An intriguing new angle on an important story.



A historical picture book posits the question: what if blacksmiths used their hammers to communicate with runaways on the Underground Railroad?

When the African-American narrator wakes to find Pa sick but still at the forge (slaves didn’t get sick days), the child is worried Pa won’t be well enough to hammer out vital information to travelers on the Underground Railroad that night, “sending word to the folks in the woods, who are waiting to hear when it’s time to leave.” Wondering when their family will run, the child is comforted by Ma with one word—“Soon”—and an affectionate embrace, the pair backlit by the warm glow of a fire. The child’s anxious impatience is fascinating—it’s a familiar trope of childhood placed within the harsh realities of American slavery. Rich’s oil paintings evoke a sense of time and place, portraying various depictions of slave life. Later, when Pa doesn’t have the strength to pound out his blacksmith’s song, the child (who’s practiced the rhythm, tapping it out on the henhouse, dancing to it, etc., throughout the story) must take up the hammer. Then finally! It’s time for the family to run. Though believing a sick man could successfully run away requires some suspension of contemporary disbelief, the core of the story is completely credible: the ingenuity of communication among slaves and their intense commitment to freedom.

An intriguing new angle on an important story. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-56145-580-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization.


If Pluto can’t be a planet—then what is he?

Having been a regular planet for “the better part of forever,” Pluto is understandably knocked out of orbit by his sudden exclusion. With Charon and his four other moons in tow he sets off in search of a new identity. Unfortunately, that only spins him into further gloom, as he doesn’t have a tail like his friend Halley’s comet, is too big to join Ida and the other asteroids, and feels disinclined to try to crash into Earth like meteoroids Gem and Persi. Then, just as he’s about to plunge into a black hole of despair, an encounter with a whole quartet of kindred spheroids led by Eris rocks his world…and a follow-up surprise party thrown by an apologetic Saturn (“Dwarf planet has a nice RING to it”) and the other seven former colleagues literally puts him “over the moon.” Demmer gives all the heavenly bodies big eyes (some, including the feminine Saturn, with long lashes) and, on occasion, short arms along with distinctive identifying colors or markings. Dressing the troublemaking meteoroids in do-rags and sunglasses sounds an off note. Without mentioning that the reclassification is still controversial, Wade closes with a (somewhat) straighter account of Pluto’s current official status and the reasons for it.

Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68446-004-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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From the Ballpark Mysteries series , Vol. 1

A new series for emerging chapter-book readers combines the allure of baseball parks with the challenge of solving a mystery. Mike and Kate have tickets to a Red Sox game and an all-access pass to the park, courtesy of Kate's mom, a sportswriter. The pass comes in handy when it's reported that star player Big D's lucky bat has been stolen, as it allows them to help find the thief. Historical details about Fenway Park, including the secret code found on the manual scoreboard, a look at Wally the mascot and a peek into the gift shop, will keep the young baseball fan reading, even when the actual mystery of the missing bat falls a little flat. Writing mysteries for very young readers is a challenge—the puzzle has to be easy enough to solve while sustaining readers' interest. This slight adventure is more baseball-park travel pamphlet than mystery, a vehicle for providing interesting details about one of the hallowed halls of baseball. Not a homerun, but certainly a double for the young enthusiast. On deck? The Pinstripe Ghost, also out on Feb. 22, 2011. (historical notes) (Mystery. 6-9)



Pub Date: Feb. 22, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-375-86703-3

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2011

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