Spotlight on a Diverse Book: Strange Fruit by Joel Christian Gill

Hi All!  I just found this book, entirely by accident, on Goodreads and I thought it might be an interesting read.  I was wrong.  It was a great read!  Even though I a little late to this party (the book was released 2014) I just had share this book.  Plus, there are less than 400 reviews on Goodreads and I’m hoping to add a couple more.

Strange Fruit: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History by Joel Christian Gill

What’s About: Gill uses comics to retell incredible stories of African Americans in history.  The reason the book is so good is that it tells the story of men who start as average but are able to accomplish great things even while having to go against prejudice, slavery, and the Jim Crow laws.  Some of the highlights are: Theophilus Thompson-a free slaved who becomes a great chess master, Marshal “Major” Taylor-a young African American man who went against the Jim Crow laws to become a famous cyclist and Bass Reeves-a former slave who ran away from his masters and became one of the fiercest federal marshals in the Old West.

The Good: Gill is able to shine a light on several forgotten historical African Americans.  The stories are quick reads that feature well crafted illustrations that match their narrations.   Also, there is the added bonus of the story will appeal to middle school and high school readers without being overwhelming.  The stories are interesting and may encourage young readers to delve farther into the stories of some of these famous men.  Plus, the author’s bio in the back of the book may be one of my favorites of all time.

The Bad: The stories are short.  Each story feels complete however it feels like there is a lot of story that goes untold.  I’m not sure if it would be possible for the author to include more story in the graphic novel format but I would have definitely been willing to read more.

Bottomline: This is a quick graphic novel filled with great illustrations that are able to inform the reader about forgotten times and people in African American culture.

Final Rating: 4 out of 5

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