Books by James E. Ransome

LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS by Lesa Cline-Ransome
Released: Jan. 29, 2013

"A compelling story about those willing to risk "[a] lash for each letter." (author's note, further reading) (Picture book. 5-8)"
A slave mother and her daughter learn to read in spite of the great danger inherent in their enterprise. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 6, 2012

"Children in New York City who have seen the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree will enjoy the atmospheric story; others may be puzzled by all the geographical references. (author's note, illustrator's note) (Picture book. 4-8)"
A girl joins her tugboat-captain dad (along with her mom) on a family trip as they tow a barge with a gigantic Christmas tree and some immense ornaments into New York City for the holiday display at Rockefeller Center. Read full book review >
WORDS SET ME FREE by Lesa Cline-Ransome
Released: Jan. 3, 2012

"A solid effort that offers young readers a glimpse into the lives of children in the time of slavery and appreciate the development of a most notable life. (author's note, bibliography, timeline) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)"
For the enslaved child who grew up to be Frederick Douglass, learning to read led to freedom and a life of activism committed to abolition. Read full book review >
WHEN GRANDMAMA SINGS by Margaree King Mitchell
Released: Jan. 1, 2012

"A gentle story that shows the everyday realities of segregation through the observant eye of a child. (Picture book. 5-9)"
Belle joins her beloved grandmother, a jazz singer, on a summer tour of Southern towns and sees that segregation is everywhere—not just at home in Mississippi. Read full book review >
NEW RED BIKE! by James E. Ransome
FICTION
Released: March 1, 2011

A usually accomplished illustrator tries for extreme simplicity and takes a header with this confused and confusing episode. Read full book review >
BEFORE THERE WAS MOZART by Lesa Cline-Ransome
BIOGRAPHY
Released: Jan. 11, 2011

"That quibble notwithstanding, this is a story that needed to be told. (Picture book/biography. 5-9)"
In the spirit of their earlier collaboration (Young Pele: Soccer's First Star, 2007) the husband-and-wife team introduce readers to the life of a relative unknown: Joseph Boulogne, often known as "the Black Mozart." Read full book review >
GUNNER, FOOTBALL HERO by James E. Ransome
FICTION
Released: Aug. 15, 2010

"Nearly a touchdown; definitely a field goal. (Picture book. 4-7)"
Though his arm lands him a spot on the team as third-string quarterback, short, round Gunner seems to have been glued to the bench. Read full book review >
BABY BLESSINGS by Deloris Jordan
RELIGION
Released: Jan. 26, 2010

"An unsatisfactory execution for what was a lovely idea with an ideal author-and-artist pairing. (Picture book. 4-7)"
A baby is born and he will "always be loved with a love that knows no bounds." Read full book review >
WHAT LINCOLN SAID by Sarah L. Thomson
BIOGRAPHY
Released: Jan. 1, 2009

"A solid introduction, although source notes are lacking. (timeline, author's, illustrator's notes) (Picture book/biography. 6-9)"
As a young lad, Abraham Lincoln learned the importance of an honest wage, and his work ethic garnered results. Read full book review >
YOUNG PELÉ by Lesa Cline-Ransome
SPORTS
Released: Sept. 25, 2007

While eight-year-old Edson do Nascimento's classmates are learning the alphabet and math, he is dreaming about playing soccer. Read full book review >
SKY BOYS by Deborah Hopkinson
FICTION
Released: Feb. 28, 2006

"A beautiful work befitting its subject. (author's note, sources) (Picture book/nonfiction. 4-9)"
"A symbol of hope in the darkest of times," the Empire State Building was built in record time during the Great Depression. Read full book review >
THIS IS THE DREAM by Diane Z. Shore
POETRY
Released: Jan. 1, 2006

A soaring tribute to the accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement in earnest, if sometimes clumsy, verse and mixed-media collage. Read full book review >
IT IS THE WIND by Ferida Wolff
FICTION
Released: April 1, 2005

"A visual and onomatopoetic triumph. (Picture book. 2-6)"
Prose and pictures perfectly echo the sounds and sights of a summer night in the country. Read full book review >
MAJOR TAYLOR, CHAMPION CYCLIST by Lesa Cline-Ransome
BIOGRAPHY
Released: Jan. 1, 2004

"An author's note summarizes Taylor's life after 1901, discusses the racial climate of turn-of-the-20th-century cycling, and cites sources. (Picture book/biography. 6-10)"
Glorious, light-filled oils are not enough to save this lackluster picture book biography of "Major" Marshall Taylor, the first African-American world-champion cyclist. Read full book review >
BRUH RABBIT AND THE TAR BABY GIRL by Virginia Hamilton
FAIRY TALES, FOLKTALES AND MYTHS
Released: Oct. 1, 2003

