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Readers will be inspired by one man’s guiding ethic: forward ever, backward never.

This solid, though somewhat didactic, biography rescues an influential civil rights activist from relative obscurity.

Growing up in the Jim Crow South, Alton Yates witnessed the indignities suffered by Black war veterans due to racism. Still, young Alton longed to join the Air Force and advance his education, so he enlisted in 1955. At Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, he met Paul Stapp, a White lieutenant colonel known as the “Fastest Human on Earth” because of record-breaking speed tests he’d endured. Dr. Stapp was conducting pioneering studies examining human tolerance to extreme acceleration and deceleration and was recruiting research volunteers. Alton stepped up immediately. For four years, he submitted himself to physically punishing experiments, risking his life in the name of scientific progress, until his father’s illness drew him away from military service. Upon returning home to Jacksonville, Florida, Alton, emboldened by the respect and dignity he had been afforded at Holloman, committed himself to the battle for racial justice. The story relates his involvement in Jacksonville’s NAACP Youth Council and the dangers he encountered while participating in civil rights protests en route to its soberly triumphal ending summarizing Yates’ legacy. The digitally rendered illustrations are historically accurate but somewhat unoriginal and depict White characters and Black characters of various skin tones. The backmatter, including the author’s photograph with Alton Yates, is informative. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Readers will be inspired by one man’s guiding ethic: forward ever, backward never. (timeline, author's note, illustrator's note, selected sources) (Picture book biography. 6-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-7365-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses.

An NBA star pays tribute to the influence of his grandfather.

In the same vein as his Long Shot (2009), illustrated by Frank Morrison, this latest from Paul prioritizes values and character: “My granddad Papa Chilly had dreams that came true,” he writes, “so maybe if I listen and watch him, / mine will too.” So it is that the wide-eyed Black child in the simply drawn illustrations rises early to get to the playground hoops before anyone else, watches his elder working hard and respecting others, hears him cheering along with the rest of the family from the stands during games, and recalls in a prose afterword that his grandfather wasn’t one to lecture but taught by example. Paul mentions in both the text and the backmatter that Papa Chilly was the first African American to own a service station in North Carolina (his presumed dream) but not that he was killed in a robbery, which has the effect of keeping the overall tone positive and the instructional content one-dimensional. Figures in the pictures are mostly dark-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-81003-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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From the Ordinary People Change the World series

Blandly laudatory.

The iconic animator introduces young readers to each “happy place” in his life.

The tally begins with his childhood home in Marceline, Missouri, and climaxes with Disneyland (carefully designed to be “the happiest place on Earth”), but the account really centers on finding his true happy place, not on a map but in drawing. In sketching out his early flubs and later rocket to the top, the fictive narrator gives Ub Iwerks and other Disney studio workers a nod (leaving his labor disputes with them unmentioned) and squeezes in quick references to his animated films, from Steamboat Willie to Winnie the Pooh (sans Fantasia and Song of the South). Eliopoulos incorporates stills from the films into his cartoon illustrations and, characteristically for this series, depicts Disney as a caricature, trademark mustache in place on outsized head even in childhood years and child sized even as an adult. Human figures default to white, with occasional people of color in crowd scenes and (ahistorically) in the animation studio. One unidentified animator builds up the role-modeling with an observation that Walt and Mickey were really the same (“Both fearless; both resourceful”). An assertion toward the end—“So when do you stop being a child? When you stop dreaming”—muddles the overall follow-your-bliss message. A timeline to the EPCOT Center’s 1982 opening offers photos of the man with select associates, rodent and otherwise. An additional series entry, I Am Marie Curie, publishes simultaneously, featuring a gowned, toddler-sized version of the groundbreaking physicist accepting her two Nobel prizes.

Blandly laudatory. (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2875-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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