A worthwhile story poorly told.

ONA JUDGE OUTWITS THE WASHINGTONS

AN ENSLAVED WOMAN FIGHTS FOR FREEDOM

A little-known true story of a slave sheds new light on George Washington and his family.

Ona Maria Judge was born a slave on Mount Vernon, the Virginia plantation of George Washington, commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Ona’s mother, Betty, served as the Washington family seamstress and imparted needlework skills to Ona, which enabled her to escape harsh fieldwork conditions by becoming a house slave. When Washington was elected president, the family relocated to New York City, moving Ona—now Martha Washington’s personal slave—her brother Austin, and five other slaves with them in 1789. After a return to Mount Vernon, the family moved again to Philadelphia, the new capital. With the abolitionist movement gaining momentum, Ona realized the Washingtons would not free her; she would have to take her freedom. In 1796, when Mrs. Washington promised Ona as a wedding gift to her granddaughter, Ona decided to escape, assisted by the Rev. Richard Allen, a free black man, and others, to New Hampshire. The narrator emphasizes just how hard the Washington family tried to force Ona to return to them, using deception whenever possible. While this story offers important historical information, it is text-heavy, with an accretion of distracting details. The naïve-style illustrations are colorful but inconsistent, particularly in their evocation of the period, which will also limit this book’s appeal to children.

A worthwhile story poorly told.   (author’s note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5435-1280-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Capstone Editions

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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A unique angle on a watershed moment in the civil rights era.

I AM RUBY BRIDGES

The New Orleans school child who famously broke the color line in 1960 while surrounded by federal marshals describes the early days of her experience from a 6-year-old’s perspective.

Bridges told her tale to younger children in 2009’s Ruby Bridges Goes to School, but here the sensibility is more personal, and the sometimes-shocking historical photos have been replaced by uplifting painted scenes. “I didn’t find out what being ‘the first’ really meant until the day I arrived at this new school,” she writes. Unfrightened by the crowd of “screaming white people” that greets her at the school’s door (she thinks it’s like Mardi Gras) but surprised to find herself the only child in her classroom, and even the entire building, she gradually realizes the significance of her act as (in Smith’s illustration) she compares a small personal photo to the all-White class photos posted on a bulletin board and sees the difference. As she reflects on her new understanding, symbolic scenes first depict other dark-skinned children marching into classes in her wake to friendly greetings from lighter-skinned classmates (“School is just school,” she sensibly concludes, “and kids are just kids”) and finally an image of the bright-eyed icon posed next to a soaring bridge of reconciliation. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A unique angle on a watershed moment in the civil rights era. (author and illustrator notes, glossary) (Autobiographical picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-75388-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses.

BASKETBALL DREAMS

An NBA star pays tribute to the influence of his grandfather.

In the same vein as his Long Shot (2009), illustrated by Frank Morrison, this latest from Paul prioritizes values and character: “My granddad Papa Chilly had dreams that came true,” he writes, “so maybe if I listen and watch him, / mine will too.” So it is that the wide-eyed Black child in the simply drawn illustrations rises early to get to the playground hoops before anyone else, watches his elder working hard and respecting others, hears him cheering along with the rest of the family from the stands during games, and recalls in a prose afterword that his grandfather wasn’t one to lecture but taught by example. Paul mentions in both the text and the backmatter that Papa Chilly was the first African American to own a service station in North Carolina (his presumed dream) but not that he was killed in a robbery, which has the effect of keeping the overall tone positive and the instructional content one-dimensional. Figures in the pictures are mostly dark-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-81003-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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