HONKY-TONK HEROES AND HILLBILLY ANGELS

THE PIONEERS OF COUNTRY AND WESTERN MUSIC

A companion volume to Shake, Rattle and Roll: The Founders of Rock and Roll (2001) presents brief biographical sketches of some 18 of the greats of Country and Western music, from the Carter Family to Johnny Cash. George-Warren’s engaging text packs a lot of information into a small space, detailing in broad arcs the movements of a given performer’s career, including a song title or two, and indicating how that particular performer influenced those who followed. Although some of the dicier aspects of some performers’ lives are shown the light of day—Hank Williams’s drug use, George Jones’s alcoholism—these are given only glancing attention, the focus firmly on the music. Levine’s bright, folk-arty illustrations are particularly suited to her subject here, presenting performers in homespun fashion. While the text sometimes gets a little heavy on superlatives—“most successful,” “greatest,” “top-selling”—with the effect that the sketches are not as individual as one might hope, this is, on the whole, a well-presented selection that will give interested children a solid introduction to the form and its shapers. (Picture book/biography. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 9, 2006

ISBN: 0-618-19100-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2006

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For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

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BROWN GIRL DREAMING

A multiaward–winning author recalls her childhood and the joy of becoming a writer.

Writing in free verse, Woodson starts with her 1963 birth in Ohio during the civil rights movement, when America is “a country caught / / between Black and White.” But while evoking names such as Malcolm, Martin, James, Rosa and Ruby, her story is also one of family: her father’s people in Ohio and her mother’s people in South Carolina. Moving south to live with her maternal grandmother, she is in a world of sweet peas and collards, getting her hair straightened and avoiding segregated stores with her grandmother. As the writer inside slowly grows, she listens to family stories and fills her days and evenings as a Jehovah’s Witness, activities that continue after a move to Brooklyn to reunite with her mother. The gift of a composition notebook, the experience of reading John Steptoe’s Stevie and Langston Hughes’ poetry, and seeing letters turn into words and words into thoughts all reinforce her conviction that “[W]ords are my brilliance.” Woodson cherishes her memories and shares them with a graceful lyricism; her lovingly wrought vignettes of country and city streets will linger long after the page is turned.

For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-25251-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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It's a deftly worked resolution, inspirational message and all.

IN THE YEAR OF THE BOAR AND JACKIE ROBINSON

A young Chinese arrival, self-named Shirley Temple Wong, finds a secure, bicultural niche in 1945-46 Brooklyn—as, it's suggested, did Chinese American novelist Lord (Spring Moon).

The opening passages, meant to evoke a traditional Chinese household, have a slightly artificial, storybook quality; but once Lord gets Shirley to the Brooklyn neighborhood of look-alike houses, and into P.S. 8 where not two children look alike, this becomes an endearing, warming account of immigrant woes and joys. Her first afternoon, after Father has shown her around, Shirley insists on going to fetch cigarettes—"Rukee Sike"; she proudly procures them, from a substitute store ("Nothing to it at all"), then loses her way back ("What a fool she was!")—but Father and his guests, finding her, still march her home triumphant. She is put into the fifth grade, not only knowing no English, but actually a year ahead of herself (asked her age, she held up ten fingers—because a Chinese child is one year old at birth); in response to a wink, she takes to blinking (a tic, wonders the teacher); introduced, she bows. And, from her general differentness, she's soon ignored, friendless; a failure, too, as "China's little ambassador" of her mother's imagining. (In a poignant bit, P.S. 8's second "Chinese" student proves to be from Chattanooga, and not to speak Chinese.) The turnaround starts with two black eyes from Mabel, "the tallest and the strongest and the scariest girl in all the fifth grade." Shirley doesn't tattle; Mabel befriends her—picking her for stickball, coaching her; and, from an inadvertent resemblance to Jackie Robinson (" 'Cause she's pigeontoed and stole home"), she develops a passion for the Dodgers and an identification with Robinson ("making a better America," proclaims her teacher) that climaxes when she presents him with the keys to P.S. 8. But in a nice parallel with a Chinese tale, this identification also allows Shirley to wear "two gowns," and to imagine her Chinese relatives clapping along with the P.S. 8 audience.

It's a deftly worked resolution, inspirational message and all.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 1984

ISBN: 978-0-06-440175-3

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1984

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