Although the light shed on Washington as slaveholder is a welcome one, the voices of the enslaved are still not heard.



McClafferty has written a monumental book about the lives of the slaves that lived and worked at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

The bulk of the book is devoted to chronicling the lives of six out of hundreds of slaves known to have been the property of our nation’s first president. William Lee, Christopher Sheels, Caroline Branham, Peter Hardiman, Ona Maria Judge, and Hercules are the enslaved people featured in this work. These six people are larger-than-life figures whose individual stories tell a deeper one about the history of America and the everyday evil and horror of American slavery. Though enslaved, they served this country during some of its most turbulent times, fighting in the Revolutionary War, taking care of Washington’s person, and guarding Washington’s papers as the Continental Army moved from place to place during the years of combat. This book includes photos of re-enactors at Mount Vernon as well as artifacts there and abundant archival reproductions. What is known about these figures comes mainly from George Washington himself, as the author relates in her introduction. With regard to what is unknown about the lives of the enslaved people, McClafferty takes liberties in making inferences about their motives and histories. In speculating why Lee, for instance, did not take the opportunity to escape to freedom in the British army, she does not discuss the penalties meted out to a captured fugitive slave but presents his choice as a binary one: stay with Washington or go. At another point, she suggests that Judge’s white father, an indentured servant, “may have loved” her enslaved mother, without adding that an enslaved woman could not resist the sexual advances of a white man. These and other elisions make this a work that objectifies its subjects.

Although the light shed on Washington as slaveholder is a welcome one, the voices of the enslaved are still not heard. (source notes, bibliography, picture credits, acknowledgments, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Dec. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3697-2

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2018

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A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats.


From the They Did What? series

Why should grown-ups get all the historical, scientific, athletic, cinematic, and artistic glory?

Choosing exemplars from both past and present, Mitchell includes but goes well beyond Alexander the Great, Anne Frank, and like usual suspects to introduce a host of lesser-known luminaries. These include Shapur II, who was formally crowned king of Persia before he was born, Indian dancer/professional architect Sheila Sri Prakash, transgender spokesperson Jazz Jennings, inventor Param Jaggi, and an international host of other teen or preteen activists and prodigies. The individual portraits range from one paragraph to several pages in length, and they are interspersed with group tributes to, for instance, the Nazi-resisting “Swingkinder,” the striking New York City newsboys, and the marchers of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade. Mitchell even offers would-be villains a role model in Elagabalus, “boy emperor of Rome,” though she notes that he, at least, came to an awful end: “Then, then! They dumped his remains in the Tiber River, to be nommed by fish for all eternity.” The entries are arranged in no evident order, and though the backmatter includes multiple booklists, a personality quiz, a glossary, and even a quick Braille primer (with Braille jokes to decode), there is no index. Still, for readers whose fires need lighting, there’s motivational kindling on nearly every page.

A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats. (finished illustrations not seen) (Collective biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-14-751813-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Puffin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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A likable journey that is sensitive to the triumphs and agonies of being a 13-year-old girl.


From the Friends series , Vol. 3

Shannon just wants to get through eighth grade in one piece—while feeling like her own worst enemy.

In this third entry in popular author for young people Hale’s graphic memoir series, the young, sensitive overachiever is crushed by expectations: to be cool but loyal to her tightknit and dramatic friend group, a top student but not a nerd, attractive to boys but true to her ideals. As events in Shannon’s life begin to overwhelm her, she works toward finding a way to love and understand herself, follow her passions for theater and writing, and ignore her cruel inner voice. Capturing the visceral embarrassments of middle school in 1987 Salt Lake City, Shannon’s emotions are vivid and often excruciating. In particular, the social norms of a church-oriented family are clearly addressed, and religion is shown as being both a comfort and a struggle for Shannon. While the text is sometimes in danger of spelling things out a little too neatly and obviously, the emotional honesty and sincerity drawn from Hale’s own life win out. Pham’s artwork is vibrant and appealing, with stylistic changes for Shannon’s imaginings and the leeching out of color and use of creative panel structures as her anxiety and depression worsen.

A likable journey that is sensitive to the triumphs and agonies of being a 13-year-old girl. (author's note, gallery) (Graphic memoir. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-31755-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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