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A solid introduction to an important figure.

This illustrated biography of Kenyan environmental scholar and activist Wangari Maathai showcases her intelligence and courage.

As a girl, Wangari collected firewood from the forest. In clear streams, she witnessed the life cycle of frogs. She tended her own small garden. And when her brothers asked why she didn’t go to school, her mother said, “There’s no reason why not.” Maathai completed high school and went on to study biology in the United States. When she returned home, she found a changed land. The clear rivers were muddy. The forests were replaced by tea and coffee plantations and desert. Even the sacred fig tree had been uprooted. Maathai saw connections between the absence of trees and the poverty and poor nutrition of children and farm animals. With hard work, outreach, and cooperation, Maathai established a tree-planting movement that made a difference in the landscape and communities of her beloved country. Her political involvement is also detailed in this story: her opposition to environmentally irresponsible government plans and how she joined in protest with other women for the release of political prisoners. Each spread matches several paragraphs on one topic with one or more scenes of stylized humans and animals against extremely bright colors. Though the writing is unimpressive, the story is well structured, and the details of Maathai’s life are fascinating enough to merit an attentive read. The arresting figures are engaging, their earth tones set off by pink- and orange-dominated backgrounds. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.5-by-19-inch double-page spreads viewed at 71.8% of actual size.)

A solid introduction to an important figure. (glossary, further information, index) (Picture book/biography. 5-10)

Pub Date: May 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-62371-885-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Crocodile/Interlink

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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

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. 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston...

A memorable, lyrical reverse-chronological walk through the life of an American icon.

In free verse, Cline-Ransome narrates the life of Harriet Tubman, starting and ending with a train ride Tubman takes as an old woman. “But before wrinkles formed / and her eyes failed,” Tubman could walk tirelessly under a starlit sky. Cline-Ransome then describes the array of roles Tubman played throughout her life, including suffragist, abolitionist, Union spy, and conductor on the Underground Railroad. By framing the story around a literal train ride, the Ransomes juxtapose the privilege of traveling by rail against Harriet’s earlier modes of travel, when she repeatedly ran for her life. Racism still abounds, however, for she rides in a segregated train. While the text introduces readers to the details of Tubman’s life, Ransome’s use of watercolor—such a striking departure from his oil illustrations in many of his other picture books—reveals Tubman’s humanity, determination, drive, and hope. Ransome’s lavishly detailed and expansive double-page spreads situate young readers in each time and place as the text takes them further into the past.

A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston Weatherford and Kadir Nelson’s Moses (2006). (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2047-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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