice.”

The Power Of Her Pen: The Story Of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne by Lesa Cline-Ransome, Illustrated by John Parra (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Ethel Payne always had an ear for stories. Seeking truth, justice, and equality, Ethel followed stories from her school newspaper in Chicago to Japan during World War II. It even led her to the White House briefing room, where she broke barriers as the only black female journalist. Ethel wasn’t afraid to ask the tough questions of presidents, elected officials, or anyone else in charge, earning her the title, “First Lady of the Black Press.”

Fearless and determined, Ethel Payne shined a light on the darkest moments in history, and her ear for stories sought answers to the questions that mattered most in the fight for Civil Rights.”

One Step Further: My Story of Math, the Moon, and a Lifelong Mission by Katherine Johnson, Joylette Hylick, and Katherine Moore, Illustrated by Charlene Pinkney Barlowe (Bookshop | Amazon)

“This inspirational picture book reveals what is was like for a young black mother of three to navigate the difficult world of the 1950s and 60s and to succeed in an unwelcoming industry to become one of the now legendary “hidden figures” of NASA computing and space research.

Johnson”s own empowering narrative is complemented by the recollections of her two daughters about their mother”s work and insights about how she illuminated their paths, including one daughter”s fight for civil rights and another”s journey to become a NASA mathematician herself. The narrative gracefully weaves together Johnson”s personal story, her influence on her daughters” formative years, her and her daughters” fight for civil rights, and her lasting impact on NASA and space exploration. Filled with personal reflections, exclusive family archival photos, and striking illustrations, readers will be immersed in this deeply personal portrayal of female empowerment, women in STEM, and the breaking down of race barriers across generations. Historical notes, photo/illustration notes, and a time line put the story into historical and modern-day context.

The inspirational tale of Johnson”s perseverance is both intimate and global, showcasing the drive of each generation to push one step further than the last. With its evocative family album-style format and novel approach to storytelling, One Step Further is sure to inspire the next generation of rising stars.”

Let The Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson, Illustrated by Frank Morrison (Bookshop | Amazon)

I couldn’t play on the same playground as the white kids.
I couldn’t go to their schools.
I couldn’t drink from their water fountains.
There were so many things I couldn’t do.


In 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, thousands of African American children volunteered to march for their civil rights after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak. They protested the laws that kept black people separate from white people. Facing fear, hate, and danger, these children used their voices to change the world. Frank Morrison’s emotive oil-on-canvas paintings bring this historical event to life, while Monica Clark-Robinson’s moving and poetic words document this remarkable time.”

In The Garden With Dr. Carver by Susan Grigsby, Illustrated by Nicole Tagdell (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Sally is a young girl living in rural Alabama in the early 1900s, a time when people were struggling to grow food in soil that had been depleted by years of cotton production. One day, Dr. George Washington Carver shows up to help the grown-ups with their farms and the children with their school garden. He teaches them how to restore the soil and respect the balance of nature. He even prepares a delicious lunch made of plants, including “chicken” made from peanuts. And Sally never forgets the lessons this wise man leaves in her heart and mind. Susan Grigsby’s warm story shines new light on a Black scientist who was ahead of his time.”

Song in a Rainstorm: The Story of Musical Prodigy Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins by Glenda Armand, Illustrated by Brittany Jackson (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Born blind into a life of slavery, Thomas Wiggins was dismissed as a “useless burden.” But through the loving protection of his family, he went on to become one of the greatest musicians of his time. From Tom’s childhood on a plantation to his performances in the concert halls of Europe, Glenda Armand shares the beautiful and at times heartbreaking story of a long-overlooked musical great, the love that supported him, and the struggle for freedom.”

You can also read my full review of Song In A Rainstorm for more detail.

Harlem’s Little Blackbird by Renee Watson, Illustrated by Christian Robinson (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Born to parents who were both former slaves, Florence Mills knew at an early age that she loved to sing, and that her sweet, bird-like voice, resonated with those who heard her. Performing catapulted her all the way to the stages of 1920s Broadway where she inspired everyone from songwriters to playwrights. Yet with all her success, she knew firsthand how prejudice shaped her world and the world of those around her. As a result, Florence chose to support and promote works by her fellow black performers while heralding a call for their civil rights. Featuring a moving text and colorful illustrations, Harlem’s Little Blackbird is a timeless story about justice, equality, and the importance of following one’s heart and dreams.”

