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Multicultural Literature For Children and Young Adults
African American Literature

When Kambia Elaine Flew in From Neptune, is Lori Aurelia Williams first novel and a must read.

Lester, Julius. Sam and the Tigers. New York: Dial Books.1996 ISBN 0803720289

In this picture book Julius Lester and Jerry Pinkney has re-invented the very controversial story Little Black Sambo.  Sam and the Tigers is an endearing tale about a black boy that out smarts a tiger.  Sam the protagonist lives in the town of Sam-sam-sa-mara where everyone is names Sam to avoid confusion.  In the town animals and people live and work together, because they didnt know that they werent supposed to-except for the tigers.


Sams mother takes him to the town market to buy his back to school clothes.  After Sams mother picks out a dull brown jacket Sam tells his mother that he is old enough to choose his own clothes. Sam chooses a red jacket; purple pants; yellow shirt; silver shoes; and a purple umbrella.  On his way to school the next day, he runs into the tiger that wants to ea him up.  Sam offers the tiger his coat instead, the tiger accepts his jacket.  Sam and the tiger story continue until Sam is left standing in his underwear.  Sam and the tiger get into a fight over who looks fine, Sam wears back his wonderful clothes- and  enough butter and pancakes for the whole neighborhood.


Lester captures the heart and soul of this community through the Southern Black voice that tells Sams story. Pinkney watercolor illustration gives the characters varying personalities.  No two characters whether animal or human look alike. They have different hairstyle, and clothing representing their role in the community. Many young students will not know the history of this story, they will only grow to love how Sam has out smarted the tiger.  But, for older readers you may have to defend your reason for choosing Sam and the Tiger as a read aloud.



Taylor, Mildred D. Song of the Trees. New York: Dial Books. 1975. ISBN 0803754523.

This chapter book is about a strong black family that lives in Mississippi during the Great Depression.   The Logan family owns the land that they are farming. This is the first book in a series that Mildred D. Taylor has written about the Logan Family. Events that Taylors writes about are stories her father told  about her own family.  Song of the Trees plot centers around Cassie Logan.  She wakes up one morning and the whisper song of the trees is gone, the trees that are part of the Logan farm are Cassies friends.  The illustrations by Jerry Pinkney are pen and ink that capture each member of the Logan families individual characteristics and emotions as they watch their forest being cut down. . Taylor does not write in Southern dialect but you can hear the Mississippi tone in her words, you hear pride in David words when he confonts the white loggers on his land.  In her book she begins to tell the story of conflict between blacks and whites in the south during the 1930s.  Her words paint a picture of lives of Black in America. 


David Logan is away in Louisiana laying tracks for the railroad.  He sends money home for the family, but his last letter arrived empty without the much needed ten dollars.  At breakfast Big Ma tells Mary that she should write David and tell him about the missing money, and how they are running out of food.  Mary refuses to write her husband believing that the family can survive on farm goods.  Later that morning the Logan children go berry picking.  As they walk deeper into the forest in search of berry bush they see white marks of the tree trunks.  The white Xs on the trees puzzle the children.  They hear the voice of two men talking about cutting down the trees that are marked. The children run back to the house to tell their mother what they have heard.


In this book Taylor portrays the Logan Family as one that will not be taken advantage of by white American.  They are a loving family that works the land that they own.  David Logan is doing all he can to take care of his family and his land.  This book portrays a picture of Black America that is not often written about the pride.  At the end of the story David arrives to save the forest he tells the loggers that he will blow up the forest. He says One thing you cant seem to understand, is that a black mans always gotta be ready to die.  And it dont make me any difference if I die today or tomorrow.  Just as long as I die right.

Woodson, Jacqueline. Locomotion. New York: Putnam's Sons. 2003. ISBN 0399231153. Locomotion tells the story of Lonnie C. Motion in the form of poetic narrative using haiku, epistle, list, letters, and sonnets. Locomotion is a story of hope, love and family. Lonnie Collins Motion is eleven years old. His world is devastated at the age of seven when his parents are killed in a fire. He is separated from his sister Lili who is adopted by a rich family. Lonnie is put in a group home until he goes to live with Miss Edna. With the love of his foster mother, teacher, Ms. Marcus he begins to heal from the trauma of his past. Woodsons unravels Locomotions life on the streets of New York, giving Locomotion his stage for his urban poetry. Woven into the 60 poems is urban street language that will make the book real to Woodson young adult audience. The poetry revolves around events that help Lonnie deal with sorrow and joys in his life. Woodson allows Lonnie voice to tell a story of loss, grief, and humor.

Myers, Walter Dean. Monster. New York: HarperTempest. 1999. ISBN 0060280778

  In this book about a young African American man set in New York City is on trial for his life.  The plot centers on Steve Harmon a 16-year-old young man that has been charged as an adult accomplice to murder.  Once again Myers successfully portrays an authentic teen voice through realistic dialect.  Myers keeps even the reluctant reader turning the pages written in the form of movie scrip. Christopher Myers black and white photographs present timeline of Steves actions before and after the robbery: photos with his mother, on the drugstore surveillance cameras, and his mug shot, that add a foreshadowing tone to the book.

 Steve Harmon could possible spend the rest of his life in prison. Was he the lookout for the drugstore robbery or was he at the wrong place at the wrong time? Steve who has dreams of going to college and one day producing movies sees his future slowly slipping away from him. The only way that Steve can handle prison and trial is if he presents it as a movie script. The attorney present their cases before the jury and the drama builds just at it would in a movie. The reader is drawn into the story through each question the lawyers ask and the witness that brought to the stand to testify. Is Steve the Monster, that the prosecutor says he is, or is he a victim.

Myers has a passion for writing about contemporary issues focusing on young African American males lifestyle