This faithful adaptation’s lack of narrative detail will fail to engage readers.




When Mulan’s frail father is conscripted into the Chinese emperor’s army, she decides to disguise herself as a man and take her father’s place.

Over many years of waging war, Mulan’s strength and bravery earn her ever higher ranks and even her own command. When the emperor himself rewards her for her many victories, she is finally granted what she desires most: to return home. There, after reuniting with her family, she reveals herself as a woman to her fellow soldiers, who exclaim in surprise. Many may already know this story from the 1998 Disney movie adaptation or other versions, but this edition is unique in its accurate retelling, bordering on translation, of the original Chinese poem. Unfortunately, this strict adherence to a sixth-century text (included in the backmatter) makes for a disjointed and unemotional experience, as the poem highlights moments within the story rather than telling a fleshed-out narrative. For example, what Mulan purchased in preparation for departure is detailed, but how she evaded detection as a woman for so many years is not addressed. And of her return home, “Mulan hugged her family. / She was happy to see them.” The retelling leaves many questions unanswered and emotional touch points underdeveloped. Handsome accompanying illustrations depict Mulan’s beauty and strength wonderfully, though backgrounds and secondary characters pale in comparison.

This faithful adaptation’s lack of narrative detail will fail to engage readers. (Folktale. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-280341-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Just over 100 years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, Elizabeth Jennings refused to dismount from a New York City streetcar.

In 1854, New York was a so-called free state, and Lizzie Jennings was a freeborn, well-to-do African American woman. Accustomed to being permitted in the better-appointed streetcars reserved for white passengers, Lizzie is first taken aback and then angered when the white conductor tells her she must wait for one emblazoned “Colored People Allowed in This Car.” Her refusal to leave leads to a contretemps with the law—and a white witness, whose expression of support bolsters her enough to file an eventual, successful, groundbreaking lawsuit. Anderson’s third-person text allows readers under Lizzie’s skin as her indignation at injustice mounts. Children will readily recognize both the conductor’s capricious cruelty and Lizzie’s anger that “being born a ‘free black’ in a ‘free state’ ” does not mean being “treated as equal.” Lewis’ dappled watercolors depict the action and extend it. A picture of an angry Lizzie thrown to the cobbles, bonnet askew, is shocking; another, of the faces of five white, male jurors floating forbiddingly against a vivid, dark-blue background, underscores the injustice of the legal system. A two-page author’s note fleshes out the history, including mentions of Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks.

Necessary. (bibliography, further reading) (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62979-939-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A beautiful celebration of a song that continues to give life to African Americans.



“Before you were born, a girl learned a song”—so begins the story of how “Lift Every Voice” takes root in a young African American girl’s heart and becomes a source of fortitude for her and her descendants, who continue learning, singing, and passing the song along.

Readers learn that the hymn was written by the fictional protagonist’s principal, James Weldon Johnson, and his brother, John Rosamond Johnson, to be sung during a celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday in 1900. As she grows and passes the song down through generations, significant events in the lives of African Americans unspool, including the Great Migration and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and culminating with the ringing of “the freedom bell” at the opening ceremony of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Lyons writes with rhythmic warmth, weaving the lyrics into her story. Full of faith and hope, they were the foundation of the civil rights movement and continue to be a source of encouragement and pride. Mallett’s artwork charmingly illumines the faces of the singers in the book, revealing their passion and often joy in singing what’s become cherished as the African American national anthem. An author’s note reveals that the story spread after Johnson’s students took it for their own and shared it.

A beautiful celebration of a song that continues to give life to African Americans. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51609-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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