Playing to Win: How Althea Gibson Broke Barriers and Changed Tennis Forever by Karen Deans, Illustrated by Elbrite Brown (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Although stars like Serena Williams cite Althea Gibson as an inspiration, Gibson’s story is not well-known to many young people today. Growing up tough and rebellious in Harlem, Althea took that fighting attitude and used it to go after her goals of being a tennis champion, and a time when tennis was a game played mostly by wealthy white people in country clubs that excluded African Americans.

In 1956, she became the first Black American to win a major championship when she won at The French Open. When she won the celebrated Wimbledon tournament the following year, Gibson shook hands with the Queen of England. Not bad for a kid from the streets of Harlem.

With determination and undeniable skill, Althea Gibson become a barrier-breaking, record-setting, and world-famous sportswoman. This new and updated edition of this inspirational biography contains recent information on the impact of Gibson’s legacy.”

Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome, Illustrated by James Ransome (Bookshop | Amazon)

“We know her today as Harriet Tubman, but in her lifetime she was called by many names. As General Tubman she was a Union spy. As Moses she led hundreds to freedom on the Underground Railroad. As Minty she was a slave whose spirit could not be broken. As Araminta she was a young girl whose father showed her the stars and the first steps on the path to freedom.

This lush, lyrical biography in verse begins with a glimpse of Harriet Tubman as an old woman, and travels back in time through the many roles she played through her life: spy, liberator, suffragist and more. Illustrated by James Ransome, whose paintings for The Creation won a Coretta Scott King medal, this is a riveting introduction to an American hero.”

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, Illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Originally performed for ESPN’s The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present. Robust back matter at the end provides valuable historical context and additional detail for those wishing to learn more.”

We Are The Supremes by Zoë Tucker, Illustrated by Salini Perera (Bookshop | Amazon)

“This inspiring picture book tells the story of the friendship between Flo, Mary, and Diana, and how by supporting each other they overcame hardship to become international superstars.

It’s 1960, and Flo, Mary, and Diana are three friends with big ambitions. They want to be superstars! But 1960s America was not the easiest place for young black girls from the projects to make it big. They audition for the new Motown Records label, but the manager says NO. Not to be put off, the girls try again, and this time, they succeed. They become…The Supremes!

They travel the world, singing hit after hit. Of course they have falling outs, like all friends do, but with a shared dream to keep their friendship strong, they became the USA’s most successful vocal group ever.”

You can also read my full review of We Are The Supremes for more detail.

The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage by Selina Alko, Illustrated by Sean Qualls (Bookshop | Amazon)

“For most children these days it would come as a great shock to know that before 1967, they could not marry a person of a race different from their own. That was the year that the Supreme Court issued its decision in Loving v. Virginia.

This is the story of one brave family: Mildred Loving, Richard Perry Loving, and their three children. It is the story of how Mildred and Richard fell in love, and got married in Washington, D.C. But when they moved back to their hometown in Virginia, they were arrested (in dramatic fashion) for violating that state’s laws against interracial marriage. The Lovings refused to allow their children to get the message that their parents’ love was wrong and so they fought the unfair law, taking their case all the way to the Supreme Court – and won!”

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Bookshop | Amazon)

“In the 1930s, Lewis’s dad, Lewis Michaux Sr., had an itch he needed to scratch―a book itch. How to scratch it? He started a bookstore in Harlem and named it the National Memorial African Bookstore.

And as far as Lewis Michaux Jr. could tell, his father’s bookstore was one of a kind. People from all over came to visit the store, even famous people―Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, and Langston Hughes, to name a few. In his father’s bookstore people bought and read books, and they also learned from each other. People swapped and traded ideas and talked about how things could change. They came together here all because of his father’s book itch. Read the story of how Lewis Michaux Sr. and his bookstore fostered new ideas and helped people stand up for what they believed in.”

Patricia’s Vision: The Doctor Who Saved Sight by Michelle Lord, Illustrated by Alleanna Harris (Bookshop | Amazon)

“The inspiring story of Dr. Patricia Bath, a groundbreaking ophthalmologist who pioneered laser surgery—and gave her patients the gift of sight.

