Hidden Figures: Young Readers’ Edition

By Margot Lee Shetterly; HarperCollins; 231 pages; $16.99

The feature film Hidden Figures is doing well in box offices, and people are interested in the fascinating story of a group of female mathematicians who helped send the United States into space for the first time.

In the 1940s and ’50s, these African-American women — mathematicians Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden — provided the calculations to help increase airplane production at NASA, which led to America’s space endeavors. The bold, strong women persevered throughout the Civil Rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War and the fight for gender equality, and did so with grace and strength, changing the minds of many of what mathematicians and engineers looked like.

With photographs and detailed, inspirational historical details, Margot Lee Shetterly, who knew many of the women depicted in the book, pens an incredibly motivating true story that proves anybody can change their own lives and the world for the better.

With such a positive, empowering path that Hidden Figures: Young Readers’ Edition takes, it’s a top-notch read for kids ages 8 to 14 who may feel like they’re facing a new uphill battle.

Loving vs. Virginia

By Patricia Hruby Powell; artwork by Shadra Strickland; Chronicle Books; 260 pages; $21.99

Penned in gorgeous, lilting poems other than a few timelines and maps and introductory pages, in Loving vs. Virginia author Patricia Hruby Powell tells another inspiring true story now also made into a movie.

The moving tale tells of Mildred and Richard Loving, two teenagers who broke the law by falling in love, and who were at the heart of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized marriage between blacks and whites.

In 1955, in Caroline County, Va., amid segregation and prejudice, injustice and cruelty, white Richard and African-American Mildred were normal kids who were very much in love, and also very determined to stand up for their love — even in court.

Shadra Strickland’s vintage-style sketches were based on a style of art called visual journalism, pioneered by artist Robert Weaver, characterized by a loose, impromptu drawing style that reflects the honesty and energy of the couple’s journey together.

Powell’s combination of brief paragraphs of facts about laws and civil rights acts are coupled perfectly with the more “loving” rhythmic text that tells the moving story. This story is true treat for readers ages 12 and up.

Martin’s Dream Day

By Kitty Kelley; photographs by Stanley Tretick; Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon and Schuster; 38 pages; $17.99

Remember Kitty Kelley? She’s penned many best-selling biographies of many powerful people. With Martin’s Dream Day, she returns to the helm, this time for “every child who reads this book — Dream Big.”

Using her late friend photojournalist Stanley Tretick’s special photos from the March on Washington, Kelley’s picture book chronicle of the lead up to and on that day, Aug. 28, 1963, is moving, elegant and motivating.

She tells the detailed historical story, not only of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s big day, but of what happened before, why he was speaking in front of 250,000 people, who these people were and what they’d been through, and what part President John F. Kennedy played in that day.

Tretick’s photos are awe-inspiring, from white people and black people with pants rolled up cooling their feet in the Reflecting Pool to many dressed like they were going to church. Magical, up close, rare photographs of King, JFK and faces in the crowd, coupled with Kelley’s exciting writing, will make young readers feel like they’re there, listening to “I Have a Dream” in August, nearly 54 years ago.

The power of the people in any number is the theme running through my head as I read this truly inspiring picture book.

An author’s note at the back tells readers that Kelley will donate her proceeds of the book to Reading is Fundamental.

Muhammad Ali: A Champion is Born

By Gene Barretta; illustrated by Frank Morrison; HarperCollins; 32 pages; $17.99

Lighter hearted and super fun, Muhammad Ali: A Champion is Born is a bold and cool picture book biography of the late boxer icon Muhammad Ali’s childhood.

It begins with a 12-year-old Cassius Clay and his best friend riding their bikes to the market. When they come outside, Cassius’ brand-new red bike is gone, and a lady tells them to go into another building to see a police officer. When they do, they realize that Officer Martin is a boxing instructor, and Cassius is hooked. He’s so excited about becoming a boxer, he works hard at that gym every day, racing the school bus and dodging his friend Rudy’s stones to test his reflexes.

Cassius grows up to be a boxing star, of course, and Gene Barretta’s entertaining book makes sure to note that he also fought for peace, pride and human decency, and wanted everyone to be treated equally despite the color of their skin or religious beliefs.

An author’s note at the back tells the condensed story of how Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali and more about the boxing icon and civil rights advocate.

Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History

By Walter Dean Myers; illustrated by Floyd Cooper; HarperCollins; 36 pages; $17.99

Gorgeous and informative, five-time Coretta Scott King Award winner Walter Dean Myers’ picture book about the great Frederick Douglass is awe-inspiring and beautifully written.

Douglass made many careful decisions in his life, which shaped him to become a hero, from learning to read to escaping from slavery to speaking out for justice for all Americans, to aiding the Union Army, helping him to rewrite history.

Floyd Cooper, also a Coretta Scott King winner, adds sweeping, lovely illustrations.

Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History is a truly remarkable biographical picture book for kids ages 4 to 10.

— Lee Littlewood writes the Kids’ Home Library column for Creators. The San Diego wife and mom’s pure love of children’s literature helps her stay interested in words and pictures meant for tots to teens. Click here to contact her, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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