Books by Deborah Hopkinson

HOW I BECAME A SPY by Deborah Hopkinson
Released: Feb. 12, 2019

"Lighthearted cleverness invites readers to play along. (footnotes, historical notes, Q-and-A) (Historical fiction. 9-12)"
A World War II caper features three 13-year-olds learning ciphers amid the bombs. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 2019

"An important and inspiring tale well told. (author's note, illustrator's note, resources, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)"
This biography of the "father of Black History," Dr. Carter G. Woodson, highlights experiences that shaped his passion. Read full book review >
UNDER THE BODHI TREE by Deborah Hopkinson
Released: Sept. 1, 2018

"Light, graceful, and accessible in both words and pictures. (Informational picture book. 5-10)"
The life of Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who became the Buddha, is told in this picture book. Read full book review >
D-DAY by Deborah Hopkinson
Released: Aug. 28, 2018

"An attractively packaged, engrossing history that will appeal to readers fascinated with military strategy. (maps, timeline, glossary, websites, bibliography, source notes) (Nonfiction. 10-14)"
Hopkinson relates events of the World War II invasion now known as D-Day, arguably the largest and most complex military operation in history. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 23, 2018

"A perfectly pitched celebration of an esteemed author that may nevertheless struggle somewhat to find an audience. (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)"
A simple introduction to Jane Austen's life and work. Read full book review >
Released: May 9, 2017

"One part fiction, one part history lesson, this likable story is an amusing introduction to one slice of early American life. (author's note, recipe) (Picture book. 4-8)"
The true history of Amelia Simmons, the author of America's first cookbook, has been lost. Enter this whimsical, fictionalized account of what could've been, delectable cakes included! Read full book review >
A LETTER TO MY TEACHER by Deborah Hopkinson
Released: April 4, 2017

"A valuable lesson in empathy, internalized and paid forward. (Picture book. 4-8)"
The titular letter reveals how a second-grade teacher effected positive changes in the life of a behaviorally challenged child. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 27, 2016

"Fascinating World War II history for history buffs and browsers alike. (epilogue, bibliography, source notes) (Nonfiction. 8-14)"
Hopkinson's writing plumbs the depths in relating the undersea exploits of American submariners during World War II. Read full book review >
STEAMBOAT SCHOOL by Deborah Hopkinson
Released: June 7, 2016

"An unforgettable story that needs to be known. (Picture book. 5-8)"
A passion for education and freedom brings subversive ingenuity to life in 1847 St. Louis. Read full book review >
A BANDIT'S TALE by Deborah Hopkinson
Released: April 5, 2016

"Even though—in the book's one predictable touch—Rocco gives up being a liar and a criminal, he's reliably entertaining till the end of the story. (map, historical notes, bibliography, pickpocket's glossary) (Historical fiction. 8-12)"
Italian immigrant and new New Yorker Rocco Zaccaro is not an unreliable narrator. Read full book review >
Released: April 5, 2016

"An appealing model of preteen activism. (authors' notes, further info, resources). (Informational picture book. 5-9)"
A "lights out for loggerheads" campaign becomes a satisfying community-action project for Vivienne and her summer school classmates. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"The use of invented dialogue makes this problematic as straight biography, but it is nevertheless a charming, delightful homage. (author's note, photographs, notes) (Picture book. 4-9)"
Beatrix Potter was an artist and writer whose tales of the small animals she loved have entertained generations of children; here, Hopkinson and Voake offer a story of her childhood. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 25, 2015

"An informative, often gripping chronicle of daring, heroic acts of young men and women who did not stand by as their country was occupied by a dangerous enemy. (photos, maps, chronology, bibliography, source notes, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)"
Patriotic men and women fight against German occupiers in this absorbing chronicle of the World War II resistance movement in Denmark. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 8, 2013

"A solid, somber dramatization of a real-life medical mystery. (epilogue, author's note, timeline, bibliography, acknowledgments) (Historical fiction. 9-12)"
A scrawny 12-year-old orphan named Eel changes history when he helps famous epidemiologist Dr. John Snow identify the source of a cholera outbreak in the streets of 1854 London. Read full book review >
KNIT YOUR BIT by Deborah Hopkinson
Released: Feb. 21, 2013

