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Celebrating African American Musicians

Bat Boy and His ViolinAfrican-American musicians, singers, and composers have contributed enormously to our nation’s history. The remarkable musical achievements of African Americans have strongly and clearly shaped the sound of American music -- giving our Nation's musical vista a rich collection of uniquely American styles.

The career of Marian Anderson, the world-class contralto who was denied permission to sing in Constitution Hall because of her race, symbolizes the achievements of many black American musicians. Performing instead at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939, she drew an audience of 75,000 and inspired the world not only with her rich musical gifts, but also with her determination and courage.

The following stories are about music, inspiration and determination. Good lessons to read about during Black History and American Music Month.

The Bat Boy and His Violin
Written by Gavin Curtis, Illustrated by E. B. Lewis
Published by Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing/Richard Jackson Books/Atheneum Books for Young Readers; ISBN: 0-689-84115-9
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs., Price: $5.99

Set in 1948, Reginald's father is the "manager of the Dukes, the worst team in the Negro National League," and eager to have his son be batboy to the team. Reginald, however, has a passion for playing his violin and is determined to continue no matter what his role is on the team. The burgeoning relationship between father and son, and the subliminal message that a talent for music is as admirable as a gift for hitting baseballs makes this an unusual and valuable book.
Selma G. Lanes ©2001 Parents' Choice

Bring on that BeatBring on That Beat
By: Rachel Isadora
Published by Penguin Putnam/G.P. Putnam's Sons, ISBN: 0-399-23232-X
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs., Price: $14.99

With dramatic oil paintings in black, white and gray, artist Rachel Isadora evokes Harlem during the 1930s when jazz was everywhere. Though we can't hear the music, we can almost see it. This is a visual tour de force.
Selma G. Lanes ©2002 Parents' Choice

The Music in Derrick's Heart
Written by Gwendolyn Battle-Lavert, Illustrated by Colin Bootman
Published by Holiday House, Inc., ISBN: 0-8234-1353-5
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs., Price: $16.95

This joyful tale of a budding musician includes details of the Deep South-- pecan trees, bare feet, and sweltering sunshine. Uncle Booker T. teaches Derrick how to play the harmonica, and Derrick takes his job of learning very seriously. The story conveys respect for elders, music, and hard work.
Mary Hollowell ©2000 Parents' Choice

When Marian SangWhen Marian Sang
Written by Brian Selznick
Published by Scholastic Inc., ISBN: 0-439-26967-9
Ages: 6 - 10 yrs., Price: $16.95

This handsome oversize book tells admirably the life-story of the celebrated black singer Marian Anderson (1897-1993). Author Ryan manages to cover the highlights of Anderson's long career in a spare and sober text that never lapses into kiddy talk but treats the book's heroine and its audience - children - with the respect they deserve. Artist Brian Selznick's large, sepia-toned pictures project a near-photographic authenticity, giving the listener/viewer the sense of being right there with Marian. This is the most beautiful and worthwhile picture book to come down the pike in a long while. Don't miss it!
Selma G. Lanes ©2002 Parents' Choice

Only Passing Through; The Story of Sojourner TruthOnly Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth
Written by Anne Rockwell, Illustrated by Gregory Christie
Published by Random House Children's Books/Knopf; ISBN: 0-679-89186-2
Ages: 7 - 10 yrs., Price: $16.95

Only Passing Through is the inspiring story Sojourner Truth, a slave girl who was sold three times by age 13, who was beaten for not understanding her master's orders, and who watched her parents die of cold and hunger when they could no longer work for their keep. Sojourner's simple yet powerful words helped people to understand the hideous truth about slavery. The story she told was her own.
Book Description ©2001 Random House Children's Books/Knopf

No More! Stories and Songs of Slave ResistanceNo More! Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance
Written by Doreen Rappaport, Illustrated by Shane E Evans
Published by Candlewick Press; ISBN: 0-7636-0984-6
Ages: 9 - 12 yrs., Price: $17.99

Doreen Rappaport pulls together many different stories and songs from African American history that reflect the resistance and escape attempts of many enslaved peoples. Most of the stories are from true accounts; some were developed from historical records. Shane Evans' large, expressive illustrations are evocative of the period and the subject matter.  
Deborah Taylor ©2002 Parents' Choice

African American Musicians
Written by Eleanora E. Tate
Published by John Wiley & Sons; ISBN: 0-471-25356-1
Ages: 10 - 14 yrs., Price: $22.95

This lively collection of profiles tells the inspiring stories of twenty-five African American musicians: both the legendary and the forgotten musical heroes whose contributions to the industry were invaluable to those who later followed in their footsteps. Each well-rounded biography covers a musician's origins, challenges, and accomplishments.
Book Description ©2000 John Wiley & Sons

Savion: My Life in TapSavion: My Life in Tap
Written by Savion Glover & Bruce Weber
ISBN: 0-688-15629-0
Ages: 10 & Up, Price: $19.95

Savion is an acknowledged genius of tap-dancing who has won over the younger generation by dancing to contemporary music. His influence has overcome the whiff of black-faced vaudeville that caused tap-dancing to seem dated. The format of the book, with words seemingly tapping across the pages, brings a noisy, quick-moving artist successfully to life in a quiet, static art form - the book.
Kemie Nix ©2000 Parents' Choice

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