Go Forth and Tell: The Life of Augusta Baker, Librarian and Master Storyteller

Go Forth and Tell: The Life of Augusta Baker, Librarian and Master Storyteller
Co-Authors / Illustrators
Age Range
Release Date
February 06, 2024
Buy This Book
Before Augusta Braxton Baker became a storyteller, she was an excellent story listener. Her grandmother brought stories like Br’er Rabbit and Arthur and Excalibur to life, teaching young Augusta that when there’s a will, there’s always a way. When she grew up, Mrs. Baker began telling her own fantastical stories to children at the 135th Street branch of the New York Public Library in Harlem. But she noticed that there were hardly any books at the library featuring Black people in respectful, uplifting ways. Thus began her journey of championing books, writers, librarians, and teachers centering Black stories, educating and inspiring future acclaimed authors like Audre Lorde and James Baldwin along the way.

As Mrs. Baker herself put it: “Children of all ages want to hear stories. Select well, prepare well and then go forth and just tell.”

Editor review

1 review
Where there's a will, there's a way.
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Learning Value
Augusta Baker grew up in Baltimore listening to her grandmother's stories, which fed her imagination. She grew up to be the first Black person to earn a degree in library science from SUNY Albany, and went on to be a children's librarian in New York City. She realized that while many of her patrons were Black, there were few books that showed realistic depictions of what life was like for them. She made it her mission to find and tell stories that would appeal to young readers and would showcase more diversity. She published story books like The Talking Tree, as well as publications for professionals like Storytelling: Art and Technique. She was a storyteller in residence at the University of South Carolina until her death in 1998, and the university holds a yearly festival in her honor: A(ugusta) Baker's Dozen: A Celebration of Stories. Throughout her life, she held on to the belief that "when there's a will, there's a way".

Good Points
Harrison's illustrations evoke the folk art of Aminah Robinson or Faith Ringold, with rich, warm colors and a collage-like feel to the pictures. The changing styles of clothes during Baker's lifetime are well depicted, and the use of patterns and designs really make the drawings pop.

Young readers who are unaware of the lack of diversity in children's literature until the start of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement in 2014 will be surprised that there was a time when books didn't have characters of color in them, or had problematic characters. Showcasing this title along with books by prominent black authors like Floyd Cooper, Derrick Barnes, Vanessa Brantley-Newton and Patricia C. McKissack is a good way to show that some progress has been made since Baker's time.

The timeline, bibliography, and note from McDaniel about meeting her own school librarian after she had grown up add an extra depth to this biography. Now, I need to go find a video of Baker's appearance on Sesame Street!

Librarians and teachers like to think we make a difference in the lives of children, but those who actually do are few and far between. Augusta Baker's career deserves a place in the pantheon of other women from different walks of life who have made a noticeable impact in the reading experiences of children, as shown in books like Just Like Beverly: A Biography of Beverly Cleary by Conrad and David Hohn, The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown by Barnett, Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré by Denise and Escobar, and Jackie and the Books She Loved by Diamondstein and Langley.
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