[Nonfiction Wednesday] Reading as an Act of Rebellion and Freedom in “The Book Itch”

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Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2016 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year.

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The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore

Written by: Vaunda Micheaux Nelson Illustrated by: R. Gregory Christie
Published by: Carolrhoda Books, 2015 ISBN: 0761339434 (ISBN13: 9780761339434 
Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

This story is inspired by the author, Vaunda Micheaux Nelson’s great-uncle Lewis Michaux, founder of “The House of Common Sense and Home of Proper Propaganda,” otherwise known as the National Memorial African Bookstore.

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I also love how reading here has been portrayed as an act of courage, an equalizer – particularly among people who are not even provided the right to education. This is seen in the endpapers that consist of slogans that were once found inside the bookstore, particularly in these lines: “You are not necessarily a fool because you didn’t go to school.” It is empowering to note how one can make a concerted effort to free one’s mind or to remove ceilings and boundaries in one’s imaginings, just by the mere act of reading a book.

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I also loved how words were given such a premium, this being the bread and butter of course, of any decent bookstore. Words do have currency.

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Told from the eyes of great-uncle Lewis Michaux’s young son, who happened to be named after him, Lewis Jr., the latter went on to share how important people such as Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and Langston Hughes bought, read books, and visited his father’s bookstore. It must have been such an enriching experience seeing how this place became a natural gathering place of bright minds, revolutionaries, changers and movers of the world.

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More than anything, I was struck by how the story also encouraged the reader to think for themselves, with the understanding that books do not necessarily tell the “truth” – and that it is up to the reader to discover these truths, to continually ask questions, and to read as many books as possible that provide as many different perspectives, to broaden one’s own understanding and expand one’s realities. Definitely a keeper, this one. Teachers would also be happy to note that there is an extensive Author’s Note and a rich summary of the life of Lewis Henri Michaux found at the end of the book, alongside bibliographic references.

  1. I enjoyed this book, and learned new history from it. It is an inspiring story. Thanks for reminding me, Myra!

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  2. I’ve noticed lately that several books I love–like this one–have a family history component. There is power in family stories!

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  3. This looks like an amazing read, Myra! Gorgeous illustrations, too.

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  4. I really loved this book! The end pages were brilliant – they added so much to the story.

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  5. I really loved this book and was super excited to get it for my library. I had enjoyed No Crystal Stair so much and was glad to have a book for younger readers that highlighted this story.

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