In the early 1920s, the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is the wealthiest Black community in the United States. But Tulsa is still a segregated city. "Black Wall Street" and white Tulsa are very much divided. Twelve-year-old Lena knows this, but she feels safe and sheltered from the racism in her successful, flourishing neighborhood. That all changes when Dick Rowland, a young Black man from Greenwood, is accused of assaulting a white woman. Racial tensions boil over. Mobs of white citizens attack Greenwood, terrorizing Black residents and businesses, and forcing many--including Lena and her family--to flee. Now Lena must help her family survive one of the worst incidents of racial violence in American history.
From Kirkus: "This well-plotted fictionalized account of the Tulsa Race Massacre geared at young readers is emotionally challenging but necessary. Smith’s narrative deftly captures a child’s emotional and psychological experience of the tragedy as well as the tenderness shared among Lena and her family members. Jenai’s black-and-white digital illustrations, which appear every few pages, depict only Black characters and help readers imagine the historical setting. The thoughtful, informative backmatter will help adults lead discussions with children. An unflinching account of the Tulsa Race Massacre seen through the eyes of a young Black girl." Click HERE for the full review.
Read Nikki's Blogpost about writing Lena and the Burning of Greenwood on Capstone's website: When the Past Meets the Present... While You're Writing
Excerpt: The story of the Tulsa Race Massacre was one I wasn’t sure I wanted to—or should—tell. We needed stories about Black joy. I didn’t know if I could tell this story the way it deserved to be told. What happened in Greenwood had been kept quiet for a variety of reasons, ranging from too-painful memories and a desire to move forward, to a concerted effort to sweep what happened under the carpet. But the story needed to be told.
I held onto the words of Tulsa Race Massacre survivor, Ernestine Alpha Gibbs: “Maybe if we talk about it enough, it’ll never be again.”
The Scientific Life of Azaleah Lane was included on the Boston Public Library's "Black is..." booklist for 2022.
The Amazing Life of Azaleah Lane was nominated for a 2020 Cybils Award!
The Amazing Life of Azaleah Lane and The Dramatic Life of Azaleah Lane are on the Chicago Public Library's Best K-3 Fiction Books of 2020!
Azaleah Lane is on The 2020 Ultimate List of Diverse Children's Books!
Kirkus says: " This inaugural book in the Azaleah Lane series is a fast-paced and fun read, and Azaleah is a sympathetic, likable narrator who, like readers, is learning new vocabulary all the time. She thinks aloud as she works to solve the mystery, occasionally (and realistically) losing patience with the sobbing Tiana. Lobo’s playful, full-color illustrations every few pages are just enough to give transitioning readers needed rests so they’ll keep going... The backmatter includes a glossary of vocabulary words, book-discussion and writing prompts, and instructions for making a diorama."
School Library Journal says, "Azaleah works well as an appealing character full of zeal and enthusiasm... A good choice for libraries that need more light, realistic mysteries for the early middle grade crowd."
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