Sunday, November 22, 2015

Book Review - The Book Itch


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

By: Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
Publisher: Carolrhoda Picture Books
Publication Date: November 2015
ISBN: 978-0761339434
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: November 19, 2015

Yet another sign was being fastened to the top of the doorway of the National Memorial African Bookstore. Louie looked up to his dad in more ways than one, not just as a man who stuck signs all over the front of their store. A lot of people hung out at 2107 Seventh Avenue, including "kids and grown-ups, black folks and white folks, writers and politicians." Oh, and lots of famous people too.

Louie's eyes were filled with awe and admiration as Mr. Ali nudged him on the chin. His dad, Lewis Michaux, Sr., was a man of many words. "Don't get took!" he shouted, "Read a book!" Lewis didn't have but five books when he started out, nor much money, but he "saved his pennies" and went from a pushcart to a bookstore. That banker didn't believe in Lewis, claiming that "Black people don't read," but they certainly did…and they bought lots of books!

Louie worked on arranging a display as customers, black ones, browsed the "zillion books in the store." Dad always had something to say about books and knowledge and questions and words. He was known as the "Professor," even though he hadn't gone to college. People kept coming to Lewis Michaux's "House of Common Sense and Proper Propaganda," but the sense seemed to be leaving the world. Mr. Malcolm X had something to say too, but all of a sudden disaster struck. Would Lewis be coming home? Would anyone hear the truth again?

This is a marvelously poignant book about Lewis Michaux, a black man who made a difference. Young children, who may know little about Lewis, a man who subtly influenced the course of history, will love this fictionalized tale. It's told from the vantage point of his son, Louie, a young man who learns the value of education and truth through books. The artwork is stunning, meshing perfectly with the tale. In the back of the book is a full page biographical sketch of Michaux, a couple of photographs, and a selected bibliography. The end pages are filled with Michaux's sayings and rhymes.

Quill says: A fictionalized portrait of Lewis Michaux that shouldn't be missed!