SARAH EMMA EDMONDS WAS A GREAT PRETENDER

THE TRUE STORY OF A CIVIL WAR SPY

As far as we know, Sarah Emma Edmonds began dressing as a boy early on, in an attempt to please her abusive father, who hated girls. When she emigrated from Canada to the United States as a teenager, she kept pretending: It was easier to earn her living as a boy. When the Civil War broke out, Sarah enlisted under the name Frank Thompson and became a spy. Frank was a master deceiver: She/he portrayed a slave boy, a female Irish peddler and an African-American laundress. As Frank, Sarah braved bullets and rode through battles. Only when she became ill with malaria could she no longer pretend—but she was never discovered. Frank Thompson deserted, and a very ill Sarah Edmonds sought treatment at a private hospital. Jones, in her first departure from novels for teens, tells Sarah's story with strong simplicity, quoting at times from Sarah's own memoirs. One small quibble is that she ends the story too soon, at the close of the Civil War. An author's note says that Sarah Edmonds died in 1898 in La Porte, Texas, but gives no details of her later life. Oldroyd's illustrations convey Sarah's likeness through all her many disguises, and help readers will see her as both sympathetic and brave. Recommended, especially for middle grades studying the Civil War. (Picture book/biography. 5-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7613-5399-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2011

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Utterly compelling.

WHEN I WAS EIGHT

The authors of Fatty Legs (2010) distill that moving memoir of an Inuit child’s residential school experience into an even more powerful picture book.

“Brave, clever, and as unyielding” as the sharpening stone for which she’s named, Olemaun convinces her father to send her from their far-north village to the “outsiders’ school.” There, the 8-year-old receives particularly vicious treatment from one of the nuns, who cuts her hair, assigns her endless chores, locks her in a dark basement and gives her ugly red socks that make her the object of other children’s taunts. In her first-person narration, she compares the nun to the Queen in Alice in Wonderland, a story she has heard from her sister and longs to read for herself, subtly reminding readers of the power of literature to help face real life. Grimard portrays this black-cloaked nun with a scowl and a hooked nose, the image of a witch. Her paintings stretch across the gutter and sometimes fill the spreads. Varying perspectives and angles, she brings readers into this unfamiliar world. Opening with a spread showing the child’s home in a vast, frozen landscape, she proceeds to hone in on the painful school details. A final spread shows the triumphant child and her book: “[N]ow I could read.”

Utterly compelling. (Picture book/memoir. 5-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-55451-490-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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