Powerful, moving, necessary.

SO TALL WITHIN

SOJOURNER TRUTH'S LONG WALK TOWARD FREEDOM

The life and work of Sojourner Truth are detailed in this lyrical picture book by Schmidt (Martín de Porres, illustrated by David Diaz, 2012).

The book begins “In Slavery Time, when Hope was a seed waiting to be planted.” Most of Isabella’s brothers and sisters were sold away before she could remember, but her mother told her that the same moon and stars looked down upon them all. Then Isabella was sold and separated from her mother. She was made to work hard, then made to marry, then promised freedom but not granted it, so finally she “seized Freedom with her own hands.” Her son was sold away from her, and she used the law to get him back. After reuniting with some of her own siblings, she decided to make “a journey—a sojourn—to tell the truth about Slavery.” Schmidt details the states she stopped in and quotes words she used to speak her truth. (The bibliography describes the manuscript from which her words are quoted.) The poetic text highlights her inner journey, giving readers not just a strong historical figure, but a human being in insufferable circumstances, a feat not often accomplished in books for young readers, particularly about enslaved people. Minter’s art is emotional and haunting, with colors of blue and auburn, near-transparent silhouettes, faces that have seen too much, and nature looking on. The art itself tells stories of stolen childhood, torn families, and finding purpose.

Powerful, moving, necessary. (biographical note, artist’s note) (Picture book/biography. 6-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62672-872-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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A substantive and affirming addition to any collection.

THE ABCS OF BLACK HISTORY

An impressive array of names, events, and concepts from Black history are introduced in this alphabet book for early-elementary readers.

From A for anthem (“a banner of song / that wraps us in hope, lets us know we belong”) to Z for zenith (“the top of that mountain King said we would reach”), this picture book is a journey through episodes, ideas, and personalities that represent a wide range of Black experiences. Some spreads celebrate readers themselves, like B for beautiful (“I’m talking to you!”); others celebrate accomplishments, such as E for explore (Matthew Henson, Mae Jemison), or experiences, like G for the Great Migration. The rhyming verses are light on the tongue, making the reading smooth and soothing. The brightly colored, folk art–style illustrations offer vibrant scenes of historical and contemporary Black life, with common people and famous people represented in turn. Whether reading straight through and poring over each page or flipping about to look at the refreshing scenes full of brown and black faces, readers will feel pride and admiration for the resilience and achievements of Black people and a call to participate in the “unfinished…American tale.” Endnotes clarify terms and figures, and a resource list includes child-friendly books, websites, museums, and poems.

A substantive and affirming addition to any collection. (Informational picture book. 6-11)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5235-0749-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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An astonishing work of art and a crucial addition to every bookshelf.

WHEN WE SAY BLACK LIVES MATTER

The author of The Patchwork Bike (illustrated by Van Thanh Rudd, 2016) writes to children about the meaning of the phrase Black Lives Matter.

Pastel illustrations, also by Clarke, on dark, textured paper are paired with oversized, contrasting text addressed to “Little one.” In the visuals, a family that begins as a couple expecting a baby grows into a family with a child and then becomes part of a community in protest, marching for Black lives, before a final page shows a jubilant Black boy in a cap and gown. The adult narrator explains that “when we say Black Lives Matter, / we’re saying Black people are wonderful-strong.” Other meanings of the rallying cry, when it is called out, screamed, sung, laughed, and known, include a demand for respect, a defiant joy, a channeling of ancestors, an acknowledgment of trouble, and knowing one’s worth. Clarke’s text is poignant and mesmerizing, with design elements that raise the text to an artistic level, shaping it around the art and highlighting active and emotional words in color: enough, dancing, radiant, precious. The art is truly outstanding, gripping the heart from the very first spread and not letting go. With colored shapes and stained-glass motifs, these Black figures feel real and weighty. Within this deep dive are tragedy, fear, anger, and mourning alongside hope, comfort, strength, and triumph. This slim book contains a necessary and healing exploration of our current moment that will remain relevant for decades to come.

An astonishing work of art and a crucial addition to every bookshelf. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-2238-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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A reasonably solid grounding in constitutional rights, their flexibility, lacunae, and hard-won corrections, despite a few...

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT FREEDOM

Shamir offers an investigation of the foundations of freedoms in the United States via its founding documents, as well as movements and individuals who had great impacts on shaping and reshaping those institutions.

The opening pages of this picture book get off to a wobbly start with comments such as “You know that feeling you get…when you see a wide open field that you can run through without worrying about traffic or cars? That’s freedom.” But as the book progresses, Shamir slowly steadies the craft toward that wide-open field of freedom. She notes the many obvious-to-us-now exclusivities that the founding political documents embodied—that the entitled, white, male authors did not extend freedom to enslaved African-Americans, Native Americans, and women—and encourages readers to learn to exercise vigilance and foresight. The gradual inclusion of these left-behind people paints a modestly rosy picture of their circumstances today, and the text seems to give up on explaining how Native Americans continue to be left behind. Still, a vital part of what makes freedom daunting is its constant motion, and that is ably expressed. Numerous boxed tidbits give substance to the bigger political picture. Who were the abolitionists and the suffragists, what were the Montgomery bus boycott and the “Uprising of 20,000”? Faulkner’s artwork conveys settings and emotions quite well, and his drawing of Ruby Bridges is about as darling as it gets. A helpful timeline and bibliography appear as endnotes.

A reasonably solid grounding in constitutional rights, their flexibility, lacunae, and hard-won corrections, despite a few misfires. (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-54728-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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