Categories
Books Diversity Non Fiction

The Black Count and Alex Haley

When you think of France you undoubtedly think of one place: the Eiffel Tower.

But what do you think of when you think of 18th century France? Do you think of Les Miserable or The Three Musketeers?

If so, you’d be almost correct.  The story of The Black Count, by Tom Reiss, is a tale of  Alex Dumas, the man who fathers the man who writes The Three Musketeers and inspires The Count of Monte Cristo.

As a side note, I often refer to The Shawshank Redemption (or Friends) for many private chuckles.  In this case, the prisoners in Shawshank prison visit the library and one of them sees a book entitled The Count of Monte Cristo.  The prisoner mispronounces the author’s name as Alexandree Dumass.  (chuckle)  They are then informed that this book is about something they might be interested in:  a prison break.

 

Anyway, where were we?

oh yes, the Black Count.

Who is the Black Count? It’s no other man than Alex Dumas, the man who fathered the man who wrote The Three Musketeers, etc.  You know him, we discussed him in the previous paragraphs.  So, it’s no big deal, right? A black man fighting in the military? Maybe so today, but 3 centuries ago, this was practically unheard of.  There was, however, a brief time in France in the 18th century (1700s) when Blacks experienced moderately good civil rights.  They could be free, own property, conduct business, marry within and outside their race, etc.

I thought it might be interesting to find out what Black men looked like back then.

Notice anything familiar? It’s our Alex Dumas in the lower left corner, riding the horse; the same man as on the cover of The Black Count.  Also? The man on top of Alex Dumas? Yep, that’s his son, the author (Three Musketeers).

Now that we know what men might have looked like I thought it would be equally as interesting to see what the women looked like.  These photos, however, were more difficult to find.

I can only assume the lack of depiction of Black women had to be because of their lack of social standing regardless of the laws.  What I find interesting is what the mixed race people might have looked like.  If Dumas was from a White and Black union, the depictions I’ve seen don’t show it.  Some of the pictures show lighter skinned Blacks who, to me, look like they could be mixed.  But then, I guess this could be a cause for deeper research, sort of like an Alex Haley type of Roots exercise; remember that book? Wouldn’t it be interesting if there were more photos of the French and Haitian people of this time period so we could compare Alex Dumas’ history to Alex Haley’s?

If you like history or Black history or French history or The Three Musketeers, pick up a copy of The Black Count and research the turbulent history for yourself.  It’s amazing, really.

I give the book 4 paws for the historical retelling of life for 18th century Blacks; the book is, however, very informative and thorough, much like a textbook.

 

 

Categories
Children Diversity Reading Challenge

Calling the Water Drum by LaTisha Redding, illustrated by Aaron Boyd. #ReadYourWorld

Multicultural Children’s Book Day

It’s Multicultural Children’s Book Day! It’s the day we get to celebrate all things diverse and multicultural for kids. It’s one of my favorite days of the year because we get to learn about all the great books out there that you might not normally hear about. Books for kids of all kinds? WIN.

I’m thrilled today to bring you another great book from Lee & Low publishers. The book is

Calling the Water Drum by LaTisha Redding, illustrated by Aaron Boyd

Calling the Water Drum by LaTisha Redding

There is so much to love about this book. First the author and illustrator are both people of color which is a big win in my book. But of course, that’s what makes L&L so fab. They specialize in diversity. Calling the Water Drum is a tender fictionalized account of the Haitian refugee crisis from the 80s and 90s but told through the viewpoint of a very young boy who plays the drum instead of speaking. Young Henri’s perished traveling from Haiti to freedom in America and all the boy has left of his parents is the bucket they used in the boat to bail water out. Henri uses the drum as a way to connect to his family and friends he left back in Haiti and to connect with his new friends in New York.

Because children generally respond well to music I thought it would be fun to learn to make a drum so kids can express themselves like Henri.

The easiest way to make a drum is to find an old bucket, make sure it’s clean and empty, and bam, instant drum.

If you want to get a little more creative, there are many ways to make a drum without spending a dime.

  • Find an old coffee can or oatmeal container.
  • You’ll need materials to cover the open end, like: a balloon, an old scrap of leather, or wax paper.
  • Cover the open end with your material, ie., wax paper. use string, duct tape, or very large rubber bands to hold the wax paper to the sides of the can.
  • You’re done!
  • If you want to get extra fancy you can decorate the sides of your drum however you like: markers, spray paint, stickers, etc. The sky’s limit with your imagination!

When you’re ready to play, you can use your hands like Henri or use pencils as drumsticks. There are lots of lessons on Youtube to teach you how to drum with your hands if you want to go that route. Try to imitate the sounds and the rhythms that Henri makes in the book.

*************************

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) is its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include kid’s books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team are on a mission to change all of that.

