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Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History

Book review by
Carrie Kingsley, Common Sense Media
Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History Book Poster Image
Brief biographies of notable black men inspire, educate.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

History comes alive with these short, detailed biographies of notable black men with a wide variety of careers and accomplishments.

Positive Messages

Hard work and perseverance toward your goal can lead to success, even in the face of big obstacles, including systemic racism. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

All the men profiled are positive role models. Each biography shows a different path toward -- and definition of -- success in the legend’s chosen field. There's a profile of writer James Baldwin, who was gay.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Vashti Harrison’s Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History is an inspiring, informative collection of short biographies, paired with captivating illustrations by Kwesi Johnson. Covering fields as diverse as music, activism, poetry, sports, law, medicine, and more, each biography shows how the leader showed an interest in something at a young age, and with perseverance, left their mark on the world. Racism and slavery are mentioned with age-appropriate detail, ensuring that the reader understands the systemic problems each man faced. The legends Harrison writes about include a few famous black historical figures, such as Frederick Douglass and Thurgood Marshall, but has a much wider scope that includes lesser-known legends, such as Deputy Bass Reeves, cyclist Marshall “Major” Turner, choreographer Alvin Ailey, and more. Written with heart and filled with facts, Little Legends invites young readers to see how dreams can change the world.

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What's the story?

Centered on black Americans and including several global figures, LITTLE LEGENDS: EXCEPTIONAL MEN IN BLACK HISTORY brings to life true stories of black men in history. This collection of biographies has a few well-known historical and activist figures, but the variety of professions and contributions means that lesser-known artists, athletes, musicians, activists, doctors, lawyers, and others are in the spotlight. Each one-page biography follows the exceptional man’s interest from his early years, through the hard work it took to make his mark on history. On the opposite page is a warm, serene illustration of the man as a young boy. The back of the book has a “Draw Your Own Little Legend” tutorial with other topical resources.

Is it any good?

The gorgeous combination of inspiration, information, and illustrations makes this collection of biographies indispensable for readers young and old. Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History  weaves a story of hope, determination, and accomplishment across a wide variety of professions and interests; there’s something for everyone here. The detailed, inviting way author Vashti Harrison writes these biographies about little-known trailblazers reminds readers that this is just the tip of the iceberg, and entices them to learn more.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what qualities made each of the men in Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History stand out. What common theme in the biographies did you find most interesting?

  • Historian, writer, and activist Arturo Schomburg, who's profiled in Little Legends, started collecting stories of Africans around the world when his teacher told him that there were no black people in his history books because black people had no history. Do you think a variety of races and cultures are better represented in textbooks today?

  • What other books about notable black people have you read? Which contemporary black men do you admire?

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For kids who love biographies and African American stories

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