Books by Shane W. Evans

Released: Jan. 14, 2020

"This beautiful celebration of the importance of family will also spur young readers to reflect on history. (Picture book. 4-8)"
An African American grandfather and grandson take a time-traveling journey through U.S. history in this mystical and heartwarming picture book. Read full book review >
HOSEA PLAYS ON by Kathleen M. Blasi
Released: Jan. 7, 2020

"Both a heartfelt eulogy and a musical inspiration for a whole new generation of young readers. (Picture book. 3-8)"
A fictional tribute to a local musician whose dedication to music has a long-lasting effect on his community. Read full book review >
HANDS UP! by Breanna J. McDaniel
Released: Jan. 22, 2019

"A warm and necessary message of empowerment for black children, helping them see that raising their hands is a celebration of their humanity. (Picture book. 4-8)"
This picture book offers a different take on a black body raising "hands up." Read full book review >
THE BANANA-LEAF BALL by Katie Smith Milway
Released: April 4, 2017

"This outside-looking-in depiction of the power of play to bridge new relationships in Burundi serves as a universal lesson that all readers can draw on. (Picture book. 7-11)"
In this heartwarming tale, readers take a trip to the refugee camps of Tanzania to see how play can transform fear, conflict, and distrust into empathy, tolerance, and teamwork. Read full book review >
MIXED ME! by Taye Diggs
Released: Oct. 6, 2015

"If all kids had the confidence about who they are that Mike has, what a wonderful world this would be. (Picture book. 3-8)"
Some kids call him "Mixed-up Mike," but the protagonist makes clear that he isn't mixed-up at all—just mixed. Read full book review >
Released: July 14, 2015

"A much-needed picture book that will enlighten a new generation about battles won and a timely call to uphold these victories in the present. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-8)"
In a book commemorating the Voting Rights Act of 1965, readers are introduced to 100-year-old black Alabaman Lillian, who recalls her long-delayed journey to exercise her American right to vote 50 years ago. Read full book review >
28 DAYS by Charles R. Smith Jr.
Released: Jan. 13, 2015

"A stellar achievement for the whole year—not just its shortest month. (author's note, bibliography) (Informational picture book/poetry. 4-10)"
Three pivotal Supreme Court cases, one amendment, and 25 great men and women make for memorable entries. Read full book review >
THE RED PENCIL by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Released: Sept. 16, 2014

"A soulful story that captures the magic of possibility, even in difficult times. (author's note, illustrator's note, glossary) (Verse fiction. 8-12)"
A 12-year-old Sudanese girl struggles for survival after a janjaweed attack on her town forces her family to seek safety in an overcrowded refugee camp. Read full book review >
Released: March 7, 2013

"Figurative and grounded—a nicely sophisticated exploration. (Picture book. 4-8)"
In a free-wheeling style and going far beyond the usual pairings of colors with moods, Jamie describes his day's emotional path. Read full book review >
WE MARCH by Shane W.  Evans
Released: Jan. 17, 2012

"Share with readers of all ages as a beautiful message about peaceful protest and purposeful action. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-8)"
An African-American family awakens before dawn to prepare for the historic March on Washington in August, 1963. Read full book review >
CHOCOLATE ME! by Taye Diggs
Released: Sept. 27, 2011

"Self-worth is always worth bolstering, but the positive message here is clouded by muddled subtexts and visual cues. (Picture book. 6-8)"
Dark-skinned children are more likely to be confused than comforted by this unvarnished esteem-builder. Read full book review >
UNDERGROUND by Shane W.  Evans
Released: Jan. 18, 2011

Powerfully expressive imagery will sweep young viewers into this suspenseful journey along the Underground Railroad. Accompanied by a commentary of, usually, just two or three words per spread, the scenes track a small group of escapees stealing through darkness beneath a thin crescent moon. They are seen running, crawling, resting tensely, taking brief shelter with "new friends," then wearily keeping on until sunrise at last brings them to their goal: "I am free. He is free. She is free. We are free." Underscoring the sense of fear and urgency with broad, slanted strokes of thinly applied paint, Evans limns his hunched, indistinct figures in dark lines and adds weight with scribbled fill and jagged bits of paper or cloth. His palette of midnight-dark blue lit only by the occasional yellow torch- or lantern light and white stars draws attention to the whites of the frightened escapees' eyes and makes sunlit Freedom all the more precious when attained. Lengthier accounts of travel on the Underground Railroad abound, but few if any portray the experience with such compelling immediacy. (afterword) (Picture book. 5-9)Read full book review >
BLACK JACK by Charles R. Smith Jr.
Released: July 1, 2010