"A fine entry in commemoration of the upcoming centennial of World War I. (author's note, Web resources.) (Picture book. 4-8)"
Even boys can knit, when it's for their fathers fighting overseas. Read full book review >
ANNIE AND HELEN by Deborah Hopkinson
Released: Sept. 11, 2012

"The story of this remarkable pair does not grow old, and here is a charming way to learn it for the first time. (author's note; list of acknowledgments, print and online sources) (Picture book biography. 5-10)"
A clear, simple narrative retells a powerful story of determination and triumph for a team of two: Anne Sullivan and her famous student, Helen Keller. Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2012

"A thorough and absorbing recreation of the ill-fated voyage. (Nonfiction. 8-16)"
In what's sure to be a definitive work commemorating the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, Hopkinson offers a well-researched and fascinating account of the disaster. Read full book review >
A BOY CALLED DICKENS by Deborah Hopkinson
Released: Jan. 10, 2012

"This thoughtful and entertaining portrait offers a model for reading critically that will bear fruit as readers grow. (author's note) (Picture book. 5-9)"
Metafictive techniques and atmospheric graphite, ink and acrylic compositions effectively pull readers into the life and soul of 12-year-old Charles Dickens. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 2, 2010

While his anniversary year is over as of Feb. 12, 2010, Charles Darwin remains an intriguing figure, as evidenced by this imaginative tale told from his daughter's point of view. Hopkinson conjures a lovely summer day and a lively narrator in Henrietta, known as Etty. Stuck inside helping in the kitchen, Etty longs to be outdoors with her ever-inquisitive father. She labors dutifully but is thrilled to be summoned outside, where she joins her father and siblings as they observe the habits of the "humblebees" (aka bumblebees). Using a drift of flour to mark them, each child follows a bee from flower to flower to calculate how many visits it makes per minute. While the author's note acknowledges that her story is fiction, her scientific method is sound and the activity is clearly in keeping with Darwin's wide-ranging interests and methodical approach. Corace's lovely, stylized images feature thin, precise lines filled with browns, greens and ochres, effectively evoking a long-ago time. A charming introduction to a well-known figure and his large but less-familiar family. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
STAGECOACH SAL by Deborah Hopkinson
Released: Sept. 1, 2009

Sally, so small her feet don't reach the floorboards of her Pa's stagecoach, loves to ride and sing (and she can shoot, too). When an encounter with a hornet's nest leaves only Sal to drive the mail, she sets off with no fear of Poetic Pete, the polite, versifying robber. When she encounters him, she invites him to ride shotgun with her and keeps him from speaking at all by singing "Sweet Betsy from Pike" and "Polly Wolly Doodle," then neatly cuffs him after he falls asleep. Both the text and the typefaces are as bouncy and lively as the songs and the story, skittering up, down and around the pages. Ellis's art places primitive-looking figures and landscape on white backgrounds so they float in space, as do pigtails, hats, luggage, feet—nothing is ever firmly planted. The images thus echo the rollicking text, which begs to be read aloud. Based on the real Delia Haskett Rawson, the first and possibly only woman to carry the U.S. mail by stagecoach in California, the story has a wonderful energy and verve. (author's note) (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 2009

Interspersing her narrative with verses from "Home on the Range," "Sweet Betsy from Pike," "The Old Chisholm Trail" and like cowboy chestnuts, Hopkinson retraces the early career of the greatest collector and recorder of American folk songs ever. Taking minor liberties with the historical record (and compensating with a detailed afterword), she follows him from rural Texan childhood to the halls of Harvard, and then back out onto the trail, where, with a notebook and a primitive "Ediphone," he gathered verses and performances from anyone who would sing for him. In Schindler's atmospheric illustrations a dapper young man mingles comfortably with brushy-mustached, Stetson-topped cowpokes—and sits in one scene with a colorfully clad fortuneteller—in settings that are mostly wide, outdoorsy spreads of western prairie. Capped with a fuller picture of the work of Lomax and his son Alan, as well as enticing source notes, this account can't help but broaden the insight of little dogies everywhere into the histories and meaning of these enduringly popular songs. (Picture book/biography. 7-9)Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 2009