Born in the 1940s, Patricia Bath dreamed of being an ophthalmologist at a time when becoming a doctor wasn’t a career option for most women—especially African-American women. This empowering biography follows Dr. Bath in her quest to save and restore sight to the blind, and her decision to “choose miracles” when everyone else had given up hope. Along the way, she cofounded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, invented a specialized laser for removing cataracts, and became the first African-American woman doctor to receive a medical patent.”

Freedom In Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Bookshop | Amazon)

“This poetic, nonfiction story about a little-known piece of African American history captures a human’s capacity to find hope and joy in difficult circumstances and demonstrates how New Orleans’ Congo Square was truly freedom’s heart.

Mondays, there were hogs to slop,

mules to train, and logs to chop.

Slavery was no ways fair.

Six more days to Congo Square.

As slaves relentlessly toiled in an unjust system in 19th century Louisiana, they all counted down the days until Sunday, when at least for half a day they were briefly able to congregate in Congo Square in New Orleans. Here they were free to set up an open market, sing, dance, and play music. They were free to forget their cares, their struggles, and their oppression. This story chronicles slaves’ duties each day, from chopping logs on Mondays to baking bread on Wednesdays to plucking hens on Saturday, and builds to the freedom of Sundays and the special experience of an afternoon spent in Congo Square. This book includes a forward from Freddi Williams Evans (freddievans.com), a historian and Congo Square expert, as well as a glossary of terms with pronunciations and definitions.”

A Ride to Remember: A Civil Rights Story by Sharon Langley and Amy Nathan, Illustrated by Floyd Cooper (Bookshop | Amazon)

“A Ride to Remember tells how a community came together—both black and white—to make a change. When Sharon Langley was born in the early 1960s, many amusement parks were segregated, and African-American families were not allowed entry. This book reveals how in the summer of 1963, due to demonstrations and public protests, the Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Maryland became desegregated and opened to all for the first time. Co-author Sharon Langley was the first African-American child to ride the carousel. This was on the same day of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Langley’s ride to remember demonstrated the possibilities of King’s dream. This book includes photos of Sharon on the carousel, authors’ notes, a timeline, and a bibliography.”

When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill, Illustrated by Theodore Taylor III (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Before there was hip hop, there was DJ Kool Herc.

On a hot day at the end of summer in 1973 Cindy Campbell threw a back-to-school party at a park in the South Bronx. Her brother, Clive Campbell, spun the records. He had a new way of playing the music to make the breaks―the musical interludes between verses―longer for dancing. He called himself DJ Kool Herc and this is When the Beat Was Born. From his childhood in Jamaica to his youth in the Bronx, Laban Carrick Hill’s book tells how Kool Herc came to be a DJ, how kids in gangs stopped fighting in order to breakdance, and how the music he invented went on to define a culture and transform the world.”

Opal’s Greenwood Oasis by Quraysh Ali Lansana and Najah-Amatullah Hylton, Illustrated by Skip Hill (Bookshop | Amazon)

“The year is 1921, and Opal Brown would like to show you around her beautiful neighborhood of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Filled with busy stores and happy families, Opal also wants you to know that “everyone looks like me.”

In both words and illustrations, this carefully researched and historically accurate book allows children to experience the joys and success of Greenwood, one of the most prosperous Black communities of the early 20th Century, an area Booker T. Washington dubbed America’s Black Wall Street.

Soon after the day narrated by Opal, Greenwood would be lost in the Tulsa Race Massacre, the worst act of racial violence in American history. As we approach the centennial of that tragic event, children have the opportunity through this book to learn and celebrate all that was built in Greenwood.”

You can also read my full review of Opal’s Greenwood Oasis for more detail.

Lift as You Climb: The Story of Ella Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell, Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Bookshop | Amazon)

““What do you hope to accomplish?” asked Ella Baker’s granddaddy when she was still a child.
Her mother provided the answer: “Lift as you climb.”

Long before the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, Ella Baker worked to lift others up by fighting racial injustice and empowering poor African Americans to stand up for their rights. Her dedication and grassroots work in many communities made her a valuable ally for leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and she has been ranked as one of the most influential women in the civil rights movement. In the 1960s she worked to register voters and organize sit-ins, and she became a teacher and mentor to many young activists.