Through poetry, quotations and some prose, the life of one of boxing's most important stars is celebrated, from his youth as the victim of bullies to the 1908 championship bout against a white fighter that made him a legend. Readers get to know Jack Johnson, a man who never gave in to stereotypes and demanded to be treated equally, not as a second-class citizen. Though the author's note continues the story in greater detail, the seamier side of Johnson's life is left unreported, aside from his jail time for dating a white woman. Sometimes faltering rhythms and almost-rhymes make this a challenge to read aloud without plenty of practice. Evans's dynamic art is at its best here: Johnson comes off big and powerful and strong, with his monumental body extending into many text areas. The title pages and final spread show Johnson, backlit by a powerful sun, the perfect visual metaphor for the hope he gave to black Americans of his time. (author's note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-10)Read full book review >
MY BROTHER CHARLIE by Holly Robinson Peete
Released: March 1, 2010

Mother and daughter co-authors write about the experience of having an autistic child in the family. Callie, Charlie's twin sister, talks directly to readers, telling them how she and her brother are alike and about the fundamental differences that led her mother to seek medical advice for Charlie. Callie very plainly talks about the joys and frustrations of having Charlie for a brother and emotionally reveals the many ways Charlie has of showing his family the "I love yous" that his autism tries to lock inside. Most evident is the pride Callie has in Charlie. She clearly sees him as a person, with personality and interests, who is smart and caring. "If you ever get to meet my brother, you'll feel lucky to be his friend." Endnotes from the authors tell more of the Peete family story. Evans's mixed-media artwork employs a lot of texture, adding patterning and interest to the simple, uncluttered design. Full-bleed illustrations and up-close views of the characters make this a great choice for group sharing. A seldom-seen perspective on autism delivered concisely and with empathy. (Picture book. 6-10)Read full book review >
OLU'S DREAM by Shane W.  Evans
Released: Sept. 1, 2009

Curly-haired Olu would rather play than sleep, but when Dad and Mom turn off the lights, the vivacious tyke embarks on a series of fantastical dreams. With teddy-bear sidekick in tow, Olu's imagination pours forth in stream-of-consciousness style as he encounters monsters, rides a whale and races through space. In one hilarious spread, the two buddies gorge on pizza and honey, eyes closed in a delicious delirium. Lying on the ground, their muffin-top bellies cause fissures in the floor with their heaving weight. Upon waking, Olu recounts his adventures to his father, who explains that the imagination "never stops" and that one can "dream during the day / and use that imagination whenever you play." The anime-influenced illustrations depict the spunky protagonist as a wide-eyed, cute-as-a-button child of mixed-race descent. Evans uses collage with multiple textured layers, the graphic shapes reinforced with thick pencil work. While the simple rhyming text of successive couplets is regrettably inelegant, this is a pleasant story that encourages readers to use their creative capacities. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2008

Hunter started painting on scraps and gourds at age 50, using paints left by artists who frequented the Louisiana plantation where she worked. She depicted what she saw around her, cementing her legacy as a chronicler of soon-to-disappear plantation life when she became the first African-American artist to have a solo exhibition at major museum. Evans's images echo Hunter's naïve style, his bright palette paying homage to Hunter's own vivid colors. Collage elements on highly textured backgrounds incorporate reproductions of her work. While the story of Hunter's success as an untrained artist will inspire students, they will not be as impressed with Whitehead's narrative. Too many sentence fragments and backward shifts recalling the incidents that inspired Hunter's work detract from the narrative flow. A concluding author's note for adults provides the background necessary to fully understand Hunter's life. Although not outstanding, it is undeniably useful as the only picture-book biography of the self-taught Hunter, who died in 1988 at the age of 101. (thumbnail reproductions, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-9)Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 2007

