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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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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A crisp historical vignette.

BEN'S REVOLUTION

BENJAMIN RUSSELL AND THE BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL

A boy experiences the Boston Tea Party, the response to the Intolerable Acts, and the battle at Breed’s Hill in Charlestown.

Philbrick has taken his Bunker Hill (2013), pulled from its 400 pages the pivotal moments, added a 12-year-old white boy—Benjamin Russell—as the pivot, and crafted a tale of what might have happened to him during those days of unrest in Boston from 1773 to 1775 (Russell was a real person). Philbrick explains, in plainspoken but gradually accelerating language, the tea tax, the Boston Tea Party, the Intolerable Acts, and the quartering of troops in Boston as well as the institution of a military government. Into this ferment, he introduces Benjamin Russell, where he went to school, his part-time apprenticeship at Isaiah Thomas’ newspaper, sledding down Beacon Hill, and the British officer who cleaned the cinders from the snow so the boys could sled farther and farther. It is these humanizing touches that make war its own intolerable act. Readers see Benjamin, courtesy of Minor’s misty gouache-and-watercolor tableaux, as he becomes stranded outside Boston Neck and becomes a clerk for the patriots. Significant characters are introduced, as is the geography of pre-landfilled Boston, to gain a good sense of why certain actions took place where they did. The final encounter at Breed’s Hill demonstrates how a battle can be won by retreating.

A crisp historical vignette. (maps, author’s note, illustrator’s note) (Historical fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-16674-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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