Books by John Ward

MANIAC MONKEYS ON MAGNOLIA STREET by Angela Johnson
CHILDREN'S
Released: Dec. 1, 1998

This chapter book finds Charlene, or Charlie, getting accustomed to a move to Magnolia Street. She misses her friends and her old neighborhood, but despite the dire warnings of her brother Sid, who alludes to "maniac monkeys" that live in trees and have carried off all the kids, Charlie soon hooks up with Billy. The two have a string of low-key, childlike adventures. They camp out in the mysterious trees, attempting to capture the monkeys; instead, they frighten their parents with their absence and wake up covered with glued-on fake fur, courtesy of Sid. Writing for a younger audience than that for any of her previous novels, Johnson (The Other Side, p. 1460, etc.) works in a more prosaic style; it lacks her usual lyricism, but is breezy and light, affectionately conveying Charlie's penchant for landing in trouble. Her sunny outlook and the recurring emphasis on friendship may win fans. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction. 7-11) Read full book review >
THE BUS RIDE by William Miller
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 15, 1998

Miller (Richard Wright and the Library Card, 1997, etc.) reimagines the story of Rosa Parks's historic refusal to give up her bus seat as it might have happened to Sara, a young girl with an intuitive grasp of right and wrong. Parks has written the introduction to this story of Sara and her mother, who ride the bus every morning: Sara to school and her mother, whose stop is before Sara's, to her job cleaning homes. One morning, after her mother had left, Sara becomes curious about what is in the front of the bus, so she wanders forward and sits opposite the driver. He tells her to move back where she belongs. Sara demurs; her new seat will do. The driver slams on the breaks, opens the doors, and orders her off. Sara sits tight, only aware that there is a basic unfairness at work; it's her ingenuous way of making a stand. She is carried off the bus by the police and as she is being booked, the media gets in on the event. Next day, Sara's noble act is splashed across the headlines, which prompts a rider boycott and an overturning of the law. What makes this book so effective are two things: First, Miller keeps the story intimate, without portentous forebodings of history in the making; second, Ward's terrific realistic illustrations make the story utterly accessible. The approach is low-key, but readers will feel the winds of history rustle in these pages. (Picture book. 5-10) Read full book review >
KENTE COLORS by Debbi Chocolate
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 30, 1996

As Chocolate (My First Kwanzaa Book, 1992, not reviewed, etc.) states in her introduction, kente is a bright, colorful cloth made by the Ashante and the Ewe in Ghana and Togo. The text consists of short, loose rhymes—a line per page—describing the various colors of the cloth, and explaining some of their symbolic significance. The rich illustrations depict people wearing garments of different colors in a variety of contexts (work, wedding, etc.). These group portraits under generally African skies interpret the rhymes in a realistic and thoughtful way; simply composed tableaux convey a consistently strong sense of people and landscapes. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
THE FREEDOM RIDDLE by Angela Shelf Medearis
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

Medearis (Skin Deep, p. 860, etc.) offers an upbeat retelling of a story that first appeared in William J. Faulkner's The Days When the Animals Talked, about a slave who wins his freedom by offering his master a riddle he can't solve. The riddle is an elaborate one: The text follows Jim for a year as incidents from daily life give him ideas for clues. In the meantime, readers glean a picture of life on a plantation as Medearis peppers her sure- footed narrative with a variety of inventive phrases and images. The large, heavy oil paintings have a subdued palette, featuring mainly Jim and others on the plantation; the different postures in which the characters are depicted contribute to the expressiveness of the narration, as if they were actors in a theatrical piece. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
FIREFLIES FOR NATHAN by Shulamith Levey Oppenheim
ANIMALS
Released: Aug. 1, 1994

When six-year old Nathan goes to visit his grandparents in the country, he wants to know what his father was like as a six-year- old boy. Nana and Poppy tell him how his father loved collecting fireflies in the dark. Nathan wants to do that, too, so the three sit outside with a jar and wait for darkness to fall. Night comes slowly in the summer, but when it finally does, the air is filled with the tiny, flickering lights of the fireflies, and Nathan is able to gather them into the jar, just like his daddy did all those years ago. The illustrations, realistic yet richly colored and evocative of summer nights, add to the gentleness conveyed by the recounting of this small but meaningful incident. Also nice is that while Nathan and his grandparents are African-American, the text is universal. A lyrical story that captures the feeling of childhood summers. (Picture book. 4+) Read full book review >
THE CAR WASHING STREET by Denise Lewis Patrick
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 1993

On a summer day, Matthew enjoys a familiar happening: Though his family doesn't own a car, he and Daddy—on a tidy street of brownstones with generous stoops—watch their neighbors wash theirs. As the day heats up, Daddy talks of going in, but just then a dropped hose, wetting somebody's hat, starts a friendly water fight, with kids joining the grownups and a hydrant opened to make sure everyone gets really wet. A simple story, celebrating the joys of a special kind of good fun; Ward captures the good humor in admirable style, in open, realistic paintings that depict these African-Americans and their Latino neighbors as vibrant, friendly, and full of purpose. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >