By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department
Originally decreed as Black Music Month by then-president Jimmy Carter in June 1979, the designation was changed in 2009 to African-American Music Appreciation Month. In his 2016 proclamation, former president Barack Obama stated that African-American music and musicians have helped our country “ . . . to dance, to express our faith through song, to march against injustice, and to defend our country’s enduring promise of freedom and opportunity for all.” Hence, I bring to you in no particular order, a great selection of books from Williamson County Public Library Children’s Department celebrating “Lady Day’s” soaring vocals, the Motown Sound, Bob Marley’s plaintive ballads, Jimi Hendrix’s groundbreaking guitar playing, and much more.
First on the list for today’s magical musical journey is Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through The Motown Sound by Andrea Davis Pinkney (J 781.6440 PIN) “You ready, child? Let’s go.” Thus begins this beautifully written account of young performers who were catalysts for change in American music, and along with it, a cultural revolution. The 1960s were exciting and often turbulent times. For Berry Gordy, the man who has been largely credited with creating what would come to be known as “the Motown Sound,” it all started with an $800 loan and a vision of greatness. The year was 1959, and Gordy was on the brink of something amazing, something that would have far-reaching influence on music for decades to come. Drawing upon the talents of his family and local performers, Gordy created a record label for black musicians such as Smokey Robinson, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Martha Reeves, and Diana Ross, just to name a few. The rest, as they say, is history.
Next up on the recommended reading list for African-American Music Appreciation Month is Jimi: Sounds Like A Rainbow written by Gary Golio and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe (J 92 HENDRIX). A stylishly written and illustrated story of the phenomenally talented James Marshall Hendrix, known to the world as Jimi, who departed this earth at the way-too-soon age of 27. His legacy lives on decades later, and his groundbreaking music continues to inspire and electrify fans of all ages.
Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday And The Power Of A Protest Song by Gary Golio (J 782.4216 GOL). At the time of her death from liver and heart failure in 1959 at the age of 44, Billie Holiday (nee Eleanora Fagan) was heralded as one of the greatest female vocalists and jazz singers of all time. Her best-selling record and signature song “Strange Fruit” challenged the attitudes of racism in America and was an important milestone in what would become the American civil rights movement.
No reading list about African-American music would be complete without mention of the excellent books about black musicians in the “Who Is/Who Was?” series, which features titles such as Who was Bob Marley? (J 92 MAR), Who Was Louis Armstrong? (J 92 ARM), Who Was Stevie Wonder? (J 92 WON), and Who Was Michael Jackson? (J 92 JAC). The books in this series feature whimsical illustrations and side notes about the subject, and are so much fun to read . Check ‘em out! (OK, that’s my one and only pun for this blog, I swear.)
Trombone Shorty by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews (J 788.9316 AND) is a delightful, picturesque story of how a talented young boy from New Orleans didn’t always have the money to buy an instrument, but he did have the dream to play music. Plucked from a crowd by none other than the legendary Bo Diddley and allowed to play his trombone on stage, he was then inspired to form his own band. Today, Andrews is a frequent performer at the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the place where he got his first break.
Last but not least on my list of recommendations is Bob Marley: The Life Of A Musical Legend by Gary Jeffrey (J 92 MARLEY). Part biography, part graphic novel, this very cool book celebrates famed Jamaican musician Bob Marley. His body ravaged by cancer, Marley departed this earthly realm at the young age of 36, but his music and his message of peace continues to inspire people all over the world.
As always, the opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author alone, and not representative of any other WCPL employees. Ms. Parish can occasionally be overheard quoting Jimi Hendrix’s lyrics and belting out “Voodoo Chile,” but only when she’s home alone or behind the wheel of her car.
By Katy Searcy, Children’s Department
Looking for a great book to get your kids excited about reading? Do you have a picky reader who absolutely must only read one particular genre? Maybe you have a kid on your hands who just read the best book ever and needs something else that’s just as good. Sure, you could go to Goodreads, but sometimes their suggestions aren’t exactly what you’re looking for. You could also ask us, your friendly neighborhood librarians here at WCPL who are very familiar with our collection and would be more than happy to recommend you the perfect book. But admittedly, there are likely some gaps in our vast book knowledge, so here are five websites full of great book suggestions for kids.
Guys Read is a web-based literacy program founded by children’s author Jon Scieszka. Their mission is to encourage boys to become self-motivated, lifelong readers by helping them find books they’re interested in. This website has collected lists of books recommended by teachers, librarians, booksellers, publishers, parents, and other guys and grouped them into categories to make them easier to find. From “Creepy and Weird” to “For Little Guys” to “Robots” to “Classics That Actually Hold Up,” guys of all ages can find exactly what they’re looking for in a book, and if they find one they like, there are further recommended titles under each book suggestion.
Similar to Guys Read, A Mighty Girl prides themselves on having “the world’s largest collection of books, toys and movies for smart, confident, and courageous girls,” and their impressive book section features over 2,000 girl-empowering books to choose from. Their best feature is easily the over 200 book categories available to explore, where books are grouped by character (from books, television, movies, and historical figures), genre, social issues, personal development, topic, and age.
The Best Children’s Books is curated by teachers who understand how important it is to find good books for children, and the books featured on this website are books that they use and recommend in their classrooms. For the most part, books recommended here are geared toward ages four through twelve. With blurbs describing how exactly books can be used, there is definitely more of a focus on classroom use, but this website could be an excellent resource for homeschooling families, teachers, or anyone needing a book for a particular report topic.
Bank Street College of Education Library excels at creating book lists. From “STEM” to “Back to School” to “Read Alouds for Children Twelve and Over,” there is a list on nearly any topic featuring a diverse array of characters and stories. If you have the time, I would definitely recommend browsing their Best Books of the Year list that features a whopping 600 titles broken down by age range.
Books & Authors is a database available through the library that provides recommended read-a-likes and an extensive selection of genres and authors to browse. You can even create lists of books you may come across that you want to save for later.
Once you’ve found a book to read, search our catalog for it and put it on hold, or give us a call for us to put it on hold for you. If we don’t have it in our collection, we can get most books from interlibrary loan. Now go forth and discover your new favorite book!