"A note on the tale, and on Bruh Rabbit as a character, caps this handsome edition, seemingly destined to become the standard one in libraries. (Picture book/folk tale. 7-9)"
Hamilton posthumously revives this archetypal Brer Rabbit tale with a Gullah-inflected rendition, to which Ransome supplies Jerry Pinkney–influenced watercolor scenes of clothed, but naturalistically rendered animals. Read full book review >
FREEDOM ROADS by Joyce Hansen
HISTORY
Released: April 1, 2003

"An important addition to library collections and classroom units. (foreword, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)"
Silent stone faces on a tunnel wall in Syracuse. Read full book review >
VISITING DAY by Jacqueline Woodson
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: Oct. 1, 2002

"Overall, a sensitive approach to a difficult issue that will certainly provoke discussion. (author and illustrator notes) (Picture book. 5-8)"
A little girl and her grandmother wake early to prepare for the trip to visit the girl's father. Read full book review >
QUILT COUNTING by Lesa Cline-Ransome
FICTION
Released: Aug. 1, 2002

"Will wrap readers in its warmth. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-7)"
Cline-Ransome and Ransome (Quilt Alphabet, 2001) team up again and count a colorful homage to quilts and the memories they hold. Read full book review >
UNDER THE QUILT OF NIGHT by Deborah Hopkinson
FICTION
Released: Jan. 1, 2002

"An excellent introduction to the topic for a younger audience. (Picture book. 5-10)"
Hopkinson and Ransome team up once again with a stunning tale about one family's trip on the Underground Railroad. Read full book review >
QUILT ALPHABET by Lesa Cline-Ransome
ABC BOOKS
Released: Sept. 15, 2001

"Nonetheless, the graphic appeal is so strong that youngsters in groups or on their own should be drawn to the pictures and to guessing the names of the objects. (Picture book. 3-6)"
Rich illustrations and a rhyming text create a puzzle for each letter of the alphabet, inviting a young reader to guess what word the letter might represent. Read full book review >
PEEPERS by Eve Bunting
FICTION
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

"1119, etc.) cuts his palette loose to let autumn sing. (Picture book. 6-9)"
Two sons of a leaf-peeper tour-bus operator can't get enough of mocking their father's clients as they ooh and aah over autumn's glory in the northern New England countryside. Read full book review >
HOW ANIMALS SAVED THE PEOPLE by J.J. Reneaux
ANIMALS
Released: Feb. 28, 2001

"Every single page is a joy to read. (glossary, sources, bibliography of stories and recordings) (Folktales. 5-10)"
These tasty tales have Aesopean flavor with Southern spiciness. Read full book review >
QUINNIE BLUE by Dinah Johnson
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: May 1, 2000

"The rhythm of the text, along with the details and celebratory mood of the illustrations, makes this an excellent choice for family sharing. (Picture book. 5-9)"
Johnson (Sunday Week, 1999, etc.) and Ransome (The Secret of the Stones, 2000, etc.) create an affirming story of an African-American family. Read full book review >
THE JUKEBOX MAN by Jacqueline K. Ogburn
Released: May 1, 1998

"A sweet story, and obviously a personal one, this may not interest children reading alone; it may be best suited to sharing, with an adult to explain everything from old 45s to 20õ slices of pie. (Picture book. 5-8)"
An adult look back at a childhood experience, in a volume that may be too blindly nostalgic to have relevance for children. Read full book review >
RUM-A-TUM-TUM by Angela Shelf Medearis
FICTION
Released: April 15, 1997

"Exhilarating. (Picture book. 5-9)"
As captivated by African-American street calls as Alan Schroeder was in Carolina Shout! (1995), Medearis (Haunts, 1996, etc.) offers readers an eye-filling, ear-filling tour of Market Street in New Orleans. Read full book review >
THE WAGON by Tony Johnston
FICTION
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

"Ransome's paintings give life to the characters and bring out the luster of the surroundings; the story is ardent and somber, a piercing lament. (Picture book. 5-10)"
 Johnston (The Ghost of Nicholas Greebe, p. 824, etc.) portrays the evils of slavery through the sufferings of a boy born a slave because his skin is the color of ``smooth, dark wood.'' The boy grows up under ``the whish of the lash''—he cried at the near- fatal beating of an old man and was himself whipped, and then ``striped good'' for a desperate act of vandalism. Read full book review >
DARK DAY, LIGHT NIGHT by Jan Carr
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: April 1, 1996

