The Life of Frederick Douglass: A Graphic Narrative of a Slave's Journey From Bondage to Freedom


The story of Frederick Douglass’ early life as a slave and his decades-long struggle to break free is not new to American readers, but seeing it unfold in achingly beautiful illustrations of brutality and hope certainly is. This mixture of despair, perseverance and hope – in pictures -- is just what readers get in author David F. Walker’s newest graphic novel: The Life of Frederick Douglass: A Graphic Narrative of a Slave’s Journey From Bondage to Freedom.

There are several autobiographies on Frederick's life, complete with long paragraphs of text that outline the hardships, cruelty, and humiliation he suffered in his life, but this version of his book is practically interactive. Readers are right there with Frederick when he is separated from his mother, brutalized by his keeper (Aunt Katy), and starved and beaten simply because there is no law that says he shouldn’t be. Readers live Frederick’s confusion over the fact that he has never seen his mother more than four or five times before she disappears completely (she dies!); they feel his loneliness and despair when his grandmother leaves him at his new plantation-home; and they can almost hear the growling and feel his stomach-cramping hunger when the sadistic “Aunt Katy,” the woman assigned to rear all the motherless slaves, starves him out of spite.

They smile at Frederick's innocent pride when his owner’s wife teaches him to read, and they cringe when the owner declares that “learning will spoil the best n*gger and make him forever unfit to be a slave.” When Frederick decides he is going to learn to read someday, no matter what anyone says, readers cheer him along.

Frederick's owner refusing to allow him to read.

There are passages of the great speeches Frederick Douglass wrote and delivered during his lifetime; illustrations of calloused, shackled African American feet trudging along as Frederick watches from a window; true tales of Frederick being choked, whipped, struck in the face and kicked while “the Negro breaker” is trying to make him fit for slavery; and just-in-the-knick-of-time rescues when silent slaves feed and clothe Frederick so that he can face another day.

This book is a masterfully-told, sweeping saga about early America, a slowly-changing mindset, and one man’s resolve to one day be free. It is filled with heroes like John Brown, villains like the Auld brothers who fought hard to return Frederick to slavery, and love interests like Anna Murray, the young free African American woman who helped Frederick escape slavery.

The prose is fast-paced, forceful, and unapologetic. The illustrations are bold and often shocking, and the colors are rich with orange sunrises, patchy black, starless nights, and honey-brown-skinned resolve to live everyday as free as any man. There is a clever “Who’s Who” wall of faces at the beginning of the book to give readers an idea of the people who crossed Frederick’s path, and what part(s) they played in his life.

There is a detailed list of sources at the end of the book, in addition to an alphabetized index and an acknowledgement by the author. The book takes several clever detours throughout the story in order to give more details on the history of slavery and an explanation of the Civil War. There is also a section that offers several photographs of Frederick Douglass, and details of how he is believed to be “the most photographed American of the nineteenth century.”

Both adults and young readers ranging from upper elementary and middle school to high school should enjoy this real-life thriller about courage, despair and an unbreakable human spirit.

StarTalk With Neil deGrasse Tyson: Young Readers Edition


Since the early sci-fi shows like Star Trek and Lost in Space, readers have CRAVED all things outer-space. That is why National Geographic's latest picture book, StarTalk With Neil deGrasse Tyson, is sure to be a hit this summer.

The gravitational pull begins with the amazing cover -- planets, spaceships, stars and color all swirling around famed African American astro-physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and promising an out-of-this-world experience. Mr. Tyson explains that StarTalk is a podcast where stars, astronauts, laypersons and the like come together and talk about...well, everything. The book is a type of composite of all the conversations (thus far) that have occurred on the show.

Readers learn that they need an easy-going, polite and long suffering personality to live in cramped quarters with other astronauts over long periods of time. They get to compare the evolution of the space stations, and they learn that astronauts typically grow a few inches when they live in zero gravity for long periods of time. They even learn how the beautiful African American actress, Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura of Star Trek fame) changed the face of NASA and inspired a generation of African Americans to reach for the stars, too.

