A thoughtful, well-researched homage to an almost forgotten hero.

JACOB RIIS'S CAMERA

BRINGING LIGHT TO TENEMENT CHILDREN

Words alone could not provoke change in the terrible plight of tenement dwellers in late-19th-century New York City.

In 1870, Danish-born Jacob Riis immigrated to the United States, where, after years of struggle, he eventually became a newspaperman. In his own life and in his work, he witnessed the horrendous living conditions of New York City’s poorest immigrants. It became the impetus for his lifelong crusade. One of the worst areas was Mulberry Bend, with filthy, overcrowded, airless tenements. He wrote many articles describing what he saw, but nothing changed. Then he took photographs and gave lectures accompanied by life-size reproductions of those photos to any group that would listen. His 1890 book, How the Other Half Lives, inspired others, including Theodore Roosevelt, to finally begin to address the issues. Among other improvements, the worst slums of Mulberry Bend were cleared to create a park, giving people a place to breathe and play. But where did the inhabitants go? O’Neill clearly admires Riis and presents his biography in clear, direct language that conveys the facts of his life along with the essence of his nature. Kelley’s ink-and-pastel illustrations in muted tones capture the gray dreariness of the scenes as well as dark shadows of interpretations of the photos. Backmatter includes detailed information of every aspect of Riis’ life and work, including several of Riis’ photos and quotes.

A thoughtful, well-researched homage to an almost forgotten hero. (author’s note, glossary, timeline, sources) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62979-866-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A pivotal moment in a child’s life, at once stirring and authentically personal.

JUST LIKE JESSE OWENS

Before growing up to become a major figure in the civil rights movement, a boy finds a role model.

Buffing up a childhood tale told by her renowned father, Young Shelton describes how young Andrew saw scary men marching in his New Orleans neighborhood (“It sounded like they were yelling ‘Hi, Hitler!’ ”). In response to his questions, his father took him to see a newsreel of Jesse Owens (“a runner who looked like me”) triumphing in the 1936 Olympics. “Racism is a sickness,” his father tells him. “We’ve got to help folks like that.” How? “Well, you can start by just being the best person you can be,” his father replies. “It’s what you do that counts.” In James’ hazy chalk pastels, Andrew joins racially diverse playmates (including a White child with an Irish accent proudly displaying the nickel he got from his aunt as a bribe to stop playing with “those Colored boys”) in tag and other games, playing catch with his dad, sitting in the midst of a cheering crowd in the local theater’s segregated balcony, and finally visualizing himself pelting down a track alongside his new hero—“head up, back straight, eyes focused,” as a thematically repeated line has it, on the finish line. An afterword by Young Shelton explains that she retold this story, told to her many times growing up, drawing from conversations with Young and from her own research; family photos are also included. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A pivotal moment in a child’s life, at once stirring and authentically personal. (illustrator’s note) (Autobiographical picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-545-55465-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: yesterday

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What makes one person step into danger to help others? A question worthy of discussion, with this title as an admirable...

THE BRAVE CYCLIST

THE TRUE STORY OF A HOLOCAUST HERO

An extraordinary athlete was also an extraordinary hero.

Gino Bartali grew up in Florence, Italy, loving everything about riding bicycles. After years of studying them and years of endurance training, he won the 1938 Tour de France. His triumph was muted by the outbreak of World War II, during which Mussolini followed Hitler in the establishment of anti-Jewish laws. In the middle years of the conflict, Bartali was enlisted by a cardinal of the Italian church to help Jews by becoming a document courier. His skill as a cyclist and his fame helped him elude capture until 1944. When the war ended, he kept his clandestine efforts private and went on to win another Tour de France in 1948. The author’s afterword explains why his work was unknown. Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust museum, honored him as a Righteous Among the Nations in 2013. Bartali’s is a life well worth knowing and well worthy of esteem. Fedele’s illustrations in mostly dark hues will appeal to sports fans with their action-oriented scenes. Young readers of World War II stories will gain an understanding from the somber wartime pages.

What makes one person step into danger to help others? A question worthy of discussion, with this title as an admirable springboard. (photograph, select bibliography, source notes) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68446-063-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Capstone Editions

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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