Sophisticated, inventive art invites close viewings for patient readers in this unusual family story.



Flashes of multi-media brilliance illuminate this darkly colored, leisurely paced memoir of childhood in Shanghai.

With war approaching, Baba (daddy) searches for a place to keep Ma and their five kids safe. “The safest part of Shanghai was where the embassies were—on the edge, next to fields,” but that land is too expensive to purchase. Baba makes a deal: He’ll use his engineering skills to build “a big brick house… with courtyards, gardens, [and] a swimming pool” that his family can inhabit for 20 years, after which it will revert to the landowner. The artist’s childhood in this house comprises the story, a patchwork of games played (including roller skating on the roof), mild deprivation (little meat, but always food) and the distant-seeming war (first-person Eddy refers to Japan as the enemy but doesn’t explain). Eddy feels safe in Baba’s house, as do the other families sheltering there. The episodic text rambles; some illustrations are casual and chaotic. Others are magnificent. Young uses myriad textures, including crinkly paper and woven reed paper. Collaged family silhouettes feature tenderly sketched faces. Old photos and bits of painted collage glow on dark pages. Miniscule cut-out people populate fold-out drawings and complex, three-dimensional–looking collages of the house. Those wanting historical or cultural background will need supplements, though.

Sophisticated, inventive art invites close viewings for patient readers in this unusual family story.    (foreword, time line, author’s note) (Picture book/memoir. 7-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-316-07628-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering.


An honestly told biography of an important politician whose name every American should know.

Published while the United States has its first African-American president, this story of John Roy Lynch, the first African-American speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, lays bare the long and arduous path black Americans have walked to obtain equality. The title’s first three words—“The Amazing Age”—emphasize how many more freedoms African-Americans had during Reconstruction than for decades afterward. Barton and Tate do not shy away from honest depictions of slavery, floggings, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, or the various means of intimidation that whites employed to prevent blacks from voting and living lives equal to those of whites. Like President Barack Obama, Lynch was of biracial descent; born to an enslaved mother and an Irish father, he did not know hard labor until his slave mistress asked him a question that he answered honestly. Freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, Lynch had a long and varied career that points to his resilience and perseverance. Tate’s bright watercolor illustrations often belie the harshness of what takes place within them; though this sometimes creates a visual conflict, it may also make the book more palatable for young readers unaware of the violence African-Americans have suffered than fully graphic images would. A historical note, timeline, author’s and illustrator’s notes, bibliography and map are appended.

A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering. (Picture book biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5379-0

Page Count: 50

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

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A multiaward–winning author recalls her childhood and the joy of becoming a writer.

Writing in free verse, Woodson starts with her 1963 birth in Ohio during the civil rights movement, when America is “a country caught / / between Black and White.” But while evoking names such as Malcolm, Martin, James, Rosa and Ruby, her story is also one of family: her father’s people in Ohio and her mother’s people in South Carolina. Moving south to live with her maternal grandmother, she is in a world of sweet peas and collards, getting her hair straightened and avoiding segregated stores with her grandmother. As the writer inside slowly grows, she listens to family stories and fills her days and evenings as a Jehovah’s Witness, activities that continue after a move to Brooklyn to reunite with her mother. The gift of a composition notebook, the experience of reading John Steptoe’s Stevie and Langston Hughes’ poetry, and seeing letters turn into words and words into thoughts all reinforce her conviction that “[W]ords are my brilliance.” Woodson cherishes her memories and shares them with a graceful lyricism; her lovingly wrought vignettes of country and city streets will linger long after the page is turned.

For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-25251-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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