Caldecott Honor winner R. Gregory Christie’s powerful pictures pair with Patricia Hruby Powell’s poignant words to paint a vivid portrait of the fight for the freedom of the human spirit.”

Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks by Suzanne Slade, Illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Gwendolyn Brooks (1917–2000) is known for her poems about “real life.” She wrote about love, loneliness, family, and poverty—showing readers how just about anything could become a beautiful poem. Exquisite follows Gwendolyn from early girlhood into her adult life, showcasing her desire to write poetry from a very young age. This picture-book biography explores the intersections of race, gender, and the ubiquitous poverty of the Great Depression—all with a lyrical touch worthy of the subject. Gwendolyn Brooks was the first Black person to win the Pulitzer Prize, receiving the award for poetry in 1950. And in 1958, she was named the poet laureate of Illinois. A bold artist who from a very young age dared to dream, Brooks will inspire young readers to create poetry from their own lives.”

Sugar Hill: Harlem’s Historic Neighborhood by Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Take a walk through Harlem’s Sugar Hill and meet all the amazing people who made this neighborhood legendary. With upbeat rhyming, read-aloud text, Sugar Hill celebrates the Harlem neighborhood that successful African Americans first called home during the 1920s. Children raised in Sugar Hill not only looked up to these achievers but also experienced art and culture at home, at church, and in the community. Books, music lessons, and art classes expanded their horizons beyond the narrow limits of segregation. Includes brief biographies of jazz greats Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Sonny Rollins, and Miles Davis; artists Aaron Douglas and Faith Ringgold; entertainers Lena Horne and the Nicholas Brothers; writer Zora Neale Hurston; civil rights leader W. E. B. DuBois and lawyer Thurgood Marshall.”

Kamala Harris: Rooted In Justice by Nikki Grimes, Illustrated by Laura Freeman (Bookshop | Amazon)

“When Kamala Harris was young, she often accompanied her parents to civil rights marches—so many, in fact, that when her mother asked a frustrated Kamala what she wanted, the young girl responded with: “Freedom!”

As Kamala grew from a small girl in Oakland to a senator running for president, it was this long-fostered belief in freedom and justice for all people that shaped her into the inspiring figure she is today. From fighting for the use of a soccer field in middle school to fighting for the people of her home state in Congress, Senator Harris used her voice to speak up for what she believed in and for those who were otherwise unheard. And now this dedication has led her all the way to being elected Vice President of the United States.

Told in Nikki Grimes’s stunning verse and featuring gorgeous illustrations by Laura Freeman, this picture book biography brings to life a story that shows all young people that the American dream can belong to all of us if we fight for one another.”

I hope you all enjoyed the list, and maybe even found a few places or people that are new to you or your young readers.

What are your favorite books to read and share for Black History Month? Be sure to share any favorites I missed in the comments below!

If you are someone who only reads books about or by Black folks during Black History Month, I want to encourage you to read like every month is Black History Month. I hope you will use this list as a starting point, because there are thousands of other amazing titles that are not included in this list, but are great books to read in any month.

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Opal’s Greenwood Oasis – An Introduction To Tulsa’s “Black Wall Street” in 1921

Today I want to share Opal’s Greenwood Oasis by Najah- Amatullah Hylton and Quraysh Ali Lansana with you all.

In Opal’s Greenwood Oasis we are introduced to the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma (also known as “Black Wall Street”) as it was in 1921, just before the Tulsa Race Massacre took place.

I have to be honest, I didn’t know very much about the city of Tulsa before I read this book, but now I can’t think of a better introduction than Opal’s.

Following a day in the life of a young girl named Opal Brown, we are introduced to the prosperous community of Greenwood and its happy families and busy stores as she rides her bike to the drugstore all by herself for the first time. Her descriptions of the historic businesses she passes combined with the photographs used in Skip Hill’s mixed media illustrations provide us all with a clear picture of what a vibrant, thriving Black community Greenwood was before one of the worst acts of violence in American history occurred there.

I love that the focus of Opal’s Greenwood Oasis is Opal’s joy and pride in her home, making this book feel more like a celebration of what the community was, and is today. Though there is some mention of the origins of the Tulsa Race Massacre in the narrative, the tragedy isn’t explained until the back matter, which provides a short historical explanation.