"Matt was born in 1866, just after the Civil War, at a time when poor black boys like him had few chances to roam the next county, to say nothing of another country, the seven seas, or the top of the world." Nevertheless, he went on to do all of those things, first serving on a China trader and later joining Robert E. Peary in the Arctic explorations that culminated in their reaching the North Pole. Timed to the 100th anniversary of the achievement, this brief biography hits hard on the strengths Henson brought to the partnership—his facility with the Inuit language, his ability to fix nearly anything, his rapport with the sled dogs—presenting readers with a portrait of a singularly determined yet ever-affable man. While Hopkinson's text, which is complemented by excerpts from Henson's memoir, cannot compare in poetic power to Carole Boston Weatherford's I, Matthew Henson, illustrated by Eric Velasquez (2008), its straightforward account has its own appeal. Alcorn's hand-tinted prints feature stylized swirls of waves and snow in monumental tableaux. Handsome. (author's note, timeline, resources) (Picture book/biography. 5-10)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 9, 2008

Abe Lincoln's childhood friend Austin Gollaher changed the course of history when he rescued the future president from a swollen Kentucky creek in 1816. That true story is the jumping-off point for this lively exploration of the more slippery aspects of history writing: "For that's the thing about history—if you weren't there, you can't know for sure," says the folksy first-person narrator. To that end, Hopkinson and Hendrix, in wonderful watercolor and pen-and-ink illustrations, explore alternate versions of what might have happened that fateful day. Abe was walking across a tree bridge… but, no! Wouldn't he have crawled? The author-as-narrator imagines the reader's responses ("What's that you're saying?"), describes the story-in-progress ("Wait, I'm trying to remember what happens next") and invokes the illustrator, too ("John, could you please stop painting that noisy water?"). While all the sound effects and story interruptions, especially mid-stream, might be effective in a read-aloud session, they could otherwise become frustrating. It may not keep kids out of creeks, but this plucky Kentucky romp may well spawn a future historian or two. (author's note) (Informational picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
SWEET LAND OF LIBERTY by Deborah Hopkinson
Released: March 1, 2007

Hopkinson shines the spotlight on Oscar Chapman, assistant secretary of the interior, who worked behind the scenes to make Marian Anderson's concert at the Lincoln Memorial a reality. Hopkinson begins her tale with an anecdote from Chapman's youth in rural Virginia: Asked by his teacher to buy a picture to decorate the school, he chooses a picture of Abraham Lincoln and is expelled by the bigoted school board. The narrative fast-forwards to 1939, giving the background behind the Daughters of the American Revolution's refusal to let Anderson sing at Constitution Hall and revealing the tremendous organizing effort Chapman undertook not only to make the concert happen, but to make it a turning point in American history. Jenkins's mixed-media illustrations are freighted with emotion, unnatural colors and skewed angles underlining the tumult of feelings surrounding the events, scribbles of colored chalk making the connection between Chapman the impassioned schoolboy and Chapman the righteous man. An author's note provides details, although the presumably invented dialogue goes unsourced. Still, it brings deserved attention to Chapman and underscores the very worthwhile message that one does not need to be a star to make a difference. (Picture book/nonfiction. 6-10)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 12, 2006

Running away from the county poor farm in Texas, 11-year-old Nicholas Dray arrives in San Francisco penniless. He convinces Mr. Pat Patterson, a stationer on Jackson Street, to hire him. Nick watches the shop while Pat goes out of town, only to be separated from his new employer when the earthquake hits. Nick manages to save valuables from the store and help save his neighbor Annie Sheridan and her pregnant mother, leading them to safety in Golden Gate Park. In the process, Nick discovers that "the true heart of a city is its people." Characterization and action are strong in this memorable tale of a city and a boy who finds his place in the world. An author's note provides statistics about the havoc wrought by the quake and includes a few titles for readers wanting to learn more. Based on eyewitness accounts, the tale brings to life an event young readers will find fascinating. (Historical fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2006

"The voices of children weave through the story of cotton," and the story of cotton weaves through the story of our nation. Drawing on oral histories from the Federal Writers project of the 1930s and the oral-history interviews with Lowell mill workers in the 1970s and 1980s, Hopkinson makes history come alive through the voices of the people. Real people's stories are woven into a rich narrative of the history: clothmaking, the cotton gin, slavery, the Great Migration, the Great Depression and the continuing problem of child labor around the world. This volume, like the author's Shutting Out the Sky (2003), is a model of superb nonfiction writing and how to use primary sources to create engaging narratives. The prose is clear, the documentation excellent and well-selected photographs support the text beautifully. What might have been a dry topic is lively, the voices of the children vivid and personal. (Nonfiction. 9+)Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 28, 2006