A patchwork motif visually pieces together the stories of the two redoubtable abolitionists, who met only once—in Boston in 1864—but who shared a passionate mission. Side text panels relate, in alternating spreads, the lives of Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman. Clinton uses vivid language to sketch the broad outlines of their beginnings in slavery and their later careers as speaker for abolition and conductor on the Underground Railroad: "Isabella [Sojourner Truth] was tired of waiting, and broke the chains herself. She walked out and left slavery behind." Evans's mixed-media illustrations cleanly incorporate such textures as fabric and broad paint strokes, individual figures outlined with quick black lines that provide definition. The images themselves are expressive—a monumental Truth cradles a baby, a confident-looking Tubman holds a Union courier bag against a Stars-and-Stripes backdrop—and are "stitched" to the text panels. The actual meeting takes up only three spreads and is of necessity imagined (there is no written account), which results in something of an anticlimax, given the build-up. It's a nifty idea, but, alas, the vessel is somewhat stronger than its story. (Picture book/fictionalized nonfiction. 7-10)Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2007

"A great cover—a close-up of green-eyed, gray Gorilla's head with tongue licking her chops—is sure to entice cat lovers everywhere. (Picture book. 4-8)"
A young girl named Cecilia describes her affection and relationship with her cat, Gorilla, in short snappy poems. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2006

Following on the heels of No More! (2002) and Free at Last (2004) is the third in this striking trilogy documenting African-American history. Rappaport and Evans follow the pattern already established, presenting a conventional narration interwoven with present-tense accounts of individuals' experiences, songs, and an occasional poem; the whole is stunningly illustrated with Evans's monumental oils, which represent the incidents described in the text with almost iconic fervor. For all its strengths, however, this offering pales in comparison to the first two installments in the trilogy, perhaps because this era has been so relatively well-covered in other works for young people. The technique of "recreating" incidents from first-person accounts in particular has a tendency to fall flat—as these accounts are so readily available and powerful in their own right, one must question why so few activists are allowed to speak with their own voices. Rather than increasing the immediacy of the experience, as it did in the earlier volumes, it serves to distance the reader from people and events, which is a pity considering its beauty. (timeline, source notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 9-12)Read full book review >
HOLD THE FLAG HIGH by Catherine Clinton
Released: June 1, 2005

Evans's thickly brushed scenes of African-American soldiers with downcast eyes, clustered beneath rippling Stars and Stripes, lend an air of ritual solemnity in keeping with Clinton's inspiring commemoration of Sgt. William H. Carney's (now) renowned act of heroism in the Civil War: planting the flag on the ramparts of Fort Wagner during the 54th Massachusetts's bloody charge, then, though bearing multiple wounds, carrying it to safety in the ensuing retreat. For this, Carney was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor almost 40 years later—the first African American to receive one. Though Clinton occasionally departs from the historical record—billing the attack as the soldiers' "first battle" (it wasn't), and adding thoughts and dialogue—her account ably captures the violence and confusion of battle, as well as the courage displayed by Carney and his fellow troopers. A strong lead-in to Clinton Cox's Undying Glory: The Story of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment (1991) or Clinton's own The Black Soldier: 1492 to the Present (2000). (time line, resource list) (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-10)Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 1, 2004

A mother tells her child all the ways she demonstrates her love as they experience the events of daily living. Making sure her child is healthy, clean and well-fed, encouraging learning, listening and ensuring security are all opportunities for saying, "I love you." Mother takes time to play and chat and teach, giving her child individual attention. She prays both morning and night that everything she does is understood as an expression of love. Evans's bright, energetic illustrations, rendered in oil, are large-scale, stylized depictions of these activities. What sets this apart is that the protagonists are an African-American mother and child instead of the usual cutesy animals. In the manner of Guess How Much I Love You and other gentle evocations of parental and familial love, this is a tender read-aloud that might become an often-repeated bedtime ritual for the very young. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 2004