Readers discover what it's like to use the bathroom in space and why some foods make it onto the astronauts' menu and some don't. They study wormholes and get to read a horrifying account (straight from Neil deGrasse Tyson) about what it's like to be "spaghetti-fied" if you get trapped in a wormhole. They also learn whether it will ever be possible to catch a ride on a comet or asteroid and travel to the stars.

This amazing reference book answers some pretty awesome questions, like where the Earth's heavy metals come from, how Earth gets its water, and whether World War III will be all about water. There are discussions on what causes severe weather, how the Greenhouse Effect works, whether prehistoric sunsets were red (GREAT QUESTION!), and much, much more.

This is a fast-paced and ambitious book about the world around us, our place in it and our impact on it. There is no specific target age, but based on the vocabulary, it should do well with readers from middle grade to high school. Of course, the early elementary ages will enjoy the images even if they cannot follow the vocabulary.

Use this book for...well, everything! Jump-start conversations about space, colonizing new planets, stars, black holes, conservation, lifelong learning and more.

Maya Penn is Amazing!



Some people just inspire you, and young Maya Penn is one of those people. At age 16, she is already an entrepreneur, philanthropist, animator, computer programmer, artist, and CEO of her eco-friendly fashion company, called Maya's Ideas.

Maya has given several Ted Talks (like the one below) on entrepreneurism and encouraging young girls to follow their passion. In case you don't know, TED is a nonprofit that is "devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks of 18 minutes or less." Maya has also been featured on The View, The Steve Harvey Show, Redbook, Ebony, Huffington Post, IBM, CNN, Essense, and many more venues than we can name in this one post.

One journalist who interviewed Maya said that "at 13, Maya had joined the ranks of some of the world’s most prominent thinkers and doers." We couldn't agree with him more. If ever there was an inspiration and a role model for teens and women everywhere, it's Maya Penn.

You can purchase Maya's new book, You Got This, hot off the press. Just click the link at the right. In the meantime, to read more about Maya, click on the following links:

Maya's Blog - http://mayasideasshop.blogspot.com/search/label/Home

Maya's Ideas for the Planet - http://mayasideas4theplanet.org/

Entrepreneur.com article - https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/225796

American Pink - http://america.pink/maya-penn_2931540.html

There are lots and lots more articles out there, but these should get you started.

Thanks for the inspiration, Maya! Stay brilliant,
Rita Lorraine

Mo'ne Davis is All That and More!



Mo'ne Ikea Davis will be 14 years old this year. What’s so special about that? Well, she is the first girl ever to earn a win and to pitch a shutout (with a 70 mph fast ball!) in Little League World Series history (2014), that’s what.

Born in 2001 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, this young right-handed pitcher for the Taney Dragons threw “perfect spirals in the outfield” that took the world by storm last year. In the proces, she made the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2014, and became the sixth girl to collect a hit in Little League World Series history.

All this, and guess what? She actually wants to play basketball, not baseball! At least that was the word in 2014.

There is a world of information about Mo'ne Davis on the Internet. Here are just a few links to some great articles. Enjoy!

Perfect Spirals in the Outfield - http://www.si.com/more-sports/2014/08/20/mone-davis-taney-little-league-world-series

Sports Illustrated - http://www.si.com/more-sports/2014/08/19/mone-davis-little-league-world-series-sports-illustrated-cover

Upcoming Disney Movie - http://thegrio.com/2015/03/19/disney-channel-mone-davis-movie/

Huffington Post article - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/damon-young/its-great-mone-davis-had-it-in-her-to-forgive-that-guy-but-still-fk-that-guy-_b_6946230.html

Mo's Bows is Doing Fine!



Remember this clever young man from Season 5 of Shark Tank? That's right, this is young Moziah Bridges, the brain behind a new fashion line called Mo's Bows.

The Black History Channel