Brave. Black. First.: 50+ African American Women Who Changed the World – Cheryl Willis Hudson; illustrated by Erin K. Robinson

 Brave. Black. First.: 50+ African American Women Who Changed the World – Cheryl Willis Hudson; illustrated by Erin K. Robinson, Crown; (9780525645818), 2020

Format: hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Genre: nonfiction

What did you like about the book? Brave. Black. First. is a gorgeously illustrated collective biography of African American women who have achieved significance in their field despite hardship and racism. Images capture the subjects’ personality, as well as their vocation. Readers will be able to identify many of the women in this book from the images alone. 

Subjects from Ruby Bridges to Misty Copeland to Fanny Lou Hamer to Loretta Lynch are profiled with a one page iconic illustration and a one page description of their life’s accomplishments. Modern additions include Ava DuVernay, Beyonce Knowles-Carter, and Simone Biles. Each profile includes the date and place of birth, date and place of death (if applicable), and a quote from that individual that shows her indomitable spirit. For example, Olympic fencer Ibtijah Muhammad’s inspring quote is “I want to be an example for minority and Muslim youth that anything is possible with perseverance.” The end of the book has additional information and photographs of the women profiled, as well as information about related items available to view at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Includes a table of contents, an index and a note from the author and illustrator. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  Students who like collective biographies

Anything you didn’t like about it?  I am curious about the order of this collective biography — it isn’t chronological or alphabetical. It also isn’t organized by topic. Also, while some of the women profiled are lesbian, none of the women profiled are transgender women. Marsha P. Johnson and Laverne Cox would have been great additions to this collective biography. 

Who should buy this book? Recommended for most elementary and middle school libraries.

Where would you shelve it? Nonfiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Laura Gardner, Dartmouth Middle School, Dartmouth, MA

Date reviewed: January 13, 2020


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