Mini-Reviews: Inspirational People You Need to Meet. Introduced to you by Tracy Baptiste and Shelby Criswell.

In a richly designed work with maps, portraits, and graphics throughout, the award-winning author of the Jumbies series shows readers this underrepresented side of Black history and Black excellence.

African Icons: Ten People Who Built a Continent


When American schoolchildren learn about Black History, they are typically taught American stories rooted in the struggle over enslavement and oppression. While these stories are essential, they acknowledge only part of a rich and thrilling history that goes back millennia across the vast African continent. In AFRICAN ICONS, Tracey Baptiste, the New York Times bestselling author of the Jumbies series, skillfully transforms how Black history is presented by spotlighting the incredible achievements of ten awe-inspiring African innovators, illustrated by stunning full-color portraits by artist Hillary Wilson (check out her Instagram!) along with maps, photographs, and other graphics. “AFRICAN ICONS is a lullaby to a continent,” Baptiste says. “It’s about the people whose histories have been left off the books or disregarded because they didn’t come from Europe, and about the land that changed under their feet.”

Inspiring and enriching, AFRICAN ICONS provides ten illuminating portraits of Black excellence from ancient times through the sixteenth century, reminding young scholars that Africa holds the longest and most lasting history in the world. By introducing these tremendous stories into current discussions of racial inequality and historical bias, Baptiste takes an important step toward filling a vast educational gap. Kirkus Reviews calls this book “empowering, necessary, and required reading for all. Game changing,” and we couldn’t agree more!18

My thoughts

I love this cover by Hillary D. Wilson. The strength oozing from the cover makes you want to pick it up and read about who is inside.

“The True Size of Africa” illustration shows the impact of their history on the world. It is amazing to me that a continent that is so large can be smothered by others who are much smaller. Tracy Baptiste tells us the history and some of the stories of early Africa and I find it fascinating. Matched with the illustrations by Wilson and the connection is complete.

Add in the human factor where readers can identify with personal stories and their impact on society and the world and you can’t put this book down. 

Do I have a favorite story? I really liked hearing about the early history. Then when we got to the personal stories, I have to confess that the women fascinated me and I read in awe of their journeys. I have trouble getting out of bed on some days, and what these women did in the timeframes that they lived in is just…no words. 

Every person should read this book. African Icons should be a staple in school reading lists and available to read in all libraries. If you haven’t read this book for yourself, then get it. If you have children, get it. You do not have to be non-white to enjoy the history and learn about the past. The past affects today, and these Icons can teach us as we strive to move forward.

I received a free copy of this book, and I am writing a review without prejudice and voluntarily.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

 “As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.” at no additional cost to you.

Queer As All Get Out : 10 People Who’ve Inspired Me by Shelby Criswell 

Follow the daily life of one queer artist from Texas as they introduce us to the lives of ten extraordinary people.

The author shares their life as a genderqueer person, living in the American South, revealing their own personal struggle for acceptance and how they were inspired by these historical LGBTQIA+ people to live their own truth. Featuring biographies of Mary Jones, We’wha, Magnus Hirschfeld, Dr. Pauli Murray, Wilmer “Little Axe” M. Broadnax, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Carlett Brown, Nancy Cardenas, Ifti Nasim, and Simon Nkoli.

My thoughts

Shelby Criswell introduces us to a mix of rainbow people through words and comic strip designs. 

At first I was getting thrown off by the layout so I went back and read through the comic strip portion, then I read through the straight text. I enjoyed the book when I read it this way versus trying to read the text and the comic portion together. It could have just been how it converted to my kindle, so I would just see what works for you.

I love meeting people I do not really know a lot of or even people I do not at all – especially if it has to do with history. Criswell makes these introductions in a fun and entertaining way. I learned some of our past and had a good time.

We get to meet: Nancy Cardenas, Ifti Nasim, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, We’Wha, Mary Jones, Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, Carlett Brown, Dr. Pauli Murray, Wilmer “Little Ax” Broadnax, and Simon Nkoli.

Criswell put a Further Reading list at the back which has made my #TBR list even longer – thank you!

I think this is a great book to share with your kids or to gift them with this holiday season.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I received a free copy of this book, and I am writing a review without prejudice and voluntarily.

 “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.” at no additional cost to you.

Meet the Authors:

Tracey Baptiste lived in Trinidad until she was fifteen; she grew up on jumbie stories and fairy tales. She is a New York Times bestselling author of Minecraft: The Crash, and a former teacher who works as a writer and editor. Visit her online at and on Twitter: @TraceyBaptiste.

Website * Instagram * Facebook * Twitter * Pinterest * TikTok * LinkedIn * Goodreads * Reviews

Shelby Criswell

Shelby Criswell is a queer comics creator living in San Antonio, TX. They studied studio arts at the Santa Fe Institute of Art and Design as well as illustration at Academy of Arts University. Shelby is an author of the TERMINAL PUNKS comic series and has also illustrated comics for THE NIB.

Website * Instagram * Facebook * Twitter * Pinterest * LinkedIn * Goodreads * Reviews

Further Details for African Icons:

Publisher:  Algonquin Young Readers, 9781616209001,  October 19, 2021

Narrator: Karne Chilton

Pages:  176

Reading level: 8-12 yrs old

Further Details for Queer As All Get Out:

Publisher: Street Noise Books, 9781951491079, 26 October 2021

Book Design: Liz Frances

Editor: Katie Fricas

Pages: 192

Reading age ‏ : ‎ 16 years and up


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