Monday, March 6, 2017

SLJ 's Battle of the Kids' Books: Round 1

Every year I enjoy School Library Journal's version of March Madness, which includes 16 books battling out to see which one is the best. The judges are those who write children's or young adult literature. An exciting change this year is the addition of picture books.

The first two books are Ashley Bryan's Freedom Over Me and Carole Boston Weatherford's Freedom in Congo Square.

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Accurate depictions of life as a slave show that is was unbearable. However, those living in New Orleans were given every Sunday off. They required by law to congregate only in Congo Square. The slaves created a culture experience, bringing traditions like African music, which was banned in the fields and their homes. The story counts down the week to Sunday afternoon in Congo Square. The illustrations are bright and colorful, reflecting what was undoubtedly a mood of brief celebration and joy in an otherwise dismal existence. The book contains a Forward and Author's note providing background information.

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As she explains in her author's note, the idea for Freedom Over Me originated in some papers Ashley Bryan found from a former estate. Many slaves were uneducated, and history accounts often overlook the perspective of marginalized people. This means the stories, hopes, dreams and feelings of slaves are forever lost. Bryan recreates roles and uses beautiful poetry to give a voice to these slaves.

Both of these books are very similar and I could see either one advancing to the next round. Since Carole Boston Weatherford is from my home state of North Carolina, and I know Freedom In Congo Square would make a wonderful read-aloud, I hope it is chosen as the winner in this battle.

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