Opal’s Greenwood Oasis is published by Calliope Group, an independent publisher in Tulsa. The care and attention put into this book really highlight the love that everyone involved in making this book has for the city of Tulsa, and for the Greenwood District.

As we approach the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, I would highly recommend this title to teach young readers about Greenwood and the tragedy it faced.

Opal’s Greenwood Oasis is officially releases next week (February 2, 2021,) but you can preorder it today on Bookshop, Amazon, or directly from Calliope Group at thecalliopegroup.com. (Please note: These are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and continue bringing content to you. Your support is always appreciated!)

Many thanks to The Calliope Group for providing me with a review copy of Opal’s Greenwood Oasis. It was an honor to see Greenwood for the first time through Opal’s eyes.

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Standing On Her Shoulders – Celebrating the Women Who Came Before Us

I’m so excited to share Standing on Her Shoulders: A Celebration of Women by Monica Clark-Robinson with you all today.

I originally thought this book was going to be a collection of biographies about women throughout history, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it’s something a little bit different.

Standing on Her Shoulders combines the elements of a love letter to our children, a tribute to our ancestors, and a biography collection, creating something altogether unique.

This book is a beautiful reminder of how strong women are when we lift one another up, how far we have come, and how far the next generation will take us. Standing on Her Shoulders is not a heavy historical text, but rather a poetic tribute to honor the legacy of women who worked to achieve the freedoms women enjoy today.

Monica Clark-Robinson’s lyrical text is paired perfectly with Laura Freeman’s illustrations, allowing us to look in on one Black family’s conversation with the next generation about the numerous women who came before them, paving the way for us all.

The back matter contains one sentence biographies of the twenty-six women featured in the illustrations (from Sacajawea to Simone Biles), opening the door to further conversations about the historic accomplishments of each woman.

My favorite part about this book however is that it doesn’t just emphasize the importance of honoring those who came before us, but also reminds young readers that someone will be standing on their shoulders someday.

Standing On Her Shoulders officially releases next week (February 2, 2021), but you can preorder today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: These are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and continue bringing content to you. Your support is always appreciated!)

Monica Clark-Robinson is an author, professional actor, and voice-over artist who is passionate about stories. She lives in Arkansas with her husband, daughters, and many cats. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at monicaclark-robinson.com.

Laura Freeman is a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honoree who has illustrated over thirty books for children, including Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice and The New York Times bestseller Hidden Figures. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at lfreemanart.com.

Thank you to Orchards Books and Scholastic for sending me a copy of Standing On Her Shoulders. I can’t wait to share this inspiring book with my nieces.

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Milo Imagines The World

The award winning duo behind Last Stop On Market Street and Carmella Full of Wishes, Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson, are back at it with their latest release, Milo Imagines The World.

In this book, we follow a young boy named Milo as he and his older sister take their monthly Sunday subway ride to visit their mother.

As we follow Milo on his commute, he observes the people around him and draws their lives as he imagines them to be. In Milo’s drawings, a young boy in a suit becomes a prince and a woman in a wedding dress marries a man who whisks her away in a hot air balloon.

I don’t want to give away the ending, but I will say that as Milo reaches his destination, he is surprised to find the young boy in the suit is going to the very same place as Milo and his sister. That’s how he learns that we can’t really know anyone just by looking at them, and is inspired to reimagine all of his drawings.

Inspired by Christian Robinson’s childhood experiences, Milo Imagines The World is a beautiful story that reminds us all not to judge a book by its cover. The lyrical text encourages us to practice understanding and love before judgement. I have a feeling this one will be an instant classic, and I can’t recommend it enough.

I think my favorite part has to be Christian Robinson’s illustrations! I especially love Milo’s drawings, the way they provide depth to Milo as a character by giving us a look into his internal monologue and his understanding of the world around him.

Milo Imagines The World is on sale next week (February 2, 2021), but you can preorder it today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: These are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and continue bringing content to you. Your support is always appreciated!)

Matt de la Peña is the award winning author of seven young adult novels and five picture books, and he currently lives in Brooklyn, NY and teaches creative writing. To learn more about him and his work, please visit his website at mattdelapena.com.

