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

READ REVIEW

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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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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An absorbing read for young makers and dreamers.

THE FANTASTIC FERRIS WHEEL

THE STORY OF INVENTOR GEORGE FERRIS

Heeding the call to “make big plans” for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, George Ferris designed—and built—the giant observation wheel that now bears his name.

Kraft’s clear narrative sets the stage for the Columbian Exposition. Following on the 19th century’s spectacular achievements in architecture and engineering, a sense of competition prevailed: the fair’s organizers stood in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, erected for France’s 1889 World’s Fair. Ferris’ friends and Chicago's fair organizers doubted his plans for their sheer scale: how could a 26-story-tall wheel with 36 cars, each designed to carry 60 passengers, be safely constructed and operated? Ferris found investors and refined his plans. Finally, in December 1892—just 4 1/2 months before the opening—the committee gave Ferris the nod. The engineering challenges, coupled with the harsh Chicago winter, lend drama to the text; Salerno’s richly detailed compositions extend it. Using traditional mixed media as well as Adobe Photoshop to layer, compose, and add color, the artist’s full-bleed pictures exhibit dizzying perspective and inventive composition, adding plenty of detail, including fairgoers in period dress. A color palette of blue, green, and ochre evokes vintage postcards. Withstanding a tornado in Chicago, Ferris’ wheel served again at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair before its eventual scrapping. Kraft credits Ferris’ enduring feat; a tall gatefold depicts the London Eye.

An absorbing read for young makers and dreamers. (biographical note, sources) (Informational picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62779-072-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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