Monday, February 27, 2017

Pathfinders: the Journeys of 16 Extraordinary Black Souls, by Tonya Bolden (ages 10-14)

In her outstanding new book Pathfinders, Tonya Bolden shares the remarkable stories of sixteen African Americans who pursued their dreams, excelling in careers ranging from entrepreneur to race car driver, bank founder to spy.
Pathfinders: the Journeys of 16 Extraordinary Black Souls
by Tonya Bolden
Abrams, 2017
preview on Google Books
Amazon / your local library
ages 10-14
*best new book*
This collection of short biographical sketches will inspire today's young people to go after their dreams. Bolden profiles a wide range of leaders from math and science, business, the arts and legal fields. With each profile, she helps readers understand both the achievements and the challenges:
"Over the centuries countless blacks in America have done amazing things against the odds. Had big, bold dreams, pursued passions. Caught up with their callings. Charted courses to success. Pathfinders."--preface to Pathfinders
Bolden's short biographical sketches are engaging and quick to read; timelines and background information help round out the overall picture. This would be terrific to read aloud at home or in class, highlighting different career paths these remarkable individuals pursued.
Jackie Ormes, cartoonist

These fascinating figures will light a fire in today's young readers, helping them think about what careers they might want to pursue. Some may love the artistic career of cartoonist Jackie Ormes, while others will be drawn to Paul R. Williams' journey to become the "Architect to the Stars" in Hollywood.

Other young readers may want to seek adventure like Eugene Bullard, who stowed away on a boat bound for Europe--anywhere new was good for him. He was resourceful and determined, eventually finding home in Paris. When World War I broke out, he joined the French army and fought courageously first in the infantry and then as a combat pilot.
Eugene Bullard, combat pilot in France during WWI
While the overall length might make some 5th graders reluctant to try this book, the short chapters and lively writing make this easy to dip into. As Kirkus Review states, "The colorful volume uses photographs, advertisements, fliers, theater posters, engravings, and cartoons to great effect, each well captioned and complemented by sidebars that add historical context."

As we celebrate Black History Month, it is important to honor many, many individuals who strove to reach their goals, who overcame the many obstacles that society threw their way. I want to make sure I'm giving my students a wide range of positive role models. This is truly an inspiring collection of real life stories.

The review copy came from my local library, using Hoopla Digital. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books


  1. I need this Pathfinders book... last month! It would have been great for our Black History Month projects. Adding it to my order list right this moment! Thanks!

  2. I'm also going to read it aloud during our celebration of College & Career Week and Women's History Month. It's outstanding!