Christian Robinson is an author, illustrator, animator, and Caldecott Honoree base in San Francisco, CA. To learn more about him and his work, please visit his website at TheArtofFun.com.

I also want to extend a HUGE thank you to G. P. Putnam’s Sons for proving me with a review copy of Milo Imagines The World. This is one I will keep coming back to for years to come with my little one.

Off To See The Sea – An Imaginative Bath Time Adventure

The author and illustrator duo that brought us Bedtime for Sweet Creatures (Nikki Grimes and Elizabeth Zunon) is back at it again with Off To See The Sea.

With just as much imagination as Bedtime For Sweet Creatures, Off To See The Sea focuses on bath time.

In this book, we see the every day activity of bathing with the imagination of a child. Faucets turn to waterfalls, and toy tugboats float on the waves of a raging sea.

My little guy will be a year next week, and for the last six months or so, bath time has been his absolute favorite. Sometimes if he’s having a bad day, we even give him an extra bath. In Off To See The Sea, Nikki Grimes perfectly captures the same joy and excitement I see on his face when he plays in the tub.

The illustrations by Elizabeth Zunon are perfection.

I love that Off To See The Sea captures Black joy. It can sometimes feel like when we are actively diversifying our shelves, there is a specific focus on the generations of pain, trauma, and uphill climbs faced by Black folks. Off to See The Sea provides you with an opportunity to add some melanin to your library with a loving portrayal of an everyday routine every child can identify with.

Off To See The Sea officially releases tomorrow (January 12, 2021), but you can preorder it today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: These are affiliate links. These links allow me to receive a small commission on purchases made at no additional cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and continue bringing content to you.)

To see learn more about Nikki Grimes and Elizabeth Zunon and see more of their work, be sure to visit their websites, nikkigrimes.com and lizzunon.com, respectively.

I want to thank Sourcebooks Jabberwocky for providing me with a review copy of Off To See The Sea. I’m sure I will be reading this one to my bath-loving little one for years to come!

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We Are The Supremes – A Picture Book Biography of America’s Most Successful Vocal Group

I’m sure most of you are familiar with The Supremes, but many young readers have yet to learn much about America’s most successful vocal group.

We Are The Supremes by Zoe Tucker is a perfect introduction, while also making for a great read for children who are already fans.

Starting from Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard, and Diana Ross’s beginnings at the Brewster-Douglass public housing project in Detroit, all the way to their global success with Motown Records, We are The Supremes tells the story of the rise of this successful music group.

This book is a celebration of the success of three Black women who became international superstars during a time when many record labels turned away Black artists. The hard work and determination these women showed make for a great example to encourage young readers to work hard at the things they love.

I think my favorite part has to be the illustrations by Salini Perera. They are absolutely fantastic! I particularly love the all the outfits. Every illustration perfectly captures the fashion from the 50’s and 60’s.

I also love that this book doesn’t shy away from some of the disagreements within the group, showing young readers that friendships often take work and encouraging them to resolve their disagreements with friends through communication.

We Are The Supremes is available in the UK, and will be released in North America next week (January 12, 2021). You can preorder it now wherever you purchase books, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: These are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and continue bringing content to you.)

To see more work from Zoe Tucker and Salini Perera, be sure to visit their websites: zoetucker.co.uk and saliniperera.com, respectively.

I also want to thank Quarto Publishing Group for generously providing me with a digital review copy for this title.

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Songs In A Rainstorm – The Story of Musical Prodigy Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins

Songs in A Rainstorm by Glenda Armand is an amazing picture book biography of Thomas Wiggins, also known as Blind Tom.

I have to admit, I didn’t know much about Thomas Wiggins before I read this book, and I’m so disappointed in myself because his story is so incredibly inspiring!

Thomas Wiggins was born without sight to enslaved parents in 1849. Thomas was what we would today call a musical savant.

Shortly after Tom was born, his parents learned that their owner, Wiley Jones, planned to sell some of his slaves. Fearing for their son, Tom’s parents secretly reached out to General James Bethune to prearrange their sale to him, due to his reputation as a “fair man”. The family was sold together, and Jones threw Tom in for free, calling him a “useless burden”

But Jones was wrong. Tom was blind, but he was never useless.

