Books by Michael Strickland That Celebrate the African American Experience

Families: Poems Celebrating the African American Experience

511KF9CYyBL._SY346_Family relationships are explored and affirmed in this joyful anthology of poems celebrating the diversity of African American families. Michael Strickland, has collaborated with his mother, noted educator Dorothy Strickland, to bring us this warm collection. Rich and powerful poems by Eloise Greenfield, Lucille Clifton, and others are rooted in deeply felt values of belonging and mutual respect.

From Publishers Weekly

Using works by Lucille Clifton, Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes and other African American poets, this determinedly upbeat collection focuses on happy childhood experiences-getting hugs and kisses, going on family outings and saying a tender good night. The poems selected are rarely representative of the poets’ best writing; moreover, they tend to stereotype pretty little girls and big strong boys. The larger problem, however, is that in “celebrating the African American experience,” the editors try to be both inclusive and exclusive at the same time. Little here suggests either the uniqueness or the variety of black culture; conversely, the Stricklands’ own initial poem extolling “all kinds of families” and poems that applaud children of “every color skin” seem at odds with the uniformly black faces Ward depicts in his acrylic paintings. But even though the focus is blurred, many teachers and parents will welcome the volume for its use of an African American cast in paying tribute to middle-class family values. Ages 5-8.

  • Age Range: 5 – 8 years
  • Grade Level: 2 – 3
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsong (February 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1563975602
  • ISBN-13: 978-1563975608
  • Product Dimensions: 0.1 x 7.8 x 10.8 inches

From School Library Journal

Grade 2-5-A fine collection of 23 poems that feature African-American families. Youngsters’ voices come through vibrantly in these traditional and contemporary works that express the joy, sorrow, and excitement of childhood. Gwendolyn Brooks’s “Andre” is about a boy who dreams of having to choose new parents; Eloise Greenfield’s “Missing Mama” poignantly expresses a child’s sorrow at the death of his mother; and Lindamichellebaron’s “Hugs and Kisses” is a delightful selection about a boy’s hidden approval of his mother’s affection for him. Other poems are by Arnold Adoff, Lucille Clifton, Nikki Grimes, Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes, Naomi F. Faust, Julia Fields, and E. Alma Flagg. Black characters are depicted in the attractive acrylic illustrations, and some poems express themes directly related to African-American culture; however, the verses represent and impart universal feelings and moments, making this a book to be shared and enjoyed by all children.

Haircuts at Sleepy Sam’s

From Publishers Weekly

Three brothers take a Saturday morning trip to Sam’s barber shop in this affable if slim story, narrated by the youngest sibling. Though their mother sends them with a note instructing the barber not to trim her sons’ Afro cuts too short on top, the boysAand SamAhave a different style in mind. Strickland, who has compiled several poetry anthologies for children, shapes credible dialogue and gives his narrative a bouncy cadence: awaiting their turn in the barber’s chair, the brothers “watch the men cut hair and talk, cut hair and joke, cut hair and argue, cut hair and laugh, cut hair and boogie to51QCGZY852L._SX260_ the oldies on the radio.” Holliday’s (First by Secondhand) 1970s’ palette underscores Mom’s old-fashioned ideas and the barbers’ banter about boxers Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Rendered with airbrush and pastel chalk, his pictures showcase the animated expressions of the characters with close-to-photographic clarity against faded backgrounds of chartreuse, mauve and beige. Ages 4-8.

  • Age Range: 4 and up
  • Grade Level: Preschool and up
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Boyds Mills Press; 1st edition (September 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1563975629
  • ISBN-13: 978-1563975622
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 9.4 x 0.4 inches

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 3-It’s Saturday morning and haircut time for three African-American brothers. While their mother insists on natural Afro cuts, the boys yearn for the contemporary shorter styles worn by their friends. Readers follow the children as they walk to Sam’s Barbershop where they give Sam the envelope from their mother that contains instructions and money for the haircuts. Three barbers work on the siblings and when they are finished, the boys have the haircuts they wanted. The pastel and airbrush illustrations lend a light, cheery tone and portray a lively community. The photographic quality of the facial expressions invites readers to join in the joking and horseplay at the barbershop. Both the first-person narrative and the illustrations reveal the close-knit relationships of the brothers and their surroundings. The text flows well and is a good choice for reading aloud. For similar books, see Margaree King Mitchell’s Uncle Jed’s Barbershop (S & S, 1993) and Natasha Tarpley’s I Love My Hair (Little, Brown, 1997).
Shawn Brommer, Southern Tier Library System, Painted Post, NY

African-American Writers: A Dictionary

A timely survey of an important sector of American letters, African American Writers, examines a multitude of black cultural leaders from the eighteenth century to the present as it focuses on novelists, essayists, scholars, activists, critics, teachers, poets, playwrights, and songwriters. Biographical information covers important events in a writer’s life, education, major works, honors and awards, family and important associates, and more. Includes illustrations, bibliography, and index.

From Library Journal

This unique title profiles several hundred African American fiction and nonfiction writers from Colonial times to the present. The table of contents lists the authors alphabetically and then divides them into 17 categories (novels, short stories, slave narratives, etc.) and nine themes (Folktales, the Harlem Renaissance, Trickster Tales, etc.); authors whose 415372WY1YL._SY300_work spans several categories are listed separately under each. The profiles themselves, presented alphabetically and ranging from a paragraph for less well known writers like Ai Ogawa to three pages for writers like Ralph Ellison or Terry McMillan, are both biographical and critical, although the amount of criticism varies. Included in each entry are the writer’s birth and death dates, the categories into which he or she fits, and any pseudonyms. Black-and-white illustrations, references, genre lists, a comprehensive index, and chronologies of the writer’s life dates and of African American literary firsts complete this impressive title. Hatch, a freelance writer, and Strickland (creative writing, Boise State University.) are to be commended; no other single work seeks to include all past and present African American writers of significance in such an affordable format.