Rappaport and Evans reprise the passion and power that informed their 2002 collaboration No More! Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance, shining their spotlight on the progress and struggles of African-Americans from 1863 to 1954. Vigorous prose is punctuated by poems, songs, and excerpts from primary sources, all of which serve to illuminate the peculiar experiences of a people freed and still not free. Vignettes from the lives of several individuals, both famous (Booker T. Washington, Jackie Robinson) and less so (a woman stealing her children back from her former master, an "Exoduster" making a new life in Kansas) add to the power and specificity of the text; the foreword carefully informs readers that "dialogue and descriptions . . . come directly from their first-person accounts." Glowing, almost monumental oils convey the pent-up anger and sadness of those depicted, both anonymous and historical, and a striking design integrates the illustrations with the text, each spread responding to its own internal need. Extensive back matter includes an illustrator's note, acknowledgments, bibliography, further reading, Web sites, and an index. (Nonfiction. 9-12)Read full book review >
FISHING DAY by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Released: Nov. 1, 2003

Reenie and her mom are having fun and great success while fishing in Jim Crow River, while Peter and his father are fishing for food and have nothing to show for it. Distanced by race and by fear of change, Reenie and Peter watch each other surreptitiously, but are firmly kept from interacting by their parents. When Peter is left alone for a few moments, Reenie takes the opportunity to help him. The next time they see each other, they manage a small wave. Told in the present tense, the style will enable the modern-day reader to feel the constrictions of segregation's rules of conduct. In an afterword, Pinkney explains the role of prejudice in her own life and the wish to reach beyond boundaries. Evans's illustrations get to the core of the story. As a stylized river runs through the pages, he clearly depicts the events as well as the characters' feelings. A gentle tale with a big punch. (Picture book. 7-10)Read full book review >
THE WAY A DOOR CLOSES by Hope Anita Smith
Released: May 1, 2003

A spare cycle of mostly free verse details the anguish of one family when the father loses his job. Thirteen-year-old C.J. traces, in separate poems, the arc taken by his family from pre-layoff security to despair when his father leaves, shutting the door behind him, "and we were vacuum-sealed inside. . . . I can tell a lot by / the way a door closes." C.J.'s own transformation from youthful hero-worship to pained disillusionment is delicately limned, making his conscious decision to commit to his family all the more poignant. Evans's illustrations are characteristically powerful, the naturalistic renderings carrying great emotion. Newcomer Smith's verse is not so well-seasoned; it is occasionally more prosaic than poetic, and its one attempt at rhymed verse seems quite forced. For all this, however, C.J.'s story is a touching and memorable one, its eventual happy ending not a capitulation but a blessing. (Poetry. 8-12)Read full book review >
Homemade Love by bell hooks
Released: Dec. 1, 2002

There is no plot in this paean to parental unconditional love, but one isn't needed; the bold design and bright colors infuse enough energy into the soothing message to keep readers and listeners hooked. Creatively placed, plum-colored type in a variety of sizes coupled with lively, stylized illustrations of a very-well-loved "Girlpie" and her parents convey the idea that parents love their children all the time, even when children make mistakes. Girlpie's clothes reflect what's going on; when she makes a mess, her blue dress is decorated with yellow sad faces. When her parents forgive her and hug her, it's all smiley faces. When her father swings her high up in the air, her dress is adorned with clouds and planes. The brief text includes short sentences and sentence fragments, and begins with a litany of loving, homemade nicknames: "Mama calls me Girlpie. Her sweet sweet. Daddy's honey bun chocolate dew drop." Renowned writer and feminist theorist hooks gets Girlpie's voice exactly right, and puts her finger on just what every child is most concerned with: will my parents love me even when I'm bad? What about when the lights go out at bedtime? The surety of her parents' love comforts Girlpie even as she falls asleep; "Memories of arms that hold me . . . No need to fear the dark place." This joyful, loving African-American family is a model for all families to emulate. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 2002

Marzollo's sapient heroine, Shanna, demonstrates the art of teaching with vivacious role-playing that makes this latest edition in the series (Shanna's Doctor Show, not reviewed, etc.) a rousing success. Along with her "assistant" Shane, Shanna offers a variety of hints to help sleuths discover what to expect at school. Shanna's clues will be familiar fare for preschoolers: books, crayons, musical instruments, as well as numbers and letters, are all presented in bouncy rhymes. "And now we find we have arrived at Clue Number 3. / We will learn the alphabet all the way from A to Z!" Clues and rhymes conclude in a snappy review at tale's end. A jaunty rhythm combined with plentiful repetition encourages reader participation. Evans's cartoon-style illustrations feature bright pastel backgrounds and endearingly rendered figures. The conversational blurbs inserted into the pictures provide ample comic opportunities, along with the cavorting of the animal trio of Ducky, Dinah-saurus, and Tiger. Evans packs plenty of educational tidbits into his pictures; both the alphabet and the numbers from one through twenty parade across the top of separate spreads. Erudite and exuberant, Shanna definitely delivers the goods on teachers. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
NO MORE! by Doreen Rappaport
Released: Feb. 1, 2001