At the age of four, General Bethune’s daughters began to teach Tom to speak, and eventually to play the piano. When Bethune heard how well Tom played and how quickly he learned, he saw a business opportunity and began to manage Tom’s career as a professional musician.

Against all odds, Thomas Wiggins followed his passion for music. Tom wowed audiences across the world and was the first African American to perform in the White House.

I absolutely love the illustrations in this book. Brittany Jackson really brought Tom and his story to life.

But my favorite part of Songs In a Rainstorm has to be the honesty. It doesn’t shy away from the ugly truths, like the reality of slavery or the fact that Bethune took the majority of the fortune Tom earned.

I would highly recommend this book, especially for any little ones who are showing an interest in music.

Songs in a Rainstorm is officially released on January 1, 2021, but you can preorder it anywhere you purchase books, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: These are affiliate links. I will receive a small commission from purchases made using these links, at no additional cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and continue bringing content to you.)

I would like to thank Albert Whitman & Company for providing me with a review copy of Songs In a Rainstorm. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to learn more about Thomas Wiggins and his story.

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My Very Favorite Book In The Whole Wide World

Today I wanted to share My Very Favorite Book In The Whole Wide World with you all.

Written by Super Bowl Champion and literacy advocate Malcolm Mitchell, this is a beautiful story about a boy named Henley who receives the scariest homework assignment. His teacher wants everyone in class to bring in their very favorite book in the whole wide world, but Henley doesn’t have one.

I’m a huge believer that any child who “doesn’t like reading” just hasn’t found the right book yet, and this book perfectly illustrates that concept.

In My Very Favorite Book In The Whole Wide World, we follow Henley as he searches for his very favorite book. He tries all kinds of books about all kinds of things, but can’t seem to find the right one. I won’t spoil it, but Henley comes up with a creative solution and manages to find his very favorite book in the whole wide world.

The bold illustrations by Michael Robertson are sure to capture the reader’s attention. This book is the perfect choice to inspire reluctant readers that they too will find their very favorite book in the whole wide world.

This one isn’t out until next week, but you can pre-order it anywhere you buy books, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: These are affiliate links. I will receive a small commission from purchases made using these links, at no additional cost to you. This commission allows me to maintain this site and continue to bring content to you.)

To learn more about Malcolm Mitchell and the Share The Magic Foundation, be sure to visit ReadWithMalcolm.com!

I would like to thank Orchard Books and Scholastic for providing me with a review copy of this book! It was such a delight!

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This is Your Time

I’m sure many of you are familiar with Ruby Bridges. She is a civil rights activist who made history when she was just six years old. In 1960, she was the first Black child to attend an all white school in New Orleans, inciting protests from the white communities. This is Your Time is her most recent book.

In this book, Mrs. Bridges writes a letter to her readers, recounting her experience and encouraging young readers to participate in the fight for racial equality. She poignantly compares the unrest in our country now to the unrest in our country then.

Every other page features a black and white photo perfectly paired with the message. For example, on one page, Mrs. Bridges speaks about parents protesting and removing their children from school, while the opposite page features a picture of parents laughing while holding up a coffin with a black baby doll in it. Many things have changed in 60 years, but it is still critical that we teach our children the importance of equality.

With the news of our new President Elect, I have begun to notice an uptick in conversations (especially among white people) about unity and hope. While I absolutely support the idea of unity and hope, I worry we may already be becoming complacent. I worry we are already forgetting how hard-earned these victories have come. I worry we may not be acknowledging the communities who fought hardest to make change.

For me this book represents the kind of unity and hope we need as a nation. This book feels like an action. This book feel like a seed I can plant. This book tells every young person who reads it that they too can be like Ruby Bridges. They too can be brave and stand on the right side of history. I can’t think of a better way to bring our nation together than to teach our children to love and defend one another.

This is Your Time is being released today and would make the perfect gift for any young peacemaker in your life. It can be purchased just about anywhere books are sold, including at my Bookshop Page. (Please note this is an affiliate link, and I will receive a small commission of any purchases made using this link. This commission allows me to maintain this website and continue to bring reviews to you. Any support is greatly appreciated.)

I would like to thank Random House Kids for providing this review copy, and the hope it has brought me.