"A symbol of hope in the darkest of times," the Empire State Building was built in record time during the Great Depression. In their latest collaboration, Hopkinson and Ransome beautifully depict its construction in one year and 45 days, as seen through the watchful eyes of a young boy. The free-verse narrative and dynamic oil paintings are a superb one-two punch, nicely complemented by endpapers celebrating the photographs of Lewis Hine, who documented the construction of the Empire State Building from 1930 to 1931. Poetic lines are packed with information, and the palette ranges from blue-sky days to rich nighttime hues to beautiful bursts of oranges, yellows and blues. As in Mordicai Gerstein's The Man Who Walked Between the Towers (2003), perspectives range from ground-level views to soaring vistas to dizzying looks down to earth from above. A beautiful work befitting its subject. (author's note, sources) (Picture book/nonfiction. 4-9)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2005

Johnny loves his Uncle Silas, his mule Nell and the cows he herds back and forth each day. But he does not love being a slave. And when Uncle Silas plants the idea of service in the Union army in Johnny's brain, it's pretty easy for him to join up with Company C as it marches through the Hogatt farm. Adding to the Ready-to-Read early reading series, Hopkinson brings her research and storytelling talents to another little-known chapter in U.S. history for children. Floca's simple, flat watercolors match the straightforward prose, and the blue-washed night scenes match the tension as Johnny performs an act of heroism to save the company. Though the acceptance the white soldiers show to their new recruit seems unreal, a helpful author's note documents the kindness of these particular Union soldiers. Young Civil War buffs will welcome something they can read themselves. (Nonfiction. 5-8)Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2005

Hopkinson, with her remarkable talent for bringing small incidents of history to life, tells a touching tale of generosity in the midst of the poverty of the Great Depression. Davey and Little Rose can remember when things were better, when Dad worked regularly, they drank lemonade with ice delivered by the iceman, wore new clothes and ate meat. Now times are hard for them . . . and just about everyone they know. When news circulates that Miss Elsie is about to lose her beloved strawberry farm to the bank, shopkeeper Mr. Russell comes up with the idea of a penny auction, where everyone in the bidding group agrees to keep the prices low. The children get in on the plan by secretly showing all their friends a new penny and the adults get the picture right away. When it comes down to the auction, the plan works like a charm. The pictures have some of the quality of the familiar photographs of the time, but the almost garish colors seem out of context for this inspiring Depression-era story. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
BILLY AND THE REBEL by Deborah Hopkinson
Released: March 1, 2005

In this upper-level Easy Reader, a young Confederate deserter repays with a courageous act the Gettysburg family that shelters him. As the great battle rages nearby, Billy and his mother huddle anxiously in their farmhouse—joined in the night by a trembling young soldier who begs asylum. Dressed in new clothes and warned not to speak lest his accent give him away, the fugitive silently helps when marauding soldiers demand food, then as the defeated southern army retreats, rescues Billy, who recklessly antagonizes a passing horseman. Floca depicts the young folk and the farm, but not the battle itself, in sketchy watercolors; Hopkinson follows up with a note explaining that the episode is based on a true story. The theme of friendship across lines of antagonism will kindle deep responses in more than just students of the Civil War. (map) (Easy reader. 7-9)Read full book review >
APPLES TO OREGON by Deborah Hopkinson
Released: Sept. 1, 2004

The subtitle ("Being the [Slightly] True Narrative of How a Brave Pioneer Father Brought Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Grapes, and Cherries [and Children] Across the Plains") sets the tone and describes the plot, but the flavor is in the folksy telling of this clever tall tale that humorously portrays a family's trek west from Iowa to Oregon to plant their father's fruit trees. His oldest daughter, Delicious, regales readers with her accounts of the many hazards and risks the family faces (eight children and mama) as they rescue Daddy's darlings, the young trees, from drowning in a river crossing, being pounded by hailstones, withering by drought, and then freezing by Jack Frost. Carpenter's illustrations paint hilarious touches, such as the scene where they use their clothing to protect the plants from hail, including Daddy's underwear. Endpaper maps trace their journey and the author's note states that the story is loosely based on a real pioneer, Henderson Luelling. The pun-filled text and puckish pictures by the team that created Fannie in the Kitchen (2001) spin a pip of a yarn that is just downright delicious. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
THE KLONDIKE KID by Deborah Hopkinson
Released: July 1, 2004

