The story is an important one, but this vehicle can’t carry it.

READ REVIEW

THE SLAVE WHO WENT TO CONGRESS

Benjamin Sterling Turner, the first African American elected to the U.S. Congress from the state of Alabama, is the subject of this picture-book biography.

Rosner and Gaillard tell the story in Turner’s voice, opening with his enslavement and his “yearning for an education,” which “would come alive” during “the reading mornings” when he would sneak and listen to his owner, Mrs. Turner, read aloud to her children. Turner was a tenacious learner. Children who are familiar with stories about Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass will notice this parallel with his contemporaries. From this book, readers learn that Turner was an interesting man who amassed a fortune twice before his death, raised a son alone after his first wife was sold away, and was elected to Congress despite having been born enslaved. However, a problem that presents almost immediately is that this book is related in the first person and therefore reads as though it is an autobiography. The authors mention both this decision and their sources in an opening note, but their fairly unorthodox choice unacceptably blurs the line between the facts of Turner’s life and fictional embellishment. Drawing on secondary resources for detail and Turner’s few recorded writings for his style, the authors put words in his mouth; a representative example: “I cannot say [my owner] was altogether unkind.” With no specific citation for this or other assertions, it is impossible for readers to know whether this was authentically Turner’s feeling or authorial imposition.

The story is an important one, but this vehicle can’t carry it. (Picture book/biography. 5-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-58838-356-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: NewSouth

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments.

SUPERHEROES ARE EVERYWHERE

The junior senator from California introduces family and friends as everyday superheroes.

The endpapers are covered with cascades of, mostly, early childhood snapshots (“This is me contemplating the future”—caregivers of toddlers will recognize that abstracted look). In between, Harris introduces heroes in her life who have shaped her character: her mom and dad, whose superpowers were, respectively, to make her feel special and brave; an older neighbor known for her kindness; grandparents in India and Jamaica who “[stood] up for what’s right” (albeit in unspecified ways); other relatives and a teacher who opened her awareness to a wider world; and finally iconic figures such as Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley who “protected people by using the power of words and ideas” and whose examples inspired her to become a lawyer. “Heroes are…YOU!” she concludes, closing with a bulleted Hero Code and a timeline of her legal and political career that ends with her 2017 swearing-in as senator. In group scenes, some of the figures in the bright, simplistic digital illustrations have Asian features, some are in wheelchairs, nearly all are people of color. Almost all are smiling or grinning. Roe provides everyone identified as a role model with a cape and poses the author, who is seen at different ages wearing an identifying heart pin or decoration, next to each.

Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments. (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984837-49-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Engaging, well-chosen images and a clear, coherent text illuminate the importance of empathy for the world’s inhabitants.

A WORLD TOGETHER

Large color photographs (occasionally composed of montages) and accessible, simple text highlight global similarities and differences, always focusing on our universal connections.

While child readers may not recognize Manzano, the Puerto Rican actress who played Maria on Sesame Street, adults will recognize her as a trusted diverse voice. In her endnote, she explains her desire to “encourage lively conversations about shared experiences.” Starting out with the familiar, home and community, the text begins with “How many WONDERFUL PEOPLE do you know?” Then it moves out to the world: “Did you know there are about 8 BILLION PEOPLE on the planet?” The photo essay features the usual concrete similarities and differences found in many books of this type, such as housing (a Mongolian yurt opposite a Hong Kong apartment building overlooking a basketball court), food (dumplings, pizza, cotton candy, a churro, etc.), and school. Manzano also makes sure to point out likenesses in emotions, as shown in a montage of photos from countries including China, Spain, Kashmir (Pakistan/India), and the United States. At the end, a world map and thumbnail images show the locations of all photos, revealing a preponderance of examples from the U.S. and a slight underrepresentation for Africa and South America.

Engaging, well-chosen images and a clear, coherent text illuminate the importance of empathy for the world’s inhabitants. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4263-3738-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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