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African and African American Images in Newbery Award Winning Titles: Progress in Portrayals

Overview

Since 1922, the Newbery Medal of Honor has been awarded to distinguished works of literature for children. Although African and African American characters appeared in children's books well before the establishment of the Newbery award, such depictions were limited, with characters often only appearing as slaves or servants. However, over the last several decades, there has been much progress, and Black characters have played a much more integral role in many highly regarded novels. In African and African ...
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African and African American Images in Newbery Award Winning Titles: Progress in Portrayals

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Overview

Since 1922, the Newbery Medal of Honor has been awarded to distinguished works of literature for children. Although African and African American characters appeared in children's books well before the establishment of the Newbery award, such depictions were limited, with characters often only appearing as slaves or servants. However, over the last several decades, there has been much progress, and Black characters have played a much more integral role in many highly regarded novels. In African and African American Images in Newbery Award Winning Titles, Binnie Tate Wilkin provides a historical and contextual examination of books with such depictions that have been acknowledged by the nation's most prestigious award for children's literature. Wilkin explores the depictions of African and African American characters in these novels and illuminates the progressive quality of such representations. Wilkin looks closely at such elements as aesthetic descriptions, subservient characterizations, the relationships between characters, and specific language usage to investigate how these images have progressed toward increasingly positive depictions. She also notes, when applicable, the significance of the lack of any African or African American images. This book is an essential resource for those interested in African American studies, children's literature, and the relationship between the two.
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Editorial Reviews

American Reference Books Annual (ARBA)
This comprehensive, annotated bibliography of Newbery Award winning books will be a valuable reference aid for any scholar or educator in the field of African American studies or children's literature.
February 2010 Booklist
This paperback offers a unique lens on Newbery books and sensitizes readers to changing cultural mores.
American Reference Books Annual
This comprehensive, annotated bibliography of Newbery Award winning books will be a valuable reference aid for any scholar or educator in the field of African American studies or children's literature.
Children's Literature - Ellen Welty
Subject bibliographies are sought-after tools for both librarians and researchers. The author has evaluated every Newbery Medalist and Honor Book that depicts Africans or African Americans for their portrayal of those individuals in the text and occasionally in the illustrations as well. Each book discussed is assessed on the basis of overall portrayal, racial stereotypes, sensitivity, language, and historical accuracy. The front material discusses the background and criteria for the Newbery Medal and Honor Books and also analyzes the Newbery titles in historical context. The greatest portion of the book is devoted to the analysis of the Newbery titles that portray people of African descent. It is clear from reading through the entries, arranged chronologically, that the awareness of cultural and ethnic insensitivity has increased among the librarians who select the Newbery winners. It is also clear that readers have become more aware of inaccurate portrayals of African Americans and less tolerant of those portrayals. The remainder of the book evaluates the other Newbery Medalists and some of the Honor Books, as well as including an author list, a title list, and an index. This book would be useful in a professional collection for librarians or researchers. Teachers would also find it useful in selecting books for their classroom libraries. Reviewer: Ellen Welty
School Library Journal
The author has exhaustively examined all books that have won the Newbery Medal and been cited as honor books since the award’s creation in 1922. Her purpose is to evaluate the representation of Africans and African Americans, and to describe how these groups are portrayed in each title’s historical context. In a short introduction, Wilkin surveys how changing images of African Americans in literature reflect evolving attitudes in American culture. Then she critiques each book’s presentation of African Americans. Books with the most positive images are awarded three pluses, while books with marginal African-American characters are indicated with an “M.” She pulls no punches when identifying negative images. For instance, she cites the 1933 honor book The Railroad to Freedom as a “horribly flawed” fictional biography of Harriet Tubman for its use of derogatory terms to describe African Americans, among other faults. Readers may not be surprised to learn that representation has improved since the 1970s, when Virginia Hamilton and Mildred D. Taylor rose to prominence, and contemporary authors such as Christopher Paul Curtis and Jacqueline Woodson continue to create authentic, admirable characters. Wilkin commendably examines how books by authors of all backgrounds depict African Americans, demonstrating how we all play a part in defeating racism. An essential volume for scholars, teachers, and librarians.–Mary Landrum, Lexington Public Library, KY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780810869592
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/3/2009
  • Pages: 210
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Binnie Tate Wilkin currently serves as a library services consultant and professional storyteller. A former public library specialist in children's services and library school lecturer, she is the author of Survival Themes in Fiction for Children and Young People, Second Edition (1993) and African American Librarians in the Far West (2006), both published by Scarecrow Press.
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