After stowing away on a ship to Alaska, 11-year-old Davey faces the challenges of living in Alaska, searching for his only relative, and climbing the treacherous and dangerous Chilkoot Trail. His friend, Erik Larsen, agrees to take Davey on as an assistant and together they prepare for the long journey into Alaska. The road is rough, but the promise of gold lures many, and Larsen wants to be there to document the Gold Rush. But nothing can prepare Davey and Larsen for the dangers of the road, and when Larsen takes ill, Davey comes near to quitting. Only his stubbornness and the help of a former adversary can save our young hero. With cliffhanger chapter endings, can't-miss drama and a captivating setting, Hopkinson brings her considerable storytelling and research skills to readers who are just beginning to read longer books. (author's note, Web sites) (Fiction. 6-9)Read full book review >
A PACKET OF SEEDS by Deborah Hopkinson
Released: April 1, 2004

Hopkinson and Andersen team up again in this understated, quiet story of pioneers, the prairie, and the healing power of gardening. Pa feels that "folks around here are getting close as kernels on a cob" and Momma has no choice but to go west with him. Annie and her little brother Jim watch Momma tearfully say goodbye to her sister and friends and set out to their plot of land. Though Pa builds a rough but cozy cabin, it is not enough to turn away the sounds of coyotes and the cold of the winter nights. When Momma delivers her second daughter, she is unable to raise herself from her bed. It is Anna, armed with an ax and a fierce desire to build a kitchen garden, who finally gives Momma a reason to shake out of her sadness. Andersen's gouache and oil illustrations tell the story in rose sunsets, lavender mountains, and a prairie that nearly engulfs the little wagon as it makes its way west. Three hopeful bluebirds dot the spring sky as the little family joins together to face their new life. Lovely. (author's note) (Fiction. 5-12)Read full book review >
THE KLONDIKE KID by Deborah Hopkinson
Released: March 1, 2004

Hopkinson brings her sharp research and thoughtful storytelling to the story of the Klondike Gold Rush in the first of a planned series about Davey in Alaska. Eleven-year-old orphan David Hill lives with Mrs. Tinker in her Seattle boardinghouse, where he pays his way doing chores, finding boarders, and watching the ships sail in and out of Puget Sound. He has a secret dream, one that he can share with only Cook. He wishes to find his uncle Walt, who now lives in Alaska. He sends a letter to him, but never hears anything. He waits at the docks for boats from Alaska, and he scans the crowd for his uncle's face. When he meets a photographer bound for the Klondike, Davey hatches a daring plan to stowaway on the ship, the Al-ki. The cliffhanger chapter endings, frequent realistic pencil sketches, and generous font that are the trademark of the Ready-for-Chapters series, along with Hopkinson's eye for compelling historical details, make this particularly fine fare for beginning readers. (Fiction. 6-9)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2003

Between 1880 and 1919, 23 million people came to America, most through the port of New York and most from eastern and southern Europe. Five young individuals and their experiences represent those masses in this well-conceived volume. Hopkinson covers the journey, Ellis Island, tenements, street life, work, reform movements, and education, always rooted in the actual stories and words of individual immigrants. Archival photographs—including many by Lewis Hine and Jacob Riis, excerpts from autobiographies and oral histories, and meticulous documentation, with a section on resources for young readers, make this an excellent model of historical writing. Hopkinson's enthusiasm for research, primary sources, and individual stories that make history come alive is evident throughout this excellent work. Nonfiction at its best and a good companion to Mary Jane Auch's Ashes of Roses (2002), Johanna Hurwitz's Dear Emma (2002), and other recent works on the subject. (foreword, afterword, timeline, notes, photo credits, index) (Nonfiction. 9+)Read full book review >
GIRL WONDER by Deborah Hopkinson
Released: March 1, 2003

