An unforgettable story that needs to be known.


A passion for education and freedom brings subversive ingenuity to life in 1847 St. Louis.

James’ mother scrubs his face clean for his first day of “Tallow Candle School” in the basement of Rev. John’s church. Though initially resistant, once James realizes that Rev. John teaches children to read, he goes eagerly. “We make our own light here,” the preacher tells him. Hopkinson reveals John Barry Meachum’s true history through the stories he tells the children of being born a slave (in 1789 in Virginia) and working in the saltpeter mines to purchase his own freedom and that of both parents, then walking hundreds of miles to liberate his wife. (The backmatter also reveals that Meachum bought and freed several other slaves.) When the police burst into the school to inform Rev. John that Missouri has passed a law forbidding blacks, slave or free, to read, he stops teaching temporarily. With James’ help, he uses his carpentry skills to build a steamboat on the Mississippi—federal property—in which his students can learn freely. This fascinating story, illustrated in pen and ink with a color palette of browns and blacks with occasional pops of blue and red, draws readers into the historical era effectively and emphasizes what a privilege literacy was for African-Americans in the 19th century.

An unforgettable story that needs to be known. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4231-2196-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Jump at the Sun

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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A life devoted to freedom and dignity, worthy of praise and remembrance.


With the words of Massachusetts colonial rebels ringing in her ears, a slave determines to win her freedom.

In 1780, Mumbet heard the words of the new Massachusetts constitution, including its declaration of freedom and equality. With the help of a young lawyer, she went to court and the following year, won her freedom, becoming Elizabeth Freeman. Slavery was declared illegal and subsequently outlawed in the state. Woelfle writes with fervor as she describes Mumbet’s life in the household of John Ashley, a rich landowner and businessman who hosted protest meetings against British taxation. His wife was abrasive and abusive, striking out with a coal shovel at a young girl, possibly Mumbet’s daughter. Mumbet deflected the blow and regarded the wound as “her badge of bravery.” Ironically, the lawyer who took her case, Theodore Sedgwick, had attended John Ashley’s meetings. Delinois’ full-bleed paintings are heroic in scale, richly textured and vibrant. Typography becomes part of the page design as the font increases when the text mentions freedom. Another slave in the Ashley household was named in the court case, but Woelfle, keeping her young audience in mind, keeps it simple, wisely focusing on Mumbet.

A life devoted to freedom and dignity, worthy of praise and remembrance. (author’s note, selected bibliography, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7613-6589-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2013

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Innocuous adventuring on the smallest of scales.


From the Adventures of Henry Whiskers series , Vol. 1

The Mouse and the Motorcycle (1965) upgrades to The Mice and the Rolls-Royce.

In Windsor Castle there sits a “dollhouse like no other,” replete with working plumbing, electricity, and even a full library of real, tiny books. Called Queen Mary’s Dollhouse, it also plays host to the Whiskers family, a clan of mice that has maintained the house for generations. Henry Whiskers and his cousin Jeremy get up to the usual high jinks young mice get up to, but when Henry’s little sister Isabel goes missing at the same time that the humans decide to clean the house up, the usually bookish big brother goes on the adventure of his life. Now Henry is driving cars, avoiding cats, escaping rats, and all before the upcoming mouse Masquerade. Like an extended version of Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Two Bad Mice (1904), Priebe keeps this short chapter book constantly moving, with Duncan’s peppy art a cute capper. Oddly, the dollhouse itself plays only the smallest of roles in this story, and no factual information on the real Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House is included at the tale’s end (an opportunity lost).

Innocuous adventuring on the smallest of scales. (Fantasy. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6575-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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