Updated: Jan 15
Books can be a window into cultures, communities, and the world. These children's books are a window into the beautiful history, arts, and people of South Carolina.
What makes these books even more special is that they feature an often-underrepresented section of South Carolina culture; African Americans. In a recent post about the lack of diversity in children's books, we shared that one of the best ways to increase diversity in publishing is to support books and authors that do include underrepresented groups. All of these books hit that mark while also being interesting, educational, and fun to read.
Note: The Extended Learning Section featured below is full of great resources that explain how learning South Carolina history can enrich the lives of children everywhere.
Circle Unbroken by Margot Theis Raven, Illustrated by E.B. Lewis
As she teaches her granddaughter to sew a traditional sweetgrass basket, a grandmother weaves a story, going back generations to her grandfather's village in faraway Africa. There, as a boy, he learned to make baskets so tightly woven they could hold the rain.
Even after being stolen away to a slave ship bound for America, he remembers what he learned and passes these memories on to his children - as they do theirs.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.'s American Heroes: Robert Smalls, the Boat Thief by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Illustrated by Patrick Faricy
On a moonlit night in the spring of 1862, six slaves stole one of the Confederacy's most crucial gunships from its wharf in the South Carolina port of Charleston and delivered it to the Federal Navy.
This audacious and intricately coordinated escape, masterminded by a 24-year-old sailor named Robert Smalls, astonished the world and exploded the Confederate claim that Southern enslaved people did not crave freedom or have the ability to take decisive action.
Dave the Potter by Laban Carrick Hill, Illustrated by Bryan Collier
Dave was an extraordinary artist, poet, and potter living in South Carolina in the 1800s. He combined his superb artistry with deeply observant poetry, carved onto his pots, transcending the limitations he faced as an enslaved man.
In this inspiring and lyrical portrayal, National Book Award nominee Laban Carrick Hill's elegantly simple text and award-winning artist Bryan Collier's resplendent, earth-toned illustrations tell Dave's story, a story rich in history, hope, and long-lasting beauty.
This is the Rope by Jacqueline Woodson, Illustrated by James Ransome
The story of one family's journey north during the Great Migration starts with a little girl in South Carolina who finds a rope under a tree one summer. She has no idea the rope will become part of her family's history.
But for three generations, that rope is passed down, used for everything from jump rope games to tying suitcases onto a car for the big move north to New York City, and even for a family reunion where that first little girl is now a grandmother.
Mr. Bradley's Day of Surprises by Ronald Daise and James Bradley
Illustrated by Allan Eitzen
Gullah Gullah Island aired in the 90s on Nickelodeon. It has been praised for bringing Gullah culture to the national stage. The show was inspired by St. Helena Island, an island in Beaufort County, South Carolina.
Ron and Natalie Daise, who served as the show's cultural advisors, also published many children's books about the culture. While it can be difficult to find copies of these treasures, they are definitely worth the search.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement.
Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.
P Is for Palmetto: A South Carolina Alphabet by Carol Cane
Illustrated by Mary Whyte
P is for Palmetto is a collection of evocative pages of watercolor that covers this beautiful southeastern state from A to Z. Carol Crane captures the diverse features of South Carolina with her flowing verse and solid expository text, while, within the images of Mary Whyte, you can almost envision yourself standing in the vast cotton fields and walking along the sandy shores of its stunning coastline.
South Carolinians, young and old, will treasure P is for Palmetto and educators will find its two-tiered teaching format extremely useful in their classrooms.
Ron's Big Mission by Rose Blue and Corinne Naden
Illustrated by Don Tate
Nine-year-old Ron loves going to the Lake City Public Library to look through all the books on airplanes and flight. Today, Ron is ready to take out books by himself. But in the segregated world of South Carolina in the 1950s, Ron's obtaining his own library card is not just a small rite of passage?
It is a young man's first courageous mission. Here is an inspiring story, based on Ron McNair's life, of how a little boy, future scientist, and Challenger astronaut desegregated his library through peaceful resistance.
Grandma's Purse by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Release Date: January 9, 2018 (available for preorder)
Spend the day with Mimi and her granddaughter in this charming picture book about the magic found in Mimi's favorite accessory. When Grandma Mimi comes to visit, she always brings warm hugs, sweet treats...and her purse. You never know what she'll have in there--fancy jewelry, tokens from around the world, or something special just for her granddaughter. It might look like a normal bag from the outside, but Mimi and her granddaughter know that it's pure magic! In this adorable, energetic ode to visits from grandma, beloved picture book creator Vanessa Brantley Newton shows how an ordinary day can become extraordinary.
The Vanessa Brantley Newton dedicated Grandma's Purse to the Gullah Geechee people in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.
One particular region of South Carolina, the Lowcountry, was recently thrust onto the national stage when President Obama designated four sites in Beaufort County, SC as the Reconstruction Era National Monument.
The Reconstruction Era was the time immediately after the Civil War and Emancipation where there was a great effort made toward racial equality, equity, and even reparations.
During this time schools were built to educate enslaved people who had previously beaten or killed if they simply looked at a book. African Americans, like Congressman Robert Smalls, took lead roles in local, state, and ultimately federal government. Simply put, Reconstruction was a time when America made an effort to atone for the reprehensible acts it had perpetrated against African Americans during slavery. Unfortunately, the Reconstruction Era did not last long enough to accomplish its mission.
Use the resources below as a starting point to learn more about the importance of Reconstruction and how we might apply some of its principles to better our communities today.
FOR A MORE IN-DEPTH LOOK AT RECONSTRUCTION:
-The Zinn Education Project: Reconstructing the South: A Role Play
- The Nation: When Black Lives Mattered: Why Teach Reconstruction
- The History Channel: The Failure of Reconstruction
- You may also be interested in the coming International African American Museum being developed in Charleston, SC.
- Penn Center Beaufort, SC (first school built for freed slaves): Preserving the Past, Sustaining the Future
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