A winning author-illustrator team hits a home run with this top-notch tale about Alta Weiss, who played semi-pro baseball in early 1900s. Hopkinson (Our Kansas Home, Feb. 2003, etc.) takes facts from an adult nonfiction book, Women at Play, by Barbara Gregorich, and fictionalizes them just enough to craft a compelling story. With a hint of tall-tale exaggeration, Weiss's conversational first-person voice draws images from country life and slang from baseball. "I could read his line of thinking, clear as a catcher's signs," Alta observes about her new coach. Widener's (The Twins and the Bird of Darkness, 2002, etc.) rounded, oversized figures have a legendary quality that perfectly suits the language and setting, and accurately reflect Weiss's change of uniform from a dress in her first year to bloomers later on. In the elegant design, generous white space frames the acrylic paintings, which vary in perspective and size from humorous close-ups to a team line-up on the endpapers. Baseballs with inning numbers unobtrusively divide the story into nine parts. As a fitting end to a remarkable story, Weiss is shown following in her father's footsteps to become a doctor, the only female in her class of 1914. A pleasure to look at and read aloud, this concludes with a timeline about women in baseball and, on the back cover, a wonderful black-and-white photograph of Alta Weiss preparing to pitch. (Picture book. 4-9)Read full book review >
OUR KANSAS HOME by Deborah Hopkinson
Released: Feb. 1, 2003

Hopkinson completes her Prairie Skies trilogy with another satisfying episode in Charlie Keller's new life in Bleeding Kansas. Charlie is growing up and his circumstances have forced him to be a responsible, self-reliant member of his family and community. Charlie and his Papa are in Lawrence for supplies when Missouri vigilantes interrupt their shopping expedition and burn down the Free State Hotel in retaliation for an earlier altercation with Mr. Keller and friends. Papa decides to lay low for a while and sends Charlie home. On the way, Charlie finds a runaway slave, Lizzie, and takes her home. The Underground Railroad is also laying low and Lizzie, unable to continue her journey to Canada, needs a safe place to stay. Dramatic cliffhanging chapters, brisk action, and exciting historical situations mesh together into a memorable, exciting tale. Readers of the earlier entries in the series (Pioneer Summer, p. 570; Cabin in the Snow, p. 1133) will enjoy following Charlie's growth into a mature, reliable young man. Those new to the series will have no trouble following the clearly written story line. Hopkinson introduces her young audience to John Brown, Sheriff Samuel Jones, and Charles Robinson with this seamless, exciting story made up of fascinating bits of history. A winner. (recipe, author's note, Web sites) (Fiction. 7-10)Read full book review >
CABIN IN THE SNOW by Deborah Hopkinson
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

The Keller family, a free-soil Kansas family recently transplanted from Massachusetts, faces the struggle of their first winter in Hopkinson's second installment in the Prairie Skies trilogy that began with Pioneer Summer (p. 570). Mr. Keller and his son Charlie leave for a supply trip to Lawrence that ends up being anything but routine. They hear of the murder of a free-soil man and, on their trip home, end up in the middle of an argument between the 15 pro-slavery men and some free-soil farmers. Fearing that the town of Lawrence might be at risk, Mr. Keller agrees to join the men. Nine-year-old Charlie is left with the responsibility of driving the oxen team home and becoming the man of the family in his father's absence. With his mother about to give birth, his sisters to care for, and the worries about dwindling food supplies in the winter ahead, Charlie's plate is full. There is no time for his characteristic daydreaming and birdwatching. When Charlie runs into Mr. Morgan and his daughter Flory again, the Keller family is torn. On one hand, the Morgans are in need of a safe place to stay and the children remember them fondly from their time together on the steamboat. On the other hand, the Morgans, with their pro-slavery ideas, stand for everything the Kellers are opposed to. When Mama gives birth early, the Kellers have little choice but to trust and accept help from Flory and her father. The family must rely on each other, and the help of others, to make it through a terrible blizzard without Papa. Once again, Hopkinson tells a good story, steeped in rich history and research, and leaves her young readers satisfied, yet ready to know more, promised in the forthcoming Our Kansas Home. (author's note, recipe, song lyrics) (Fiction. 6-10)Read full book review >
UNDER THE QUILT OF NIGHT by Deborah Hopkinson
Released: Jan. 1, 2002