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include ScholasticBarefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. RomanAudrey Press, Candlewick Press,  Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTVCapstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle SwiftWisdom Tales PressLee& Low BooksThe Pack-n-Go GirlsLive Oak MediaAuthor Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

Author Sponsor include: Karen Leggett AbourayaVeronica AppletonSusan Bernardo, Kathleen BurkinshawMaria DismondyD.G. DriverGeoff Griffin Savannah HendricksStephen HodgesCarmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid ImaniGwen Jackson,  Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana LlanosNatasha Moulton-LevyTeddy O’MalleyStacy McAnulty,  Cerece MurphyMiranda PaulAnnette PimentelGreg RansomSandra Richards, Elsa TakaokaGraciela Tiscareño-Sato,  Sarah Stevenson, Monica Mathis-Stowe SmartChoiceNation, Andrea Y. Wang

 

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also work tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

MCBD Links to remember:

MCBD site: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Kindness Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teachers-classroom-kindness-kit/

Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents: http://bit.ly/1sZ5s8i

Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use their official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

 

Categories
2015 Diversity Reading Challenge Books

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

Have you ever imagined a horror book for tweens? Prior to seeing Neil Himself, I never would have really considered it. Sure, I know kids like to be scared but I guess I never thought of the books as part of the horror genre.

That is, until I met Tracey Baptiste. And when I say met, I mean, I heard her speak at KidLitCon in November. To be sure, I had the book on my shelf just waiting to be read. The cover is kinda sceeery and I’m a big old chicken and don’t like to be sceeered.

But will ya look at this cover??

jumbies

It screams nightlight, doesn’t it??

Yeah. And that’s just the cover.

What’s especially great about The Jumbies, which are as real as the boogeymonster, is that the cast in the book contains all diverse characters. Every single person in the story is a person of color! There are island people of all shades of brown, one family that is possibly Southeast Asian/Indian, and the White Witch. I’m not sure what her ethnicity is but whatever.

Corinne La Mer isn’t afraid of anything. Not scorpions, not the boys who tease her, and certainly not jumbies. They’re just tricksters parents make up to frighten their children. Then one night Corinne chases an agouti all the way into the forbidden forest. Those shining yellow eyes that followed her to the edge of the trees, they couldn’t belong to a jumbie. Or could they?

And as we soon find out, these Caribbean scary things torment Corinne and her little friends all over the island. All kinds of scary creatures with all kinds of scary names will keep kids on their toes the whole book. What I love about the characters is that sure, they are kids of color, but they are kids first. The color of their skin is not an issue. That way, readers of any color or ethnicity can read the book and

a) be equally terrified, and
b) see themselves in the story.

I personally see myself hiding from the soucouyants and the lagahoos until it’s safe to come out.

Thanks Tracey, for the good fright. It’s just right. But don’t read the book at night.

teee heee heee, I made a rhyme.

Diversity is for everyone, even kids who like to be sceeeered!

So much fun!

 

Categories
Books Diversity Non Fiction

The Black Count and Alex Haley- FLTW

When you think of France you undoubtedly think of one place: the Eiffel Tower.

But what do you think of when you think of 18th century France? Do you think of Les Miserable or The Three Musketeers?

If so, you’d be almost correct.  The story of The Black Count, by Tom Reiss, is a tale of  Alex Dumas, the man who fathers the man who writes The Three Musketeers and inspires The Count of Monte Cristo.

As a side note, I often refer to The Shawshank Redemption (or Friends) for many private chuckles.  In this case, the prisoners in Shawshank prison visit the library and one of them sees a book entitled The Count of Monte Cristo.  The prisoner mispronounces the author’s name as Alexandree Dumass.  (chuckle)  They are then informed that this book is about something they might be interested in:  a prison break.

 

Anyway, where were we?

oh yes, the Black Count.

Who is the Black Count? It’s no other man than Alex Dumas, the man who fathered the man who wrote The Three Musketeers, etc.  You know him, we discussed him in the previous paragraphs.  So, it’s no big deal, right? A black man fighting in the military? Maybe so today, but 3 centuries ago, this was practically unheard of.  There was, however, a brief time in France in the 18th century (1700s) when Blacks experienced moderately good civil rights.  They could be free, own property, conduct business, marry within and outside their race, etc.

I thought it might be interesting to find out what Black men looked like back then.

Notice anything familiar? Its our Alex Dumas  in the lower left corner, riding the horse; the same man as on the cover of The Black Count.  Also? The man on top of Alex Dumas? Yep, that’s his son, the author (Three Musketeers).

Now that we know what men might have looked like I thought it would be equally as interesting to see what the women looked like.  These photos, however, were more difficult to find.

I can only assume the lack of depiction of Black women had to be because of their lack of social standing regardless of the laws.  What I find interesting is what the mixed race people might have looked like.  If Dumas was of a White and Black union, the depictions I’ve seen don’t show it.  Some of the pictures show lighter skinned Blacks who, to me, look like they could be mixed.  But then, I guess this could be a cause for deeper research, sort of like an Alex Haley type of Roots exercise; remember that book? Wouldn’t it be interesting if there were more photos of the French and Haitian people of this time period so we could compare Alex Dumas’ history to Alex Haley’s?

 

If you like history or Black history or French history or The Three Musketeers, pick up a copy of The Black Count and research the turbulent history for yourself.  It’s amazing, really.

I give the book 4 paws for the historical retelling of life for 18th century Blacks; the book is, however, very informative and thorough, much like a textbook.

 

 

Alexandre Dumas’ works were heavily influenced by his father, also named Alexandre Dumas. In the biography The Black Count, author Tom Reiss tells how Dumas went from slavery to become the equivalent of a five star general in the French military. Join From Left to Write on October 11 as we discuss the The Black Count. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.