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Bang the drums—loudly—for this arresting account of a gifted virtuoso.

Robbins and Chapman profile an extraordinary percussionist.

Viola Smith wondered what instrument she could play in the Smith Sisters Orchestra along with her five siblings. She tried drums and cymbals and was hooked! After Papa taught her to hold the drumsticks properly, she joined her sisters as they played exuberant jazz tunes in his Wisconsin ballroom; patrons loved dancing to Viola’s spitfire rhythms. Thirteen-year-old Viola sought other drummers’ advice and drummed faster the more she practiced. In time, Viola’s sisters stopped playing, but she carried on, anxious to play professionally—tough for a woman in the 1930s. To change minds about female musicians’ abilities, Viola formed her own women’s band. The group became renowned, and Viola was dubbed “the fastest girl drummer in the world.” Wanting to help other female musicians, she wrote a magazine article when World War II started, encouraging big-name bands to hire women to replace servicemen. Viola herself performed with world-class bands and drummers. She started a solo act and played with symphony orchestras. Viola Smith was still drumming at age 100! Pulsing with energy, this lively book shines a much-deserved spotlight on an artist who became renowned playing an instrument most commonly associated with men. Appropriately, onomatopoeic words representing the sounds of drum crashes cavort playfully throughout the eye-popping watercolor, gouache, cut-paper, and digital illustrations.

Bang the drums—loudly—for this arresting account of a gifted virtuoso. (author’s note, musical terms, resources) (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 5, 2024

ISBN: 9781536224863

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses.

An NBA star pays tribute to the influence of his grandfather.

In the same vein as his Long Shot (2009), illustrated by Frank Morrison, this latest from Paul prioritizes values and character: “My granddad Papa Chilly had dreams that came true,” he writes, “so maybe if I listen and watch him, / mine will too.” So it is that the wide-eyed Black child in the simply drawn illustrations rises early to get to the playground hoops before anyone else, watches his elder working hard and respecting others, hears him cheering along with the rest of the family from the stands during games, and recalls in a prose afterword that his grandfather wasn’t one to lecture but taught by example. Paul mentions in both the text and the backmatter that Papa Chilly was the first African American to own a service station in North Carolina (his presumed dream) but not that he was killed in a robbery, which has the effect of keeping the overall tone positive and the instructional content one-dimensional. Figures in the pictures are mostly dark-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-81003-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston...

A memorable, lyrical reverse-chronological walk through the life of an American icon.

In free verse, Cline-Ransome narrates the life of Harriet Tubman, starting and ending with a train ride Tubman takes as an old woman. “But before wrinkles formed / and her eyes failed,” Tubman could walk tirelessly under a starlit sky. Cline-Ransome then describes the array of roles Tubman played throughout her life, including suffragist, abolitionist, Union spy, and conductor on the Underground Railroad. By framing the story around a literal train ride, the Ransomes juxtapose the privilege of traveling by rail against Harriet’s earlier modes of travel, when she repeatedly ran for her life. Racism still abounds, however, for she rides in a segregated train. While the text introduces readers to the details of Tubman’s life, Ransome’s use of watercolor—such a striking departure from his oil illustrations in many of his other picture books—reveals Tubman’s humanity, determination, drive, and hope. Ransome’s lavishly detailed and expansive double-page spreads situate young readers in each time and place as the text takes them further into the past.

A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston Weatherford and Kadir Nelson’s Moses (2006). (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2047-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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