Hopkinson and Ransome team up once again with a stunning tale about one family's trip on the Underground Railroad. More accessible to younger readers and listeners, it is a perfect companion to their Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt (1993). Rhythmic prose, combined with Ransome's realistic oil paintings, follows the family of five as they escape slavery. Short, staccato phrases punctuate the running scenes and calmer, languid prose accompanies the family as they rest during the day. The story moves breathlessly as the family flees, with the slave catchers close behind. The title page shows the urgent racing feet with just the shadows of human forms reflected by the moon, embracing the family in "the quilt of night." The young daughter watches for a safe house and is rewarded with the signal: a quilt hanging on the fence of a farmhouse. But, instead of the traditional red square in the heart of the log cabin pattern, this quilt has a blue center, signaling a safe house. The daughter knocks on the door and answers with the password phrase, "The friend of a friend." The family spends a night, then hides in a wagon, and is nearly captured. Ransome's evocative paintings gradually lighten as the runaways run from the blue-black darkness of the midnight escape to the glorious red-orange morning sky of promised freedom in Canada. The blue doors and windows of the church on the final page echo the blue of the quilt at the safe house, and even the geese in flight celebrate freedom. Hopkinson captures the fear of the escaping slaves, but tempers their fear with the bravery and hope that spurred them on. An author's note gives further information about the Underground Railroad. An excellent introduction to the topic for a younger audience. (Picture book. 5-10)Read full book review >
FANNIE IN THE KITCHEN by Deborah Hopkinson
Released: May 1, 2001

Hopkinson (Band of Angels, 1998, etc.) documents domestic history in the making, using real people and fleshing out a true, little-known episode. Young Marcia Shaw, considering herself quite competent at household tasks, is considerably annoyed when her expectant mother announces the arrival of a mother's helper named Fannie Farmer. Not only can Miss Farmer really cook, however, she turns out to be a patient teacher, guiding Marcia past one culinary disaster after another by writing down step-by-step directions, and in the process inventing the modern recipe. For the pictures, Carpenter has transferred, colored, and seamlessly added details to actual 19th-century illustrations, sometimes to hilarious effect: in one scene, for instance, after Marcia is sent to the kitchen to order more biscuits, her supposedly prim and proper mother can be seen through the doorway enthusiastically licking her plate. The tale is presented in episodic "Courses," framed quotes from Miss Farmer's now-famous cookbook hang on the wall in many scenes, and an afterword (plus a recipe) follows the triumphant conclusion, in which Marcia proudly navigates a recipe to make an enormous Golden Cake all on her own. Delicious! (Picture book. 7-10)Read full book review >
PIONEER SUMMER by Deborah Hopkinson
Released: May 1, 2001

Hopkinson (Bluebird Summer, 2001, etc.) tells the engaging saga of a pioneer family's move to Kansas in her first foray into Ready-for-Chapters reading. Charlie and Ida Jane are moving from Massachusetts, where their parents and other abolitionists are trying to tip the balance against slavery in the region. Mr. Keller's reassuring voice tells his children (and the child reader) about the Missouri Compromise and the Kansas-Nebraska Act without burdening them with excessive historical details. Charlie, a quiet, thoughtful boy, who loves to collect items from the natural world, is not a stereotype, nor is he a 21st-century transplant. Ida Jane is not a quiet, long-suffering daughter who dutifully cooks and quilts in the background. The children wrestle with their parents' abolitionist philosophies as they wrangle with their little sister Sadie, who is quite a handful. Hopkinson's gift is her ability to weave little details into a story: Charlie's old dog Danny and grandfather are both too old for the trip; a minor character explains riverboat life; Mr. Keller has a brush with cholera; the job of building a house and putting in crops is much more challenging than the children would ever have thought; and the ever-present big sky draws them together and keeps them connected. While most young children have been introduced to the facts of the Civil War, slave life, and the Underground Railroad, many are unaware of the enormous changes that were taking place in the Midwest at the time. This superb story will whet their appetites for future news of the Keller family as they find their place in "Bleeding Kansas." (author's note) (Fiction. 6-10)Read full book review >
BLUEBIRD SUMMER by Deborah Hopkinson
Released: April 30, 2001

