Waiting For Pumpsie (Barry Wittenstein)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Waiting For Pumpsie, written by Barry Wittenstein and illustrated by London Ladd, an uplifting story about the integration of the Boston Red Sox.

In 1959, the Red Sox are the only Major League Baseball team not to have integrated, twelve years after Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Dodgers. To Bernard, a young black boy from Roxbury and a die-hard Red Sox fan, this is mystifying. He knows what he reads in the papers (that the owners don’t want a black man on their team), and from his family’s yearly game at Fenway (where they are treated with contempt and open racism despite being fellow fans). “Change is coming real soon,” advises his mother, and sure enough, there’s talk of a talented minor-leaguer named Pumpsie Green. He looks sure to make the roster, but the owners hold him back at the last moment, claiming he’s “not ready”. However, after fan protests and a drop to last place, Pumpsie is brought up to the big leagues. Bernard and his family are overjoyed – but will the team truly give Pumpsie his opportunity to shine?

Powerful. Following Green’s integration through the eyes of one of his young fans, the tone and language of the text deftly strikes a delicate balance between reality and hope. Era-typical vernacular is used, including terms like “colored” and “negro”, used both as slurs but also generic terms (Bernard refers to his family and Pumpsie as “colored”, for instance); it’s jarring and uncomfortable, as it should be, and sets the stage for both Pumpsie and Bernard’s triumph of spirit at the end. Bernard and his entire family are heartwarmingly endearing characters, especially his fierce, hopeful mother and sage and kind father. Ladd’s gorgeous illustrations capture every scene of joy, anger, sadness, and pride. It’s a bit on the longer side, and the content is for the more mature bookworm, but JJ and I loved it. This is a moving tale about the importance of diversity, and how it can change lives in the biggest and smallest of ways. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this books was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Little Leaders: Bold Women In Black History (Vashti Harrison)

Hello, friends! We’re wrapping up Women’s History Month with today’s review, Little Leaders: Bold Women In Black History by Vashti Harrison, a fantastic encyclopedia of inspirational black women for young bookworms.

They were pilots, writers, scientists, dancers. They were astronauts, actresses, abolitionists, and spies. And each of the forty remarkable women featured in this tome of black girl magic was a revolutionary in her time, paving the way for those who would follow. With each spread – featuring a three- to four-paragraph biography of the woman’s achievements coupled with an illustration of the pioneer herself – readers will learn about icons like Mae Jemison, Wilma Rudolph, Ruby Bridges, Nina Simone and many, many more.

Absolutely phenomenal. Everything about this book makes it an instant must-have for little readers’ shelves, especially for young girls of color. The storybook-style layout of each woman is perfect for either sharing with an adult or exploring on one’s own, and makes for a reading experience as long or short as the reader wishes; while JJ and I would never be able to read this together in one sitting, we made it through five biographies comfortably. The illustrations are lovely, featuring each subject against a background representative of their time and accomplishments (often including a quote by the woman), but sharing the same round face and proud smile that allows young readers to project themselves into the subject’s shoes. It’s an inspired choice, and we loved it. This is a gorgeous nonfiction storybook that entertains and informs as it inspires, and we recommend it for any little trailblazer-in-the-making. Baby Bookworm approved!

Harlem (Walter Dean Myers & Christopher Myers)


Hello, friends! Today’s review is another favorite from our library that we’ve been wanting to review for a while, and with everything in the news recently, it felt like a good time to shine a spotlight on this phenomenal book: Harlem, a poem written by Walter Dean Myers and illustrated by Christopher Myers.

Told in free verse, the evocative words of Myers’s poem tells the story of Harlem, the home of a great history and greater hope. It dashes between past, present and future, peeking into windows and through doors at the citizens of Harlem as they go to church, wash vegetables in their kitchens, ride the subways and play games in the streets. It celebrates Harlem’s one-of-a-kind history of jazz, literature, activism and culture, and writes a love letter to a community built out of a desire for freedom; freedom of expression, freedom from discrimination, and the freedom to achieve. 

Harlem can be a challenging read for some little bookworms, with much of the text being names and places written in a syncopated free verse style. However, the gorgeous mixed-media art, which captures as much an emotion as a people and place, is colorful and exciting enough for any little one. Then, once the reader is familiar with the words and rhythm of the text, there is a passion and life to the poem that is impossible to deny, and becomes more affecting with each repeat reading. This is a book that captures the soul of a vibrant, and vital, place in American history, and it’s simply wonderful. It’s a good length, a favorite of ours, and emphatically Baby Bookworm approved!

When The Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc And The Creation Of Hip Hop (Laban Carrick Hill)


Hello, everyone! Today’s book is When The Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc And The Creation Of Hip Hop, written by Laban Carrick Hill and illustrated by Theodore Taylor III, an awesome tale of a revolutionary musical innovator and his contribution to the birth of hip hop.

Clive Campbell loved music of every kind, and growing up in Jamaica, there was no music scene hotter than the block parties hosted by the local dancehall DJs. When Clive moved to New York City, he brought his love of music and DJing with him. After earning the nickname Kool Herc on the basketball court, Clive and his sister Cindy threw a back-to-school party one summer night at their apartment building on Sedgewick Ave. Clive set up his audio system, stepped up to the turntables, and unleashed his signature style of mixing and rapping on the crowd. And just like that, DJ Kool Herc was born, and he would go on help create an entire genre of music: hip hop.

This was an awesome book! Music history fans will love how the story of this seminal era of musical experimentation is told. For those unfamiliar with the origins of hip hop, this is an awesome primer for all ages that introduces the figures, styles and theory that brought hip hop to be. The illustrations are colorful, lively, and have a distinctly musical feeling about them, which is perfect. The length may be a bit much for the smallest bookworms, but JJ enjoyed it start to finish. This is a great one, especially for young DJs and MCs looking to learn more about the roots of hip hop and the people who brought it to life. Baby Bookworm approved!

We March (Shane W. Evans)


Hello, everyone! Today, we’re wrapping up our Black History Month series with We March by Shane W. Evans, an account of the 1963 March on Washington written from a child’s point of view.

Set against the background of the seminal civil rights protest, We March tells the story of one family’s experience, presenting the history of the day in one short sentence and concept per page (“The sun rises,” “We pray for strength,” “We walk together,” “We sing,” etc). The simple yet dramatic art tells the rest of the story, of people of all ages and walks of life coming together to take a stand against discrimination and inequality.

This book is a great way to introduce a vital historical event to young readers. The simplicity of the text is perfect for pre-readers, and keeps the length fairly short, enough that we were able to read through it twice. The art then invites a closer examination of the events of the day, and a discussion between children and adults about the people, places, and motivations that unfold on each page. JJ really enjoyed this one, and loved exploring the illustrations long after we had finished our read-throughs. A great way for little ones to experience the March through the eyes of another child, and definitely Baby Bookworm approved!