A bit of bibliography and a stronger admission that this is not history (or herstory) but legend would make this a stronger...

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BETSY ROSS

A historical fable, told in very few words, prettily illustrated and rather wonderful in its elegant brevity—except there is almost no evidence to support the Betsy Ross myth.

The text is minimal and often rhymes: “Betsy ripped. / Rip, rip. // Seven rich, / Crimson strips.” Betsy Ross is shown cutting and dyeing and pinning this country’s first flag, with its 13 alternating red and white stripes and its blue field behind a circle of 13 stars. Lloyd has used fabric appliqué sewn and fused, stamping and stitching to make the illustrations, lovely in their simple graphic shapes and clean design. Her illustrator's note explains her fascinating process. An author’s note simply says, “According to legend,” and goes on to cite the stories of George Washington’s pencil sketch for the first flag and Betsy’s change of his six-pointed star for her five-pointed one but does not explain that there is no historical evidence for any of it. The Betsy Ross legend did not appear until late in the 19th century, nearly 100 years after the supposed events. Ross was, however, an upholsterer, and such folk did indeed make flags and other items. An appendix illustrates how to make a five-pointed “Betsy Ross Star” with one cut on a properly folded piece of fabric or paper.

A bit of bibliography and a stronger admission that this is not history (or herstory) but legend would make this a stronger book. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8234-1908-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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Successful neither as biography nor sermon.

I AM ABRAHAM LINCOLN

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

Our 16th president is presented as an activist for human and civil rights.

Lincoln resembles a doll with an oversized head as he strides through a first-person narrative that stretches the limits of credulity and usefulness. From childhood, Abe, bearded and sporting a stovepipe hat, loves to read, write and look out for animals. He stands up to bullies, noting that “the hardest fights don’t reveal a winner—but they do reveal character.” He sees slaves, and the sight haunts him. When the Civil War begins, he calls it a struggle to end slavery. Not accurate. The text further calls the Gettysburg ceremonies a “big event” designed to “reenergize” Union supporters and states that the Emancipation Proclamation “freed all those people.” Not accurate. The account concludes with a homily to “speak louder then you’ve ever spoken before,” as Lincoln holds the Proclamation in his hands. Eliopoulos’ comic-style digital art uses speech bubbles for conversational asides. A double-page spread depicts Lincoln, Confederate soldiers, Union soldiers, white folk and African-American folk walking arm in arm: an anachronistic reference to civil rights–era protest marches? An unsourced quotation from Lincoln may not actually be Lincoln’s words.

Successful neither as biography nor sermon. (photographs, archival illustration) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8037-4083-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2013

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Stirring encouragement for all “little people” with “big dreams.” (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

MAYA ANGELOU

From the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

“There’s nothing I can’t be,” young Maya thinks, and then shows, in this profile for newly independent readers, imported from Spain.

The inspirational message is conveyed through a fine skein of biographical details. It begins with her birth in St. Louis and the prejudice she experienced growing up in a small Arkansas town and closes with her reading of a poem “about her favorite thing: hope” at Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration. In between, it mentions the (unspecified) “attack” by her mother’s boyfriend and subsequent elective muteness she experienced as a child, as well as some of the varied pursuits that preceded her eventual decision to become a writer. Kaiser goes on in a closing spread to recap Angelou’s life and career, with dates, beneath a quartet of portrait photos. Salaberria’s simple illustrations, filled with brown-skinned figures, are more idealized than photorealistic, but, though only in the cover image do they make direct contact with readers’, Angelou’s huge eyes are an effective focal point in each scene. The message is similar in the co-published Amelia Earhart, written by Ma Isabel Sánchez Vegara (and also translated by Pitt), but the pictures are more fanciful as illustrator Mariadiamantes endows the aviator with a mane of incandescent orange hair and sends her flying westward (in contradiction of the text and history) on her final around-the-world flight.

Stirring encouragement for all “little people” with “big dreams.” (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-84780-889-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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