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A moving tribute to a cultural treasure.

The story of the Al-Qarawiyyin Library in Fez, Morocco, narrated by the building itself.

In 859, Fatima Al-Fihri, the daughter of a rich merchant, decided to build a mosque and school. “I began as a small corner for books, where Fatima spent hours reading, thinking, and dreaming.” Over time, the library explains that it “grew into a grand building.” The library, which served both Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque and Al-Qarawiyyin University, was a tranquil space within bustling Fez. Visitors were greeted by a quiet courtyard filled with fountains and lanterns. A special room secured by copper doors with four locks protected its treasures: “an ancient Quran written on camel-leather pages, a philosopher’s drawings of the stars, and handwritten sheets with ink made from real gold.” Debates by Muslim explorer Muhammad al-Idrisi, Jewish philosopher Maimonides, and many others echoed in the library’s reading rooms. But eventually the library fell into disrepair, and visitors stopped coming. Its once-beautiful tiles were now broken and faded, its ceilings were cracked, and water damage threatened its books. Finally, in 2012, architect Aziza Chaouni restored this historic institution, now the world’s oldest continuously operating library. Adani’s digital illustrations highlight beautiful architectural details such as latticed partitions and suffuse the building with a warm glow. Khan’s first-person prose imbues the subject with both intimacy and a sense of majesty; readers will come away awed at the role of libraries as repositories of knowledge.

A moving tribute to a cultural treasure. (author’s note, glossary, references) (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: May 5, 2024

ISBN: 9781643794235

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2024

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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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From the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

It’s a bit sketchy of historical detail, but it’s coherent, inspirational, and engaging without indulging in rapturous...

A first introduction to the iconic civil rights activist.

“She was very little and very brave, and she always tried to do what was right.” Without many names or any dates, Kaiser traces Parks’ life and career from childhood to later fights for “fair schools, jobs, and houses for black people” as well as “voting rights, women’s rights and the rights of people in prison.” Though her refusal to change seats and the ensuing bus boycott are misleadingly presented as spontaneous acts of protest, young readers will come away with a clear picture of her worth as a role model. Though recognizable thanks to the large wire-rimmed glasses Parks sports from the outset as she marches confidently through Antelo’s stylized illustrations, she looks childlike throughout (as characteristic of this series), and her skin is unrealistically darkened to match the most common shade visible on other African-American figures. In her co-published Emmeline Pankhurst (illustrated by Ana Sanfelippo), Kaiser likewise simplistically implies that Great Britain led the way in granting universal women’s suffrage but highlights her subject’s courageous quest for justice, and Isabel Sánchez Vegara caps her profile of Audrey Hepburn (illustrated by Amaia Arrazola) with the moot but laudable claim that “helping people across the globe” (all of whom in the pictures are dark-skinned children) made Hepburn “happier than acting or dancing ever had.” All three titles end with photographs and timelines over more-detailed recaps plus at least one lead to further information.

It’s a bit sketchy of historical detail, but it’s coherent, inspirational, and engaging without indulging in rapturous flights of hyperbole. (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-78603-018-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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