THE DARING ESCAPE OF ELLEN CRAFT

In clear, straightforward prose, Moore tells the amazing story of William and Ellen Craft and their escape from slavery. This tale is a familiar one to those who study African-American history and the many fascinating stories of slave resistance. But many children will be hearing it for the first time. Ellen and William longed for freedom. Ellen wishes to start a family with William but cannot bear the thought of having a child sold away the way she was taken from her own mother. The two of them come up with a daring plan for escape: light-skinned Ellen will pretend to be a slaveowner and William will be her slave. Together they travel the miles to Philadelphia and eventually to their freedom. New readers will appreciate the fast-paced adventure, simple language, large typeface with plenty of space for detailed illustrations, and a relatively obscure story set in a familiar historical time. Though this series is written for new readers, Moore manages to include some difficult and important angles to the adventure. She allows the young reader to see clearly the differences between the way William has to live as he travels as a slave and how Ellen, posing as a white man, lives. At the climax of the story, Ellen and William are nearly stopped by a railroad officer who demands that Ellen show proof of ownership. Ellen “did something a slave could never do. She stood up for her rights.” Young readers will be inspired by this tale of personal courage in the face of prejudice. The author’s afterword, timeline, and bibliography add historical insight. (Biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-87614-462-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2002

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VISITING LANGSTON

A little girl is going with her daddy to visit the home of Langston Hughes. She too is a poet who writes about the loves of her life—her mommy and daddy, hip-hop, hopscotch, and double-dutch, but decidedly not kissing games. Langston is her inspiration because his poems make her “dreams run wild.” In simple, joyful verse Perdomo tells of this “Harlem girl” from “Harlem world” whose loving, supportive father tells her she is “Langston’s genius child.” The author’s own admiration for Hughes’s artistry and accomplishments is clearly felt in the voice of this glorious child. Langston’s spirit is a gentle presence throughout the description of his East 127th Street home and his method of composing his poetry sitting by the window. The presentation is stunning. Each section of the poem is part of a two-page spread. Text, in yellow, white, or black, is placed either within the illustrations or in large blocks of color along side them. The last page of text is a compilation of titles of Hughes’s poems printed in shades of gray in a myriad of fonts. Collier’s (Martin’s Big Words, 2001, etc.) brilliantly complex watercolor-and-collage illustrations provide the perfect visual complement to the work. From the glowing vitality of the little girl, to the vivid scenes of jazz-age Harlem, to the compelling portrait of Langston at work, to the reverential peak into Langston’s home, the viewer’s eye is constantly drawn to intriguing bits and pieces while never losing the sense of the whole. In this year of Langston Hughes’s centennial, this work does him great honor. (Poetry. 6-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8050-6744-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2002

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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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