An American story that is at once personal, timeless and universal. Lovely and uplifting.

ANNA & SOLOMON

A young man immigrates to America at the turn of the 20th century and works and saves so his wife can join him.

Russia was not a good place for a young Jewish couple to thrive, no matter how hard they worked. The czar’s soldiers attacked their town, destroyed homes and religious books, and stole their possessions. Solomon and Anna decide that he should go to America and save up money to buy Anna a ticket. He arrives in New York and works as a housepainter, and months later, he is able to send the money. But when he meets the ship, Anna’s brother is there instead. They work together to send money again, and this time another brother arrives. Next time, it is Anna’s mother who gets off the ship. Finally Anna arrives, and they are reunited. The whole family continues to work and grow and prosper in their adopted land of freedom and opportunity. This tale of the author’s grandparents was passed down through the generations of her family. Snyder relates the events with obvious pride and love, in a conversational tone filled with descriptive details that highlight her ancestors’ determination, courage and compassion. Bliss’ illustrations beautifully complement the text, capturing time, place and emotions.

An American story that is at once personal, timeless and universal. Lovely and uplifting. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: May 20, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-374-30362-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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

THE AMAZING AGE OF JOHN ROY LYNCH

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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Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

LITTLE MELBA AND HER BIG TROMBONE

Bewitched by the rhythms of jazz all around her in Depression-era Kansas City, little Melba Doretta Liston longs to make music in this fictional account of a little-known jazz great.

Picking up the trombone at 7, the little girl teaches herself to play with the support of her Grandpa John and Momma Lucille, performing on the radio at 8 and touring as a pro at just 17. Both text and illustrations make it clear that it’s not all easy for Melba; “The Best Service for WHITES ONLY” reads a sign in a hotel window as the narrative describes a bigotry-plagued tour in the South with Billie Holiday. But joy carries the day, and the story ends on a high note, with Melba “dazzling audiences and making headlines” around the world. Russell-Brown’s debut text has an innate musicality, mixing judicious use of onomatopoeia with often sonorous prose. Morrison’s sinuous, exaggerated lines are the perfect match for Melba’s story; she puts her entire body into her playing, the exaggerated arch of her back and thrust of her shoulders mirroring the curves of her instrument. In one thrilling spread, the evening gown–clad instrumentalist stands over the male musicians, her slide crossing the gutter while the back bow disappears off the page to the left. An impressive discography complements a two-page afterword and a thorough bibliography.

Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60060-898-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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