ARCs Book Reviews

ARC Review: The ABCs of Black History by Rio Cortez, Illustrated by Lauren Semmer

Thank you to Workman Publishing Company and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! The ABCs of Black History goes on sale December 8, 2020.

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Children’s Nonfiction, Picture Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUTBrimming with passion, beauty, flow, and style, here is an ABC book like no other—a celebration of Black history and culture in lively verse, matched with illustrations that are each like a folk painting.

Written by the poet Rio Cortez and illustrated by Lauren Semmer, the book teaches the ABCs in a far more interesting and meaningful way than the usual “A is for apple, B is for ball.” Letters represent history— G is for the Great Migration. Culture—K for Kwanzaa. People and places—H is for Harlem and Zora Neale Hurston. And big ideas—like B for beautiful, bold, brave, brotherhood.

R is for rise, to reach for the top. Relentlessly striving, refusing to stop Like ballplayers, boxers, and gymnasts who fly. Like presidents and justices who dared to ask why?

In addition to the rhyming text, the book includes back matter with a timeline plus more information on the events, places, and people mentioned in the poem, from Mae Jemison to W. E. B. DuBois, Fannie Lou Hamer to Sam Cooke, the Little Rock Nine, and DJ Kool Herc.


My ReviewThe ABCs of Black History is a fantastic celebration of black history and black culture. The past and present are interwoven, illuminated by beautifully colorful full page spreads and rhyming couplets.

What’s great about this book is the wealth of information. There are simple but detailed allusions to notable black figures from all walks of life and their historical impact and contributions. Although a children’s nonfiction, the book honestly highlights the good, bad and ugly moments throughout history, such as slavery, integrating schools, sports, music, civil rights and more.

The ABC’s of Black History sets itself apart from other “ABC” picture books by applying more than one word to letters. My favorites were about black diaspora and the Harlem Renaissance. But notably, I loved the illustration showing a line of people – past to present – marching and holding signs – also past and present. It was a powerful illustration.

The story is very clear and accessible, an ideal teaching tool for readers of all ages. Not only does it tell a story but, expanding on earlier statements, provides lists of resources for readers to learn more in-depth historical black moments. There is also a helpful glossary that breaks down terms used throughout the story.

After reading The ABCs of Black History, I feel more connected to this shared history, renewed awe by such strong and creative people, and inspired evermore to dream big.

One reply on “ARC Review: The ABCs of Black History by Rio Cortez, Illustrated by Lauren Semmer”

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