An intergenerational story filled with heart and soul.

READ REVIEW

BELLE, THE LAST MULE AT GEE'S BEND

The Civil Rights Movement had many heroes, but none as unusual as Belle.

It’s a hot summer’s day outside a small country store, and a little boy awaiting his mother is surprised to see a mule munching up a garden full of collard greens. An elderly woman invites him to sit next to her on the store bench and shares her memories of Gee’s Bend in 1965, when mules carried the African-American citizens on wagons the long way ’round the river to vote. Martin Luther King, Jr. had spoken to them, and his inspiration kept them going even when white men blocked the ferry. A few years later, in April, 1968, two mules from the town pulled his coffin in Atlanta. One was Belle. This small snapshot of the protest movement pays homage to both the determination of ordinary folk and the power of Dr. King’s words. Holyfield’s intense acrylic paintings, in blues, yellows and browns, evoke the heat and the drama. The extraordinary quilts for which the town is famous have their place of honor, too. A solid choice for parents and teachers who are introducing the 1960s to young children.

An intergenerational story filled with heart and soul.    (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4058-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught...

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A PROBLEM?

A child struggles with the worry and anxiety that come with an unexpected problem.

In a wonderful balance of text and pictures, the team responsible for What Do You Do With an Idea (2014) returns with another book inspiring children to feel good about themselves. A child frets about a problem that won’t go away: “I wished it would just disappear. I tried everything I could to hide from it. I even found ways to disguise myself. But it still found me.” The spare, direct narrative is accompanied by soft gray illustrations in pencil and watercolor. The sepia-toned figure of the child is set apart from the background and surrounded by lots of white space, visually isolating the problem, which is depicted as a purple storm cloud looming overhead. Color is added bit by bit as the storm cloud grows and its color becomes more saturated. With a backpack and umbrella, the child tries to escape the problem while the storm swirls, awash with compass points scattered across the pages. The pages brighten into splashes of yellow as the child decides to tackle the problem head-on and finds that it holds promise for unlooked-for opportunity.

A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught situations, this belongs on the shelf alongside Molly Bang’s Sophie books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943-20000-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love.

THE LOVE LETTER

A mysterious love letter brightens the lives of three forest animals.

Appealing mixed-media illustrations made of ink, gouache, brush marker, and colored pencil combine with a timely message that one kind act can start a chain reaction of kindness. When Hedgehog, Bunny, and Squirrel stumble in turn upon a formally composed love letter, each finds their life improved: Squirrel is less anxious, Bunny spreads goodwill through helpfulness, and Hedgehog is unusually cheerful. As the friends converge to try to discover who sent the letter, the real author appears in a (rather) convenient turn: a mouse who wrote an ode to the moon. Though disappointed that the letter was never meant for them, the friends reflect that the letter still made the world a happier place, making it a “wonderful mix-up.” Since there’s a lot of plot to follow, the book will best serve more-observant readers who are able to piece the narrative cleanly, but those older readers may also better appreciate the special little touches, such as the letter’s enticing, old-fashioned typewriter-style look, vignettes that capture small moments, or the subdued color palette that lends an elegant air. Drawn with minimalist, scribbly lines, the creatures achieve an invigorating balance between charming and spontaneous, with smudged lines that hint at layers of fur and simple, dotted facial expressions.

A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-274157-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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