  • Series: Literary Companions (ABC)
  • Library Binding: 484 pages
  • Publisher: ABC-Clio Inc (June 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0874369592
  • ISBN-13: 978-0874369595
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 7.3 x 1.7 inches

From Booklist

Finding information about African American writers has always entailed searching in a variety of resources. Children’s writers, political writers, poets, songwriters, novelists, and speechwriters are covered in different sources, some easy to find, others not. Information about some writers, such as Toni Morrison and Phillis Wheatley, is readily available. Information about other, more obscure writers, such as Abby Fisher, who authored the first published cookbook by an African American woman, is harder to locate. And unearthing facts about those who penned comic strips, compiled bibliographies, or wrote scripts or political columns is even more challenging.

This very complete and readable dictionary helps to meet that challenge. Spanning the entire history of African American expression, it covers more than 530 individuals, including writers of commercials, hymns, newspaper editorials, and rap songs along with screenplays, novels, autobiographies, essays, and poetry. Publishers, editors, and patrons of the arts are included as well. Entries vary from just a sentence for actor Laurence Fishburne to 10 pages for Richard Wright. A handful of important movements, publications, and genres (e.g., Harlem Renaissance, Negro Digest, Spirituals ) are also treated.

Each author entry begins with the author’s birth name, followed by pseudonyms or alternative names and birth and death dates if available, as well as the genres appropriate to the individual. In addition to biographical facts, the editors have included information about what inspired the authors to compose their works, in the hope that the volume would be a springboard for further investigation or even a source of ideas. Cross-references are in bold type, and each entry ends with abbreviated source references. The book is sprinkled with photographs and concludes with an appendix of writers by genre, a chronology of writers and a chronology of  firsts, full bibliographic references, and an index.

The Club 51V34KHK01L._SY346_

… And

Shells Gold

Reading levels are inviting to reluctant readers.
– Each series features a multicultural cast of characters with strong group friendships.
– Engaging plots deal with peer rivalry, mystery, virtual reality, and much more!

The Club:

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Series: Summit Books
  • Paperback: 119 pages
  • Publisher: Perfection Learning (August 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0789155427
  • ISBN-13: 978-0789155429
  • Product Dimensions: 0.3 x 4.2 x 6.6 inches


If you have kids or teens who are reluctant readers because they read below grade level and can’t find books they can read that interest them, try some of these hi-lo books. The Hi-Lo reading lists focus on books at the reader’s interest level (“Hi” stands for “high interest”) but written at a lower reading level (“Lo” stands for “low readability,” “low vocabulary,” “lower reading level”) to encourage reading. Kids and teens reading below grade level are more apt to want to read a book if it is not only at their reading level but 51D47VDB53L._SY346_also at their interest level.

  • Shell’s Gold:
  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Series: Summit Books
  • Hardcover: 117 pages
  • Publisher: Perfection Learning (August 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0756908558
  • ISBN-13: 978-0756908553

A hi-lo book, broadly defined, is a title that offers highly interesting subject matter at a low reading level, according to Publisher’s Weekly. A number of publishers have focused on producing these books, though they often take slightly different approaches to creating the products that best fit a particular market. The abiding goal, says Arianne McHugh, president and co-owner of Saddleback Educational Publishing, “is to offer age-appropriate content—something that will grab [readers’] interest—at a readability level that is accessible.” As examples, McHugh notes that for a struggling reader in middle school or high school, although The Hunger Games would generate enormous interest, it would be a discouraging undertaking. On the other hand, “You can’t give them Clifford; we don’t want to embarrass them,” she says. Somewhere in the middle is the book that’s just right, she says.

African-American Poets (Collective Biographies)

51CtPUje71L._SY346_This book  profiles the lives and work of ten African American poets: Gwendolyn Brooks, Haki R. Madhubuti, Rita Dove, Eloise Greenfield, Langston Hughes, Imamu Amiri Baraka, Maya Angelou, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Phillis Wheatley and Nikki Giovanni.

From School Library Journal:

Gr 7-12. ‘Ten African Americans are highlighted in these essays. Each 7-to-10 page sketch contains basic biographical information about the poet, showing how the African-American experience affected their work, along with a portrait (usually a photograph) and one of their poems. The writers range from former slave Phillis Wheatley to contemporary authors such as Maya Angelou, Eloise Greenfield, and Rita Dove. Also included are Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Nikki Giovanni. The clear, focused writing makes this a solid choice for reports, especially in multicultural units.‘

A to Z of African American History

512QEKG4G7L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Illustrated throughout, here are more than 500 entries about people, places and events in African American History.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Maya Angelou, Tuskegee Airmen, Slavery, Blacks throughout U.S. wars, the March on Washington, Sojourner Truth, Carl Lewis, Jim Crow Segregation, Langston Hughes and other topics are explored.

  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Gramercy (January 9, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0517163004
  • ISBN-13: 978-0517163009

 Further Reading: How I Published All of My Books

      Education, arts, culture, and entertainment are topics that drive most of my writing. My work often demonstrates a special emphasis on the incomparable quality of life in and around Boise, Idaho. See my

articles on Yahoo!


And on the international level, the Black diaspora, see my book, Black Snake and the Eggs: A Tale Told in Liberia illustrated by Siri Weber Feeney.

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