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A Valentine’s Day gift to ambitious youngsters.

A look at the woman who revolutionized Valentine’s Day.

Churnin has covered famous subjects, as in Martin & Anne (2019), and more obscure ones, such as Eliza Davis in Dear Mr. Dickens (2021); here she focuses on one of America’s first professional women. Inspired after her father brought her a valentine from England, Esther Howland (1828-1904) created handmade cards with personalized notes. She had the smarts to brand her cards, develop an assembly line, and build her cottage industry into a successful business—one that gave women the opportunity to work outside the home. When the Civil War started, Howland assumed that few would be interested in her cards, but her business thrived as women sent messages to loved ones on the front lines. Churnin notes that after a fall, Howland used a wheelchair for the rest of her life. On every page, readers will find a roses-are-red-type rhyme inscribed inside a basic heart; some verses are as feeble or stretched as their 19th-century counterparts could be, but they are a unifying conceit. Simplified pastel costumes convey a sense of 19th-century dress; women of color are portrayed sitting alongside white women making cards, and Black soldiers are depicted in Union blue. The printing press illustrated here belongs to a much earlier time. Howland’s business acumen, creative artistry, and persistence are good reasons to celebrate her, though her actual, elaborate cards, some in museum collections, far surpass the plain depictions shown here.

A Valentine’s Day gift to ambitious youngsters. (author’s note; writing encouragement) (Picture-book biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9780807567111

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023

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From the Holidays Around the World series

A good-enough introduction to a contested festivity but one that’s not in step with the community it’s for.

An overview of the modern African-American holiday.

This book arrives at a time when black people in the United States have had intraracial—some serious, some snarky—conversations about Kwanzaa’s relevance nowadays, from its patchwork inspiration that flattens the cultural diversity of the African continent to a single festive story to, relatedly, the earnest blacker-than-thou pretentiousness surrounding it. Both the author and consultant Keith A. Mayes take great pains—and in painfully simplistic language—to provide a context that attempts to refute the internal arguments as much as it informs its intended audience. In fact, Mayes says in the endnotes that young people are Kwanzaa’s “largest audience and most important constituents” and further extends an invitation to all races and ages to join the winter celebration. However, his “young people represent the future” counterpoint—and the book itself—really responds to an echo of an argument, as black communities have moved the conversation out to listen to African communities who critique the holiday’s loose “African-ness” and deep American-ness and moved on to commemorate holidays that have a more historical base in black people’s experiences in the United States, such as Juneteenth. In this context, the explications of Kwanzaa’s principles and symbols and the smattering of accompanying activities feel out of touch.

A good-enough introduction to a contested festivity but one that’s not in step with the community it’s for. (resources, bibliography, glossary, afterword) (Nonfiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4263-2849-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2017

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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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