The evocative recording on the CD ends too quickly; there is much to pore over and discuss here, and this remarkable work is...

READ REVIEW

GOD BLESS THE CHILD

With Holiday’s music and Pinkney’s art, this package sets expectations high—and doesn’t disappoint.

The simple words are mournful, yet matter-of-fact; the refrain “But God bless the child / That’s got his own!” keeps the focus on the young audience. Pinkney’s inspired decision to illustrate this hymn-like lament with images of the Great Migration of African-Americans from the Deep South to the industrial north truly brings the words to life. He signifies the historical setting first in the endpapers: those at the beginning show a pattern of wood boards evocative of the walls of a sharecropper’s cabin; and those at the end show what looks like flowered wallpaper. Images of dignified figures first picking cotton, then packing the car, then sewing in a factory, eventually buying ice cream from a truck, and, finally, gathered around a piano and making music together, alternate with landscape scenes of a field of workers, an abandoned cabin, and the elevated train tracks in Chicago.

The evocative recording on the CD ends too quickly; there is much to pore over and discuss here, and this remarkable work is worth picking up (and listening to) more than once. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-06-028797-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2004

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THE CIRCUS SHIP

Van Dusen’s rhyming text takes inspiration from an 1836 shipwreck, but fanciful fun, not tragedy, awaits readers here. The 15 animals aboard The Royal Star swim to an island off Maine after the ship runs aground and the circus’s owner, Mr. Paine, abandons them. At first they shock villagers and run mischievously amok. A fire in a farm shed—with little Emma Rose Abbott inside!—engenders a dramatic rescue by the tiger, whose skill in leaping through flames comes into play. Amusingly, animals and villagers collude to thwart Mr. Paine’s attempt to reclaim his menagerie. The verse is sprightly, but the pictures are the true stunners. Bright, lampooning gouaches (familiar from the Mercy Watson series) and dizzying perspective perfectly suit this picaresque tale. The reprehensible Mr. Paine is an apoplectic giant striding into the placid village at sunset. Huge, leaping flames dramatize the tiger’s riveting heroics. Children will pore over panoramic spreads that invite them to find each of the 15 animals and celebrate a denouement that serves up Mr. Paine’s just deserts. Splendid! (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-7636-3090-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2009

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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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