Ecology, change, love, and loss are all part of this affecting picture book by the author of Maria's Comet (1999). Mags and her little brother Cody spend summers with their Grandpa on his farm, although most of it has been sold off since Grandma died. The children notice right away that the bluebirds don't come anymore, and Cody wonders if they only liked Grandma. But the children find out that bluebirds need places to nest and were attracted by what she grew in her garden, so they set out to put it all to rights: Mags plants and weeds, and Cody researches bluebirds in secret and makes his own special contribution. How hard Grandpa and the children miss Grandma suffuses the text, and when Grandpa comes around to help make sure the bluebirds will return, the moment is very full indeed. The gouache and oil paintings hold just the right tone of bright summer memory: the text pages are strewn with stray flowers and images that reflect the full-page picture they face. Small touches abound, like grandpa's shirt reflecting the blue of the birds, or a decorated initial twined with a flower that begins with that letter. Grandma and grandpa are not wizened and gray but appear to be in their 50s, making grandma's loss more poignant and Grandpa's activity rational. An author's note on bluebirds and their habitats concludes the book. (Picture book. 6-9)Read full book review >
MARIA'S COMET by Deborah Hopkinson
Released: Sept. 1, 1999

From Hopkinson (Birdie's Lighthouse, 1997, etc.) comes another strong, simply told story, based loosely on the life of 19th- century astronomer Maria Mitchell, about a girl with a particular kind of wanderlust. Maria narrates as she helps her mother with her eight siblings, tends to the fire, mends clothing, tells stories. Her heart, however, is on the roof with Papa, as he sweeps the sky with his telescope. When brother Andrew runs away to sea, Maria asks to take his place at her father's side. Hopkinson includes deft references to Galileo and Copernicus, and to the planets, comets, and constellations known at the time, in language that is occasionally poetic. The loose brushwork of the acrylic paintings creates a lovely contrast between the bright heavenly bodies and the deep blue sky. The stylized domestic scenes echo the flat planes of early American portraits as they play against the wide sweep of night. Pair this with Don Brown's Rare Treasure (p. 1223), about Mary Anning and her fossils. (Picture book/biography. 5-10) Read full book review >
BIRDIE'S LIGHTHOUSE by Deborah Hopkinson
Released: May 1, 1997

Root's evocative watercolor and pen-and-ink drawings in deep sea blues and greens are perfectly allied with Hopkinson's stirring tale, set off the coast of Maine in 1855, of a girl's life as a lightkeeper. Bertha Holland, known as Birdie, starts a diary when she's ten that takes readers through the year her father leaves sailing to become keeper of a lighthouse. Her brother, Nate, becomes a fisherman, but Birdie loves the look of the sea from the tower and the work of caring for the lamps, filling them with oil, and making sure they burn through the night to guide sailors to safety. When her father takes ill, she keeps the lamps working throughout a fierce storm, and finds that she has guided to harbor Nate's fishing boat. Period details and a spirited heroine with a clear voice make this book a genuine delight. Hopkinson notes that although Birdie is a fictional character, she was inspired by several real lighthouse keepers, among them Grace Darling of England and Abigail Burgess Grant of Maine. (Picture book. 5-9) Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 1993

When Sweet Clara, not yet 12, is taken from her mother and sent from North Farm to Home Plantation as a field hand, she's put in the care of ``Aunt Rachel,'' not ``my for-real blood aunt, but she did her best.'' Fearing for Clara's health, Rachel teaches her to sew and is lucky enough to get her a place in the Big House, where Clara listens, learns, and saves scraps that she eventually pieces into a map-quilt showing the way to the Ohio and freedom. The troubles Clara escapes are so muted here that her accomplishment seems almost too easy; in a straightforward narrative flavored with dialect, she mentions that recaptured slaves might be beaten and describes her grief at leaving her mother, but Ransome's moving depiction of the hug when the two are reunited on the way north is a more poignant clue to the pain of their separation. What's emphasized are Clara's resolve and creativity and the accomplishment of winning her freedom; in the same vein, Ransome depicts the characters as sturdy, purposeful, and mutually supportive and sets them in colorful landscapes eloquently proclaiming the earth's beauty. A well-told, handsomely illustrated story that effectively dramatizes young Clara's perseverance and courage. (Young Reader/Picture book. 5- 10) Read full book review >