Awesome, astounding, death-defying.

KING OF THE TIGHTROPE

WHEN THE GREAT BLONDIN RULED NIAGARA

How famous French funambulist Jean-François Gravelet daringly traversed a tightrope spanning Niagara Falls in 1859.

Born into a family of acrobats, gymnasts, and funambulists, or tightrope walkers, Jean-François learned to balance on a thick board at age 4 and “took to the rope like a spider takes to its web.” Performing with his family throughout France, Jean-François twirled, flipped, leaped, and skipped across the high wire, inventing extreme balancing feats. Calling himself “the Great Blondin,” he traveled to America in 1851, pushing his act to be ever more “merveilleux.” Viewing Niagara Falls in 1858, Blondin imagined a tightrope stretched across it. Crossing “those roaring waters” became his life’s ambition. Peppered with French words and phrases, Bowman’s well-researched documentary text re-creates the energy, tactics, skill, engineering, unflinching optimism, and sheer grit of Blondin’s preparations to cross Niagara as well as the skepticism and wonder of all who witnessed his legendary endeavor. Bold, colorful watercolor-and-gouache illustrations capture Blondin’s high-wire escapades, from tottering childhood steps through his sure-footed Niagara crossing, with a dramatic, almost photographic realism. Theatrical lighting, stunning perspectives, and arresting close-ups convey the intensity of Blondin’s feats, either high above the viewer on a rope spanning both pages or below the viewer perched over Niagara’s turbulent waters. Historical notes, timeline, and photos complete the experience.

Awesome, astounding, death-defying. (author’s notes, photos) (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-56145-937-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A unique angle on a watershed moment in the civil rights era.

I AM RUBY BRIDGES

The New Orleans school child who famously broke the color line in 1960 while surrounded by federal marshals describes the early days of her experience from a 6-year-old’s perspective.

Bridges told her tale to younger children in 2009’s Ruby Bridges Goes to School, but here the sensibility is more personal, and the sometimes-shocking historical photos have been replaced by uplifting painted scenes. “I didn’t find out what being ‘the first’ really meant until the day I arrived at this new school,” she writes. Unfrightened by the crowd of “screaming white people” that greets her at the school’s door (she thinks it’s like Mardi Gras) but surprised to find herself the only child in her classroom, and even the entire building, she gradually realizes the significance of her act as (in Smith’s illustration) she compares a small personal photo to the all-White class photos posted on a bulletin board and sees the difference. As she reflects on her new understanding, symbolic scenes first depict other dark-skinned children marching into classes in her wake to friendly greetings from lighter-skinned classmates (“School is just school,” she sensibly concludes, “and kids are just kids”) and finally an image of the bright-eyed icon posed next to a soaring bridge of reconciliation. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A unique angle on a watershed moment in the civil rights era. (author and illustrator notes, glossary) (Autobiographical picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-75388-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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An inspirational look at one girl’s quest to make sure that all skin tones are visible and available in the classroom.

MORE THAN PEACH

A Black girl’s simple observation propels her into activism.

Woodard, who launched the More Than Peach Project—which arranges for classrooms and children in need to receive kits that include art supplies and boxes of multicultural crayons (crayons in a variety of skin tones)—relates the incident that sparked her journey. As the book begins, she is dropped off at school and notices that her family’s skin tone differs from that of her classmates. While it is clear that she is one of a few children of color at school, that difference isn’t really felt until her friends start asking for the “skin-color” crayon when they mean peach. She’s bothered that no one else seems to notice that skin comes in many colors, so she devises a unique way of bringing everyone’s attention to that fact. With support from her family and her school, she encourages her fellow classmates to rethink their language and starts an initiative to ensure that everyone’s skin tone is represented in each crayon box. Appealing, realistic artwork depicts Woodard’s experiences, while endpapers feature More Than Peach crayon boxes and childlike illustrations of kids of different ethnicities doing various activities. The story is stirring and will motivate budding activists. (This book was reviewed digitally; the review has been updated for factual accuracy.)

An inspirational look at one girl’s quest to make sure that all skin tones are visible and available in the classroom. (note from Woodard, information on Woodard’s journey into activism, instructions on starting a drive) (Picture-book biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: July 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-80927-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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