With new historical narratives complicating the period for adults, this well-meant picture book comes off as timid rather...

Built from an exhaustive search of a mostly unwritten history, Rockwell’s account recasts the American Revolution from the experience of one of the courageous thousands who fought to gain independence from British rule—an independence that did not equate to freedom for the enslaved black population.

While it is popularly known that many more Africans fought alongside the British than the patriots, here Rockwell introduces James, who, upon hearing that an enslaved man could gain his freedom by fighting for the Colonies, volunteers and spies on Gen. Cornwallis. The intelligence James gathers is critical to the decisive American victory at Yorktown, yet freedom is stalled until the Marquis de Lafayette demands James’ manumission, leading to James’ choice of surname as the text proclaims him “finally free!” However, the author’s note reminds readers that the legal freedom of the entire enslaved black population in the United States stands almost a century and another war away. A narrative that is deserving of much nuance (the free James Lafayette may have become a slave owner himself, the author’s note also informs readers) goes without much critical examination, and the narrow records on which it was built provide more insight about the decisions of those around him than the man himself. Readers are left with a story that tries to honor the role African-Americans played in the American Revolution while clinging to a linear history of the United States as always moving forward.

With new historical narratives complicating the period for adults, this well-meant picture book comes off as timid rather than disruptive, leaving children with the usual incomplete story, albeit with an African-American protagonist. (further reading) (Informational picture book. 7-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4677-4933-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016



This unusual presentation of a tale of class-crossed lovers recounts a true 18th-century Russian romance. Nicolas Cheremeteff, the richest man in the land, loves music more than gold. He travels the world to hear the finest performers, but it is Praskovia, a peasant girl working on his estate who captures his heart with her singing. He takes her to his palace, where he teaches her to be a lady and nurtures her singing. Crowned “The Pearl” for her luminous talent, she even sings for the Empress, Catherine the Great. Naturally, Nicolas and Praskovia fall in love and live in a simple cottage. Years go by, and Praskovia still sings like a nightingale, but she’s still a serf and unmarried. Nicolas does the unthinkable and marries her, making her a countess. Their happiness is short-lived, as Praskovia dies after giving birth. Tributes to her remain today. The dramatic story is matched with stylized, theatrical artwork. Vibrant reds, golds and blacks are backlit with broad expanses of white space that frame Praskovia. Heavy, glossy paper adds to the book’s opulence. This historical mesh of "Cinderella" and My Fair Lady is a rich nugget of history for sophisticated readers and as beautiful as a Fabergé egg. (brief author’s note) (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-884167-24-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Umbrage

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011




A lighthearted recap of some of our oldest tales.

For her latest cartoon foray into ancient cultures, Williams concocts a brisk dash through Egyptian myth and history.

Drawing figures in traditional Egyptian style but with a more natural range of expressions and gestures, she constructs flat-planed scenes that range from small sequential strips to full-page images and even larger ones on double gatefolds. Her nine episodes begin with a creation myth, end with Cleopatra’s death and in between introduce a select set of major gods and Pharaohs. Large and small, each picture is decked with strings of hieroglyphic-like signs for atmosphere as well as side comments in dialogue balloons to go with the short, legible captions. Though she freely mixes legend and fact without distinguishing one from the other in the main going, a smaller strip running below provides a cat’s-eye view of the subject. The patterns of Egyptian daily life (“Cats are Egypt’s greatest wonder, followed by the river Nile”), how mummies were made (“Yes, we do cats, too!”), early technological advances and general cultural values receive tongue-in-cheek glosses. The colorful, briefly told stories provide nothing like a systematic overview but are easily enjoyed for themselves, and they may well leave young readers with a hankering to find out more about Isis and Horus, Zoser, Hatshepsut, Tutankhamen and the rest.

A lighthearted recap of some of our oldest tales. (map) (Picture book/folklore. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5308-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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