"The tenderly expressive portraits show African-Americans in slightly old-fashioned surroundings; each frame fits snugly with the text, and the rhythm and the resonance between them is flawless. (Picture book. 4-8)"
 An exceptionally warm vignette. 'Manda needs cheering up; her Aunt Ruby makes her come up with a list of the things she likes, and then brings out her own list, which includes everything from changes in weather, to music, to 'Manda herself. Read full book review >
FREEDOM'S FRUIT by William H. Hooks
FANTASY
Released: Dec. 1, 1995

"Thoughtful readers will see the connection. (Picture book. 9-13)"
 Hooks (Where's Lulu?, 1991, etc.) offers another conjure tale set in the days of slavery. Read full book review >
CELIE AND THE HARVEST FIDDLER by Vanessa Flournoy
FICTION
Released: Sept. 1, 1995

"They conjure an atmosphere that is as much a part of the holiday today as it was in the 1800s. (Picture book. 6-9)"
 Orange, coal, and autumnal gold paintings complement this tale set on All Hallows' Eve in the rural South of 1870. Read full book review >
MY BEST SHOES by Marilee Robin Burton
FICTION
Released: May 1, 1994

"Just the thing to instigate dramatic play. (Picture book. 4-7)"
 For each day of the week, a different child describes the shoes he or she wears (tie or tap, old or new): ``On Saturday I wore sun shoes/Just for fun shoes/Tiptoe in the sand shoes....'' But Sunday's shoes are the best: ``...no shoes/Naked feet and toe shoes/Barefoot all day long shoes/Sing a summer song shoes....'' Ransome matches the effervescent verse with light, bright paintings of kids cheerfully engaged in imaginative activities. Read full book review >
THE CREATION by James Weldon Johnson
NONFICTION
Released: April 15, 1994

"It's a measure of the poem's quality that it inspires such a rich variety of responses. (Poetry/Picture book. 4+)"
 In the spirit of Johnson's poetic voice, which Ransome describes as ``influenced by the...imagery of nineteenth-century African-American plantation preachers,'' the romantic, sun- dappled paintings here are more literal than Carla Golembe's striking, boldly stylized art for her edition (1993) of this splendid verse retelling by the well-loved poet. Read full book review >
THE HUMMINGBIRD GARDEN by Christine Widman
ANIMALS
Released: Aug. 31, 1993

"A slight, somewhat implausible idyll. (Picture book. 4-8)"
 As twilight falls, the ``hummingbird lady'' calls the hummingbirds to sip nectar in her garden before they fly to their nests at dusk. Read full book review >
UNCLE JED'S BARBER SHOP by Margaree King Mitchell
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: Aug. 10, 1993

"A fine, unusually engaging debut for Mitchell, celebrating the courage and humanity of men who could survive hard times and injustice without rancor. (Picture book. 4-8)"
 Great-uncle Jed, Sarah Jean's ``favorite relative,'' travels from house to house as ``the only black barber in the county.'' When he comes to cut her daddy's hair, he explains that he's saving for a shop. Read full book review >
SWEET CLARA AND THE FREEDOM QUILT by Deborah Hopkinson
FICTION
Released: Feb. 1, 1993

"A well-told, handsomely illustrated story that effectively dramatizes young Clara's perseverance and courage. (Young Reader/Picture book. 5- 10)"
 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. Read full book review >
RED DANCING SHOES by Denise Lewis Patrick
FICTION
Released: Jan. 8, 1993

"A likable vignette. (Picture book. 3-7)"
 A child is so delighted with her new shoes that she dances around the neighborhood showing them off until she trips and gets them muddy, a calamity easily remedied with polish—a simple incident that makes a good showcase for a warmhearted African- American family depicted living in a comfortable suburb. Read full book review >
ALL THE LIGHTS IN THE NIGHT by Arthur A. Levine
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: Oct. 21, 1991

"Ransome's full-page oils in wintry tones are bold and stark; their somber tone is appropriate, but a bit more vitality and sensitivity in the portrayal of the boys would have made their experience more immediate to young readers. (Picture book. 5-10)"
 Levine's first book is based on his own grandfather's journey, in 1914, from a shtetl near Minsk to Palestine. Read full book review >
HOW MANY STARS IN THE SKY? by Lenny Hort
FICTION
Released: April 29, 1991

"The warmth between father and son (especially in Ransome's sturdy, expansive double-spread paintings) is fine, but their itinerary on the nightlong quest verges on the preposterous. (Picture book. 4-8)"
 A rather earnest story about a child who can't sleep and tries to count the stars. Read full book review >