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

by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson (Author) R Gregory Christie (Illustrator)

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem's Greatest Bookstore
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

In the 1930s, Lewis's dad, Lewis Michaux Sr., had an itch he needed to scratch--a book itch. How to scratch it? He started a bookstore in Harlem and named it the National Memorial African Bookstore.

And as far as Lewis Michaux Jr. could tell, his father's bookstore was one of a kind. People from all over came to visit the store, even famous people--Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, and Langston Hughes, to name a few. In his father's bookstore people bought and read books, and they also learned from each other. People swapped and traded ideas and talked about how things could change. They came together here all because of his father's book itch. Read the story of how Lewis Michaux Sr. and his bookstore fostered new ideas and helped people stand up for what they believed in.


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School Library Journal

Gr 1-4--Taking an imaginative leap into the past, Nelson describes the role of the National Memorial African Bookstore in Harlem, which opened in the 1930s and became a place where all kinds of people came to read, talk, and buy books about African American history. Told from the point of view of Lewis Michaux Jr.--the bookstore owner's son and the author's relative--this title clearly explains what made this bookstore unique. Lewis Michaux Sr. had a passion for sharing books with others, which was reflected in his words "Knowledge is power./You need it every hour./READ A BOOK!" He welcomed his customers and allowed them to stay as long as they wanted to and made a platform available outside the store so that people could speak their minds; among the speakers were Malcolm X and Michaux himself. Christie's bold, colorful paintings help readers envision this landmark bookstore and the surrounding neighborhood. Back matter includes additional information about Lewis Michaux Sr. and an author's note in which Nelson describes her interest in the subject, the sources she used for her research, and her use of perspective. Nelson and Christie's Coretta Scott King Honor No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller (Carolrhoda, 2012) is aimed at older readers; this picture book explores Michaux for a slightly younger audience. VERDICT A strong endorsement of the power of books and reading, an excellent choice for history and biography collections, and a strong choice for educators emphasizing the importance of community.--Myra Zarnowski, City University of New York

Copyright 2015 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

Nelson and Christie bring the story of Harlem's storied National Memorial African Bookstore to picture book readers in this companion to their 2012 YA collaboration, No Crystal Stair. The shop was opened in the 1930s by Nelson's great-uncle, Lewis Michaux, who "started out with five books... and a mission." Writing in the voice of Michaux's admiring son, Nelson illuminates Lewis's generosity (he invited those who couldn't afford books into his shop to read) and his fervent belief in the power of words and books to change lives. Michaux's love of words comes through in his catchy aphorisms and sales pitches ("Knowledge is power. You need it every hour. Read a book!"), which appear throughout, as well as his nickname for the shop, "The House of Common Sense and Home of Proper Propaganda." Christie's paintings powerfully contrast the idea of the bookstore as a refuge with the tensions of the day, particularly during a section of the book about Michaux's friendship with Malcolm X and his anguish following the activist's assassination. It's an emotive tribute to Michaux's personal and professional legacy. Ages 7-10. Author's agent: Tracey Adams, Adams Literary. (Nov.)

Copyright 2015 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"Nelson and Christie bring the story of Harlem's storied National Memorial African Bookstore to picture book readers in this companion to their 2012 YA collaboration, No Crystal Stair. The shop was opened in the 1930s by Nelson's great-uncle, Lewis Michaux, who 'started out with five books... and a mission.' Writing in the voice of Michaux's admiring son, Nelson illuminates Lewis's generosity (he invited those who couldn't afford books into his shop to read) and his fervent belief in the power of words and books to change lives. Michaux's love of words comes through in his catchy aphorisms and sales pitches ('Knowledge is power. You need it every hour. Read a book!'), which appear throughout, as well as his nickname for the shop, 'The House of Common Sense and Home of Proper Propaganda.' Christie's paintings powerfully contrast the idea of the bookstore as a refuge with the tensions of the day, particularly during a section of the book about Michaux's friendship with Malcolm X and his anguish following the activist's assassination. It's an emotive tribute to Michaux's personal and professional legacy."—Publishers Weekly

—Journal
Classification
Fiction
ISBN-13
9780761339434
Lexile Measure
630L
Guided Reading Level
N/A
Publisher
Carolrhoda Books (R)
Publication date
November 20, 2015
Series
Carolrhoda Picture Books
Coretta Scott King Award
Honor Book 2016 - 2016

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