DUST DEVIL

Isaacs and Zelinsky tell an even taller tale about Angelica Longrider, the outsized heroine of their hilarious, Caldecott Honor–winning Swamp Angel. Having outgrown Tennessee, Angel moves to roomy Montana, where she faces a wild dust-devil horse and a bandit named Backward Bart, born so ugly that his mother rolled him around backwards in his stroller. He walked, spoke and robbed backward ever since. Bart’s garbled threats remain funny even after several readings. “Cash your gimme!” just doesn’t get old. Side-splitting similes abound as well; Bart’s nefarious cronies are “pricklier than porcupines in a cactus patch.” Singsongy, colloquial narration guides readers from predicament to outlandish predicament with humor and folksy charm. Angel’s antics, pictured in oval and rectangular panels and surrounded by rippling wood grains, neatly explain the topography of the West in traditional folk-story fashion (wrestling the bucking bronco, Angel’s feet drag across the ground, creating the Grand Canyon). Zelinsky’s rustic oil illustrations offer a gallery of comic faces, frozen in exaggerated surprise, shock and frustration. Artfully crude, comedic artwork, friendly, understated narration and a wildly hyperbolic story combine to create a new classic. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-375-86722-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2010

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A beautiful portrayal of a historic and arduous family journey northward

OVERGROUND RAILROAD

One family’s experience of the Great Migration.

Cline-Ransome and Ransome, a husband-and-wife author-and-illustrator team, have again collaborated on an important story from African American history. Narrator Ruth Ellen, Mama, and Daddy awaken early to travel to New York without the permission or knowledge of the landowner on whose land they sharecrop. (The author’s note mentions that landowners often used threats and violence to keep sharecroppers on the land and perpetually in debt.) The family boards the train with luggage, tickets, and food in a shoebox—since black folks cannot eat in the dining car and must sit in the colored section of the train. The conductor calls out the cities as they progress North. When the conductor removes the “whites only” sign near Baltimore, African Americans can sit wherever they want—though it takes some time before Ruth Ellen and her family find white riders who smile a welcome. Ruth Ellen reads Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass aloud to Mama on the train ride, a gift from her teacher that parallels her own family’s journey. Ransome’s watercolor-and-collage illustrations effectively capture both the historical setting and the trepidation of a family who though not enslaved, nevertheless must escape as if they were. Cotton bolls throughout the images accentuate cotton’s economic dominance in the sharecropping system.

A beautiful portrayal of a historic and arduous family journey northward . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3873-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A quietly compelling look at an impoverished family’s resourcefulness and resilience.

HOME IN THE WOODS

Wheeler shares a poignant tale, based on her grandmother’s childhood, of a Depression-era family’s hard times.

Marvel, 6, has seven siblings. Their newly widowed mother guides them, as they carry their worldly goods along, into the woods, where they find an abandoned shack. Though decrepit, it’s got a root cellar, a functioning water pump, a wood stove, and a garden spot rich with leaf mold. As summer yields to autumn, Mum does chores for pay in town. The children draw lots for the home tasks: laundry (hand-scrubbed and hung to dry), wood-splitting, and more. A bountiful harvest engenders prodigious canning as the family prepares for the bitter weather ahead. While the children must buy only basic supplies at the general store, their doleful window shopping produces an inventive outdoor game, in which “We can buy anything we want!” Winter brings snow and cold, quilting, reading by the wood stove, and a wild-turkey stew. Wheeler’s lovely ink-and-watercolor double-page spreads, in somber grays, sunlight yellow, and meadow green, evoke both the period and the family’s stark poverty. The thin faces are gray-white, with dark hair and pale pink cheeks. Delicate visual details abound, from the sparkle of evening raindrops to Mum’s side-buttoned apron. Marvel’s ruminative narration takes occasional poetic turns: “Mum stays awake / into the night… / …whispering / to / the / stars.”

A quietly compelling look at an impoverished family’s resourcefulness and resilience. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-16290-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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