Remembering Toni Morrison: Books for Young Readers

The news of Toni Morrison's passing on August 5 was met with tributes and gratitude for a life well lived. While she is best known as the author of such novels as The Bluest Eye and Beloved, Morrison also wrote several books for children. It is not yet too early to introduce the children in your life to the work of this incomparable writer.

The news of Toni Morrison's passing on August 5 was met with tributes and gratitude for a life well lived, for words that forever changed lives. While she is best known as the author of such Nobel and Pulitzer prize winning novels as The Bluest Eye and Beloved, Morrison also wrote several books for children, many of them in collaboration with her son Slade Morrison. It is not yet too early to introduce the children in your life to the work of this incomparable writer.

A young girl named Louise sets out for a walk on a rainy, gray day. Where will she go? To a place where she is "never alone, a shelter from any storm:" the library! In rhyming text ideal for young readers, Morrison demonstrates the power of books to help us "dream, discover, think, and explore." In a 2018 letter written in support of the Queens Public Library, Morrison recounted how working in her hometown library as a teenager "opened [her] eyes and shaped [her] future," even if she was fired for reading the books she was supposed to be shelving. "Libraries" she wrote, "connect people to resources that are life-changing."

 
Morrison's own grandchildren inspired the rollicking good fun in Peeny Butter Fudge. While Mommy may write out a detailed schedule and leave it on the refrigerator door, Nana has other ideas. There are naps to take, books to read, and games to play. Soon enough, it's almost time for Mommy to come home, but Nana and the kids have other ideas: Peeny Butter Fudge! Mommy comes home to a messy kitchen, but the smell of the fudge takes her right back to when she learned to make it with her mother. A recipe for Peeny Butter Fudge is included in the book.
 
 
Born in 1931 in Lorain, Ohio, Morrison did not experience de jure segregation until she moved to Washington D.C. to attend Howard University. Yet she knew the Jim Crow South: from stories told by her parents, and from her travels with a student group in 1953, one year before the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Brown v. Board of Education. In her only nonfiction title for young readers, Remember: The Journey to School Integration, Morrison celebrates "the power and justice of that decision." Using archival photographs, Morrison tells the story of the struggle toward school integration. What were the people in those famous photographs thinking and feeling? Morrison imagines their words, and helps us remember, because while remembering can be "painful, even frightening," "it can also swell [our] hearts and open [our] minds."
 

More Children's Books by Toni Morrison

See below for more books by Morrison, Including several reinterpretations of Aesop's Fables written with her son Slade. The endings of these new fables are deliberately ambigous, providing good fodder for rich conversations with older children, even up to middle school. As in her works for adults, Morrison provides no easy answers, but instead writes less to give the reader space.

 

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