An appealing snapshot of rough-hewn life that might well make kids appreciate washing machines.

WASHDAY

It’s washday. That doesn’t mean putting clothes in the washing machine and turning the knob or driving to the laundromat; it’s 1889, when it’s the old-fashioned way of getting clothes clean.

Lizzie and her doll, Amelia Cordelia, walk to her grandmother’s house to help because her Ma is soon to have a baby. The work is hard: boiling water in a big copper kettle; adding shavings of lye soap; sorting the clothes by color (whites for Sunday “go-to-meeting” clothes); using the broom handle to lift the hot clothing into rinse water; putting them through the wringer; and drying them on the outdoor clothesline. Taking a break with a glass of buttermilk, Lizzie is sad thinking about the doll tea party she was supposed to have with her friend that day. Surprise! Grandma has set the table for a tea party with special dishes and doll-size snickerdoodles and places for her best friend and her doll. Bunting evokes a homespun experience with emotions and details that the pencil-and-watercolor illustrations adroitly augment. Sneed neither whitewashes nor prettifies the harshness of the time; Grandma is a robust woman with hair in a bun and a big nose. Historical details like hairstyles and sturdy black shoes combine with phrases like “Grandma’s dog…has the misery in his back” to make the story feel genuine.

An appealing snapshot of rough-hewn life that might well make kids appreciate washing machines. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2868-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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

MUMBET'S DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

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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A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers.

THE INFAMOUS RATSOS

From the Infamous Ratsos series , Vol. 1

Two little rats decide to show the world how tough they are, with unpredictable results.

Louie and Ralphie Ratso want to be just like their single dad, Big Lou: tough! They know that “tough” means doing mean things to other animals, like stealing Chad Badgerton’s hat. Chad Badgerton is a big badger, so taking that hat from him proves that Louie and Ralphie are just as tough as they want to be. However, it turns out that Louie and Ralphie have just done a good deed instead of a bad one: Chad Badgerton had taken that hat from little Tiny Crawley, a mouse, so when Tiny reclaims it, they are celebrated for goodness rather than toughness. Sadly, every attempt Louie and Ralphie make at doing mean things somehow turns nice. What’s a little boy rat supposed to do to be tough? Plus, they worry about what their dad will say when he finds out how good they’ve been. But wait! Maybe their dad has some other ideas? LaReau keeps the action high and completely appropriate for readers embarking on chapter books. Each of the first six chapters features a new, failed attempt by Louie and Ralphie to be mean, and the final, seventh chapter resolves everything nicely. The humor springs from their foiled efforts and their reactions to their failures. Myers’ sprightly grayscale drawings capture action and characters and add humorous details, such as the Ratsos’ “unwelcome” mat.

A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers. (Fiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7636-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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