Tag Archives: African American author

Firebird by Misty Copeland


Dancer, Misty Copeland, the first African American prima ballerina, writes from a young dancer’s point of view. The character believes she will never fly as a dancer like Misty Copeland. The author uses metaphors such as “you are the sky and clouds and air” to show the girl’s feelings toward her idol. After the dancer expresses her lack of self-confidence, Misty’s character tells her she is just beginning saying, “let the sun shine on your face your beginning’s just begun.” She shares with the reader that she was once like the girl with only a dream. This is a wonderfully inspirational story about practice and goal setting that students could relate to as they struggle to meet their goals and dreams. Students who struggle with confidence and self-esteem could gain a new perspective from Misty Copeland’s story. The author includes a wonderful note of encouragement to the reader at the end of the book. The illustrations are fluid and superbly depict the flying ballerina. This book would be a wonderful addition to any library.

Schema: dancing, learning

Story Elements: Problem, feeling like she will never reach her goal

Solution: practice and never give up

Metaphors and similes are used throughout the story to show the feelings of the characters.

Mental Imaging: The reader can imagine how high the ballerina is leaping with the help of the illustrations.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

Schema: being cruel and unkind

Text-to-Self: Feeling mistreated by other kids, not being accepted

Bullies: Chloe decides to be cruel and bully another student.

Mental Images: Imagine the ripple of the water and think how this is like an action of kindness or cruelty.

Metaphor: The ripple and the act are alike in one way; they both spread far from you.

Synthesis: What small things have you done to make the world, your home, your school, your family better?

Can you think of ways Chloe could make amends for the way she treated Maya if she never sees her again?

Ellen’s Broom by Kelly Starling Lyons


Beautiful illustrations support the text about a family of two African American parents and their three children that is set during the time when African Americans were freed and allowed to legally marry.  They explain the significance of the broom on their wall, a memento from their unofficial wedding ceremony years before. As the story unfolds, the reader learns about the laws during slavery and celebrates with the characters as they are officially married linking the past to their future.  Both the author and illustrator are African American making this an authentic choice for African American History Month in February.

Never Forgotten by Patricia C. McKissack; artwork by Leo & Diane Dillon

Schema: slavery

The author tells the story in third person in a poetic format.

Setting: West Africa, 1725

Author’s Purpose: to show the perspective of a family whose child has been taken by slave traders

Voice: The language the author uses creates a unique voice for Dinga

Personification: The four elements: Earth, Fire, Water, and Air are personified as they seek to mother and then find Musafa.

Summary: Tell the story in sequence from Musafa’s birth to his being found again in the Southern United States in Charleston, South Carolina.

Drawing Conclusions: Do you conclude that Dinga went mad or insane with the disappearance of Musafa or do you think the elements could have communicated Musafa’s whereabouts to him?

Hurricanes: Many hurricanes have hit the South Carolina coast. The author notes at the end of the book that there is a legend in Barbados that says the “hurricane is Mother Africa in search of her lost children.”

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Schema: Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Text-to-text:  Freedom on the Menu: the Greensboro Sit-Ins by Carole Boston Weatherford

Metaphor: The story uses an extended metaphor to compare the Civil Rights movement to a recipe throughout the story.  Author’sPurpose: to share a story about the civil rights movement and to teach us about African American history

Author’s POV: 3rd person

Cause and Effect: Because the demonstrators were nonviolent, the effect was that the national news only captured the violence of the angry white people which made Dr. King’s message even stronger.

Mental Images: Imagine having salt, ketchup, and coffee poured on your head and pepper thrown in your eyes and still sitting calmly

Organizational Strategies: the story is organized like a poem

This is the story of the four college men who began the Woolworth sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina, February 1, 1960. The author shares a story in language and illustrations that tell what happened with a positive point of view and a message of hope for the future. The metaphor of a recipe is used to mix the ingredients needed to end segregation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uncle Jed’s Barbershop by Margaree King Mitchell

uncle-jeds-barbershopSchema: getting hair cut, Great Depression, segregation

Season: illustration depict Fall

Point of View: Sarah Jean tells the story from her POV.

