May 2012 Issue
April 18, 2012

Check it out: With the Might of Angels

Author: Andrea Davis Pinkney
Source: NYSUT United
With the Might of Angels — The Diary of Dawnie Rae Johnson bookcover

With the Might of Angels
The Diary of Dawnie Rae Johnson

With the Might of Angels — The Diary of Dawnie Rae Johnson

Recommended by: Rose Reissman, literacy specialist, United Federation of Teachers member

Suitable for: Grades 5 and up

Why I chose it: This compelling historical novel focuses on the real-life consequences of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education desegregation decision. Entries in Dawnie Johnson's diary are springboards for further study of racial identity, acceptable racial interaction at that time and political issues. The work is well-researched with period photos.

What I like best: The book offers multiple responses to educational integration. The story uses positive cultural background material about the African-American and Jewish cultures' shared "outsidership" during the 1950s integration. The book connects adolescents to the universal challenges of feeling isolated within their communities.

How teachers can use this book: It is a natural for middle and high school students studying the relevant desegregation time period. It is a great way to integrate diary and journal writing for ELA teachers. Students can use Dawnie's open and frank struggles with identity, friendship, affirmation, academic capacities and appearance to share their own emotional and volatile self concerns. Pinkney also includes short biographies of the real people mentioned in the diary.

About the author: Andrea Davis Pinkney is an award-winning author of books for children and young adults.

"Check it Out" features books recommended to teachers and parents by school librarians. Have a recommendation? School librarians may send suggestions, along with your name and local union, to