28 Days: Moments in Black History That Changed the World

Book review by
Kyle Jackson, Common Sense Media
28 Days: Moments in Black History That Changed the World Book Poster Image
Uneven writing in kid-friendly intro to black history.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Each day presents a solid, concise profile of an essential and in some cases overlooked historical figure and event.

Positive Messages

The primary goal of 28 Days is to expose children to a world of African-American heroes and a history filled with struggle and triumph.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Towering figures such as Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, and Jesse Owens are presented alongside unsung but equally important trailblazers such as Robert Smalls, the first African-American captain of an American ship; Henry Johnson, World War I hero; and Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman pilot. All these incredible individuals overcame countless barriers, paving the way for future generations of African-Americans.

Violence & Scariness

Private Henry Johnson's harrowing tale of survival on the front lines of WWI contains a description of an intense battle, including men "hit with grenades, stabbed, and shot."

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that 28 Days: Moments in Black History That Changed the World, is a stylized, kid-friendly introduction to the people and events that have shaped African-American history. The brightly illustrated picture book uses quotes, poems, and brief synopses to present 28 pivotal episodes, one for each day of Black History Month.

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What's the story?

28 DAYS: MOMENTS IN BLACK HISTORY THAT CHANGED THE WORLD traces the arc of African-American history through 28 dates, one for each day in February, beginning with slave and patriot Crispus Attacks' martyrdom at the beginning of the American Revolution and ending with Barack Obama's inauguration in 2009. Along the way, kids are introduced to sports icons such as Jackie Robinson and Arthur Ashe, entrepreneurs such as Madam C.J. Walker and Oprah Winfrey, civil rights heroes Rosa Parks and Thurgood Marshall, and many other remarkable characters from the political, scientific, and entertainment worlds. Each day is celebrated with a slightly different tribute, from rhyming couplets to mnemonic devices to text pulled directly from court decisions, along with a brief summary by author Charles R. Smith Jr. and unique collage-and-oil illustrations by Shane W. Evans.

Is it any good?

Though it's great to see many obscure legends receiving their proper place in history, these profiles leave a bit to be desired. The summaries are mostly solid and hopefully will inspire further research, but there isn't really enough information to provide the context necessary to understand such a broad stretch of overlapping and intertwined histories. And even young readers will be left wondering why the rhyme and rhythm of the poetry are inconsistent and uneven. 

The bright illustrations help humanize the characters, but it's tough to look past the clunky writing, even if the point is shedding light on these often underrepresented pieces of the American puzzle.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the importance of Black History Month. Why do we take this time every year to pay tribute to the accomplishments of African-Americans?

  • How have sports and politics served as mirrors, reflecting the progress and struggles of the African-American experience?  

  • Which of the people in the book had you heard of, and which were new to you?

Book details

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