A powerful grouping of thought-provoking poems and brilliantly designed paintings.

I LAY MY STITCHES DOWN

POEMS OF AMERICAN SLAVERY

Enslaved African-Americans voice the weariness, drudgery, agony and dreams of their lives in a beautiful and informative collection of poetry and paintings.

In her debut title, Grady structures free verse to mirror the patterns of traditional American quilt blocks, variations on a square. In the poems, each 10 lines with 10 syllables per line, the words and thoughts read seamlessly and build to heart-rending finales. They speak of daily lives made bearable by the words of a preacher, the joys of singing and the quiet rhythms of stitching. A woman bent over her basket of scraps can see her “troubles fall / away.” A man calming a horse can find a “patchwork field of freedom.” Children outside a school building scratch out the alphabet because “[i]t gives us hope; it sings us home.” Each poem is accompanied by brief background information on slavery and on the quilt-block pattern that inspired it. Full-page paintings by Wood, a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner, pulsate with vibrant colors and intensity. Each incorporates the quilt pattern that served as Grady’s inspiration into a collage-styled portrait. Readers will find themselves poring over the many details in the art and connecting them with the verses.

A powerful grouping of thought-provoking poems and brilliantly designed paintings. (author’s note, illustrator’s note, bibliography) (Poetry. 10 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5386-8

Page Count: 34

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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An arbitrary assortment of relics not likely to furnish either the insight or the glimpses of wonder that elevate companion...

HISTORIUM

From the Welcome to the Museum series

An oversized album of archaeological treasures, from an early Stone Age hand ax to a 19th-century tiki pendant.

Inviting readers to take a sort of virtual museum tour, Nelson gathers over 140 representative artifacts into geographical “galleries.” She presents them with both broad opening overviews of their cultural contexts and individual descriptive notes on their features and anthropological significance. The large illustrations are not photos but digital images that are drawn in painstaking detail, colored in subdued or neutral hues, and reproduced on smooth but not polished paper. With further antique formality of design, the dimly but evenly lit objects are suspended against monochrome backgrounds, often several to a “plate,” and well-separated from the text. Though the focus is largely on defunct civilizations—Egypt and Mesopotamia to Olmec, Korean Silla, and the Vikings—the author acknowledges survivors such as the Pueblo and indigenous Australians. Readers on this side of the pond may feel slighted, as the gallery devoted to the Americas is the smallest and contains nothing from South America, but both the Torres Strait Islanders and several Polynesian cultures receive nods in the Oceania section. Moreover, rather than usual suspects like the Rosetta Stone or the so-called “Mask of Agamemnon,” the objects on display are often less familiar funerary, religious, or decorative objects. Many of the artifacts, particularly the gold ones, look drab, though, and none are either shown to scale or consistently accompanied by measurements. Furthermore, there are no maps or leads to further information.

An arbitrary assortment of relics not likely to furnish either the insight or the glimpses of wonder that elevate companion volume Animalium (2014). (timeline, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7984-2

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Big Picture/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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Plenty of work for sharp eyes and active intellects in this history-based series opener.

MARY BOWSER AND THE CIVIL WAR SPY RING

From the Spy on History series , Vol. 1

Using a provided packet of helpful tools, readers can search for clues along with a historical spy in the house of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy.

Fans of ciphers and hidden clues will find both in abundance, beginning on the copyright page and continuing to a final, sealed-off section of explanations and solutions. Fictionalized but spun around actual figures and events, the tale centers on Bowser, a free African-American who worked undercover as a maid in Davis’ house and passed information to a ring of white Richmond spies. Here she looks for the key phrase that will unlock a Vigenère cipher—an alphabetic substitution code—while struggling to hide her intelligence and ability to read. As an extra challenge, she leaves the diary in which she records some of her experiences concealed for readers to discover, using allusive and sometimes-misleading clues that are hidden in Cliff’s monochrome illustrations and in cryptic marginal notations. A Caesar cipher wheel, a sheet of red acetate, and several other items in a front pocket supply an espionage starter kit that readers can use along the way; it is supplemented by quick introductions in the narrative to ciphers and codes, including Morse dashes and dots and the language of flowers.

Plenty of work for sharp eyes and active intellects in this history-based series opener. (answers, historical notes, biographies, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7611-8739-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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