Characterization: Uncle Jed: He visualized his dream of owning a barbershop.  He knew exactly what it would look like in his mind. He worked very hard and never gave up.

Drawing Conclusions: We can draw the conclusion that Uncle Jed is optimistic because he said he would just have to start over again and keep saving after the Great Depression.  His bank lost all of his savings, but he did not give up.

Cause and Effect: Because of the Great Depression, the effect was that Uncle Jed lost his money that he had saved in the bank.

Because Sarah Jean needed surgery and her parents did not have the money, the effect was that Uncle Jed gave them the money and had to save up more for his barbershop.

Ideas: Discuss what segregation means with the emergency room treatment issue and having a separate barbershop for African Americans.

Creativity by John Steptoe

creativitySchema: What does creativity mean?  How are you creative?

Voice: The author creates a great voice with the main character of this story.  He leaves the “g” off of the end of the words and uses words unique to the character of this young boy. Voice is a difficult writing trait to explain and teach.  Steptoe explains voice very well in his paragraph about music.  He talks about how different musicians present the same music in a different way.  He then continues to talk about how artists can see the same bowl of fruit and paint it in many different ways.

Inference: Ask the students what they infer about students writing about the same topic?  Will they all write from the same viewpoint?

The author says, “Sayin’ what you mean in your own special way–that’s bein’ creative.”

Our Gracie Aunt by Jacqueline Woodson

our-gracieSchema: staying at home alone; trying to keep family problems a secret; living with relatives; worrying about adults in your life

Point of View: The story is told from a young boy,  Johnson’s, point of view.

Inference: We can infer that Mrs. Clyde called Miss Roy.  The text says Mrs. Clyde kept an eye on them.

What do you infer the tall building is where the children meet her mother? a hospital, drug rehab facility

Figurative language: “crying washes you out inside”

Cause and effect: Because the children were left alone for days, the effect is that a social worker takes the children to their Aunt Gracie.

Compare and Contrast: How does Johnson compare and contrast living with his mother and living with his aunt?

The Story of Jumping Mouse: a Native American Legend by John Steptoe

story-of-jumping-mouse3Schema: What would be the reason a story is retold time after time within a certain culture such as this one by Native Americans?  What words do you know that would describe a good person? Honest, Unselfish, Kind

When Magic Frog tells Jumping Mouse he can accomplish his goal, she tells him he will succeed if he “keeps hope alive within him.”

Synthesizing: Whenever Jumping Mouse gives unselfishly, he sacrifices one of his senses.  He keeps giving of himself, but never loses hope of reaching the far off land.  He seems to believe that if he does what is right, he will be ok. Do you have any text-to-self connections with doing what you thought was right and being ok?

Predicting: When Jumping Mouse named the bison Eyes-of-a-Mouse, Jumping Mouse lost his eye sight.  What do you predict he will lose when he names the wolf Nose-of-a-Mouse?

Inference: Magic Frog uses the word compassion near the end of the story.  What do you infer that compassion means?

Drawing Conclusions: We can conclude that Jumping Mouse was rewarded for his unselfishness and compassion by becoming an eagle.  What evidence from the story supports this conclusion?

Characterization: Jumping Mouse: honest, kind, unselfish, hopeful

Dancing With the Indians by Angela Shelf Medearis

dancing-with-indiansThe story is historical fiction told in rhyme and based on the real life story of the author’s great-grandfather who was a slave.  He ran away and was accepted by a tribe of Seminole Indians.  The story tells about how the family would go to a reunion each year to visit the Indians.  This is an interesting book and a good one to read to young children for African American history month because the author is African American.

Text-to-text connections: Have you ever traveled to visit relatives or friends?

Have you ever seen a “stomp” dance?

Cause and effect: Because the Seminole’s adopted the great-grandfather, the effect is that they  visit them each year for a pow-wow stomp dance.