A PICTURE BOOK OF SACAGAWEA

Adler is the author of the wide-ranging and market-savvy Picture Book Biography series that now tops 25 titles. Here he focuses on his first Native American figure, the Shoshone woman Sacagawea, the only woman in the Lewis and Clark Louisiana Purchase “Corps of Discovery.” Adler’s reliable no-nonsense approach is inclusive enough to satisfy most second- through third-grade biography readers’ needs, but those seeking inspiration or validation will need to look elsewhere. Most of the familiar elements of Sacagawea’s life are here: the approximate place and date of birth; death of her mother in a raid by a rival tribe; her marriage to a French trapper Charbonneau; joining the expedition with her husband; the birth of her son Jean Baptiste; her ability to communicate with other native peoples; her wide ranging knowledge of edible plants; etc. Unfortunately, Adler’s prose style is flat-footed. Even when recounting some of the more interesting bits (the fact that she carried her son on a cradleboard throughout most of the expedition; an unexpected reunion with her brother; how she saved the expedition’s medicines in a canoeing accident), the text communicates neither excitement nor pride of purpose. Brown’s awkward watercolor art can’t rescue this from mundane. The cover and interior depictions of a sweet-faced, pig-tailed adult Sacagawea are greeting-card bland, and most figure groups are awkwardly composed. A barely additional purchase. (Picture book biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 15, 2000

ISBN: 0-8234-1485-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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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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A pivotal moment in a child’s life, at once stirring and authentically personal.

JUST LIKE JESSE OWENS

Before growing up to become a major figure in the civil rights movement, a boy finds a role model.

Buffing up a childhood tale told by her renowned father, Young Shelton describes how young Andrew saw scary men marching in his New Orleans neighborhood (“It sounded like they were yelling ‘Hi, Hitler!’ ”). In response to his questions, his father took him to see a newsreel of Jesse Owens (“a runner who looked like me”) triumphing in the 1936 Olympics. “Racism is a sickness,” his father tells him. “We’ve got to help folks like that.” How? “Well, you can start by just being the best person you can be,” his father replies. “It’s what you do that counts.” In James’ hazy chalk pastels, Andrew joins racially diverse playmates (including a White child with an Irish accent proudly displaying the nickel he got from his aunt as a bribe to stop playing with “those Colored boys”) in tag and other games, playing catch with his dad, sitting in the midst of a cheering crowd in the local theater’s segregated balcony, and finally visualizing himself pelting down a track alongside his new hero—“head up, back straight, eyes focused,” as a thematically repeated line has it, on the finish line. An afterword by Young Shelton explains that she retold this story, told to her many times growing up, drawing from conversations with Young and from her own research; family photos are also included. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A pivotal moment in a child’s life, at once stirring and authentically personal. (illustrator’s note) (Autobiographical picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-545-55465-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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