Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Friday, August 26, 2022

Choosing Brave


Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement
by Angela Joy
illustrated by Janelle Washington
Roaring Brook Press, 2022
Grades 3 and up

This powerful picture book biography highlights the life of Mamie Till-Mobley and her role in the civil rights movement after the death of her son, Emmett. Don't be fooled by the length or picture book format of this book. The book does not shy away from the horrific murder of Emmett Till and the racism of the Jim Crow era.

On the first page, Emmett's body has been discovered in a river Mississippi, and Mamie requests he be sent home. As the narrative shifts back to Mamie's childhood, education and marriage to Louis Till, readers learn about the source of Mamie's strength and love for her son. Joy's writing is lyrical and poetic as she paints a vivid portrait of a strong mother who "did the braver thing" and opened her son's casket for the world to see what happened to her son. 

Washington's cut paper illustrations and use of negative space are captivating. The black, tan and light blue backgrounds contrasted against the intricate cut paper images set a serious and historic tone. After attending the murder trial where the accused were found not guilty of Emmett's murder, Mamie became active with the NAACP and traveled the country sharing her story.

Extensive back matter includes an author's note, illustrator's note, sources, list of songs from the soundtrack, glossary, and timeline. Sample artwork from the book can be viewed on Janelle Washington's site.

Younger readers (ages 8-10) would benefit from reading this book with an adult, which may lead to powerful and important conversations. Highly recommended for public libraries, school libraries and middle school social studies classrooms.

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