A spectacular story about a little-known eco-warrior whose story should be told and retold.

SAVING AMERICAN BEACH

THE BIOGRAPHY OF AFRICAN AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALIST MAVYNEE BETSCH

An unsung American hero who used her voice to preserve the natural spaces she loved.

MaVynee Betsch grew up in the Jim Crow South, where she and other Black kids couldn’t swim with the White kids. An orange rope even segregated the ocean. Wanting beaches for all, MaVynee’s wealthy great-grandfather, Abraham Lincoln Lewis, bought a beach in Florida and welcomed African Americans, calling it American Beach. This “ocean paradise” entertained both regular folk and greats like Ray Charles, Zora Neale Hurston, and Ella Fitzgerald. MaVynee herself became a successful opera singer, but when her mother got sick and died, MaVynee abandoned her musical career and returned to Florida only to find her beloved beach in disrepair. Developers wanted to buy it to build condos. Holmes’ stunning, intricately composed paint-and-collage images bring MaVynee to life in full color and capture her eccentricities: She grew her locked hair to 7 feet long, decorating it with seashells, sometimes styling it into a high topknot and other times draping the end over her arm. Holmes uses a brilliant cerulean for ocean and sky and peppers the vibrantly patterned illustrations with found items such as torn raffle tickets, newspaper clippings, promotional posters, and sheet music, making each spread visually rich, realistic, and fascinating. King’s storytelling, Holmes’ artwork, and informative backmatter portray MaVynee Betsch as the larger-than-life Black environmentalist she was. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9.5-by-21-inch double-page spreads viewed at 27.6% of actual size.)

A spectacular story about a little-known eco-warrior whose story should be told and retold. (author's note, illustrator's note) (Picture book/biography. 6-12)

Pub Date: today

ISBN: 978-1-101-99629-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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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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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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