A poem about the impossibility of enslaving the mind and soul of a person in chains sets the tone for this stunning collection of stories and songs in tribute to slave resistance in America. Working chronologically, Rappaport (Martin's Big Words, 2001, etc.) is especially interested in the use of song as an instrument of resistance, and she includes well-known spirituals such as Go Down, Moses as well as more obscure songs whose tunes have been long forgotten. Powerful lines such as "Run, nigger, run, patroller'll ketch ya / Hit ya thirty-nine and swear he didn't tech ya" tell of unspeakable cruelty and despair; others of defiance and the hope of deliverance. Ranging in acts of rebellion, from planting less corn to learning to read, slave narratives comprise the bulk of the text. Vignettes are included from the lives of Nat Turner, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, John Scobell, Suzie King Taylor, and others who resisted their enslavement physically, intellectually, or spiritually. Rappaport creates several characters that are composites of actual slaves, which seems both unnecessary and potentially confusing when juxtaposed with actual historical figures. Nevertheless, the focus on resistance works well, and Evans's bold, dramatic oils portray the subject unflinchingly. Oversized pages of thick stock give full range to the power of his art. An excellent account of the many ways in which slaves participated in bringing down the greatest evil in our nation's history. (author's note, chronology of important events, bibliography, recommended reading, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2000

Dynamic, kid-centered book design, a poetic, pumped-up text set in a high-energy typeface, and jazzy line art set in vivid expanses of color all masterfully combine in this terrific picture-book paean to the life and career of Lakers' star Magic Johnson. An award-winning poet and the recipient of the American Book Award, with his co-author, for Miles: The Autobiography (1990), Troupe's text telescopes jazz-inflected phrasing and the punched-up energy of hip-hop culture with the potent coiled power of a talented, focused athlete, and, finally, explodes into the pure exhilaration of sport. "[T]ake the ball dazzling down the open lane / herk & jerk & raise your / six-foot, nine-inch frame / into air sweating screams / of your neon name . . . so put / the ball / on the floor / again, / ‘magic' . . . & deal the roundball like the / juju man that you am . . . like the sho-nuff spaceman you am" The versatile Evans (Osceola: Memories of a Sharecropper's Daughter, p. 120, etc.) demonstrates that he is a particularly adept illustrator, one who, rather than being wedded to a single, signature style, selects the most effective technique and medium to pair with Troupe's non-narrative riffs. Evans employs changing, kaleidoscopic, points of view, with cartoony, active, and stylized figures. The paintings crowd the pages and push the physical limits of the book's covers while energetic, high-value palette imbue this book with the graphic-novel energy of fast-break play. A three-point shot from downtown! (Picture book. All ages) Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2000

A poignant story about enduring bonds adds a special touch to a common family experience. Every summer, the young narrator of the story, her brother, and their parents drive far out of the city into the country to visit the "Old Ones," the aunts and uncles who raised the children's father. When all seven greet the newly arrived visitors, the love and affection between the generations almost jumps off the page. As one of the uncles shows the two children old framed photos on a wall in the house and as the family eats together, the sense of continuity among all the members of the family and the fondness each one feels for each other, for the house, and for the countryside is almost palpable. While the children play in the trees and lake where the Old Ones and the children's father once played, the Old Ones retell the familiar stories about their own childhoods. Of course, the inevitable comes—summer vacation ends and the visitors go back to the city. The illustrations, painted in oils, ably complement the text. The double-page spreads of grassy meadows and fields, which bleed off the page, work especially well, better perhaps than the pages with white backgrounds, which feel somehow too empty. A fine book about a strong African-American family and a moving story about the relationship between children and the older members of a family that doesn't involve death, Alzheimer's Disease, or dwell too heavily on other problems of aging. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >