An important work that gives new life to old and important songs.

LIKE A BIRD

THE ART OF THE AMERICAN SLAVE SONG

When children see Harriet Tubman on the new U.S. postage stamp, they can learn of her legacy from this literary homage to “the Moses of her people.”

A compilation of 13 Negro spirituals that originated in American slavery, this volume offers sheet music for each song alongside a brief commentary about its biblical and/or historical origins. Wood accompanies each song with colorful images that echo the slave past and both identify some of the hardships faced and also point to rays of hope that existed for them. In several of these commentaries, Grady asks readers questions to encourage them to explore the images more closely or to think more deeply about what it might have meant to be enslaved. On nearly every page appears a white dove, which echoes Harriet Tubman’s dreams of flying “over the landscape ‘like a bird’ ” to freedom. Unlike the portrayal of slaves in a few recent controversial picture books, the slaves depicted here rarely smile and often look distraught and somber—except on the page accompanying the final freedom song. In addition to learning about Tubman, readers will glean important historical tidbits about others such as Nat Turner, James Lafayette, abolitionist John Rankin, and Abraham Lincoln. Backmatter offers further reading suggestions, a glossary of relevant terms, and websites.

An important work that gives new life to old and important songs. (Informational picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4677-8550-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Millbrook/Lerner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Absolutely wonderful in every way.

THE SECRET SUBWAY

A long-forgotten chapter in New York City history is brilliantly illuminated.

In mid-19th-century New York, horses and horse-drawn vehicles were the only means of transportation, and the din created by wheels as they rumbled on the cobblestones was deafening. The congestion at intersections threatened the lives of drivers and pedestrians alike. Many solutions were bandied about, but nothing was ever done. Enter Alfred Ely Beach, an admirer of “newfangled notions.” Working in secret, he created an underground train powered by an enormous fan in a pneumatic tube. He built a tunnel lined with brick and concrete and a sumptuously decorated waiting room for passenger comfort. It brought a curious public rushing to use it and became a great though short-lived success, ending when the corrupt politician Boss Tweed used his influence to kill the whole project. Here is science, history, suspense, secrecy, and skulduggery in action. Corey’s narrative is brisk, chatty, and highly descriptive, vividly presenting all the salient facts and making the events accessible and fascinating to modern readers. The incredibly inventive multimedia illustrations match the text perfectly and add detail, dimension, and pizazz. Located on the inside of the book jacket is a step-by-step guide to the creative process behind these remarkable illustrations.

Absolutely wonderful in every way. (author’s note, bibliography, Web resources) (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-375-87071-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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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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