A BURST OF FIRSTS

DOERS, SHAKERS, AND RECORD BREAKERS

Lewis leaves behind the serious mood of his Freedom Like Sunlight: Praisesongs for Black Americans (2000) with jocose commemorations of 22 more important notables. He ranges from Ruby Bridges and Michael Jordan to such non–African-Americans as Anna Edson Taylor, the first person to survive a barrel ride over Niagara Falls, and Akebono, the first top-ranked non-Japanese sumo wrestler (“What’s even more surprising than / The belly of a sumo / Wrestler is his very very / Miniature costume! Oh . . . ”). He even leaves the human arena, saluting the 6,000-year-old “Eon Tree” as well as the brontosaurus who, paleontologists suggest, could snap its tail like a whip—“What first broke the sound barrier? / A Brontosaurus derriere.” Ajhar’s big, breezy caricatures add plenty of dash and action; Babe Didrikson holds a golf club in one hand, juggles basketballs with the other, and catches a javelin in her teeth. Levi Strauss high-steps past generations of jeans-wearers; and Susan Montgomery Williams floats through every scene suspended beneath her world-record–sized bubblegum bubble. Readers will sail just as lightly through this gallery of achievers, marveling as they go. (Picture book/poetry. 7-10)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8037-2108-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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INDIAN SHOES

A very pleasing first-chapter book from its funny and tender opening salvo to its heartwarming closer. Ray and his Grampa Halfmoon live in Chicago, but Grampa comes from Oklahoma. Six vignettes make up the short chapters. Among them: Ray finds a way to buy Grampa the pair of moccasins that remind him of home and Smith gets in a gentle jab at the commercialization of Native American artifacts. At a Christmas stuck far away from the Oklahoma relatives the pair finds comfort and joy even when the electricity goes out, and in a funny sequence of disasters, a haircut gone seriously awry enables a purple-and-orange dye job to be just the ticket for little-league spirit. The language is spare, clean, and rhythmic, with a little sentimentality to soften the edges. Ray and Grampa have a warm and loving intergenerational bond that’s an added treat. With a nod toward contemporary Native Americans, Grampa tells Cherokee and Seminole family stories, and when Ray gets to be in a wedding party, the groom is Polish-Menominee and his bride is Choctaw. An excellent choice for younger readers from the author of the bittersweet Rain Is Not My Indian Name (2001). (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-029531-7

Page Count: 80

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2002

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TOMAS AND THE LIBRARY LADY

A charming, true story about the encounter between the boy who would become chancellor at the University of California at Riverside and a librarian in Iowa. Tom†s Rivera, child of migrant laborers, picks crops in Iowa in the summer and Texas in the winter, traveling from place to place in a worn old car. When he is not helping in the fields, Tom†s likes to hear Papa Grande's stories, which he knows by heart. Papa Grande sends him to the library downtown for new stories, but Tom†s finds the building intimidating. The librarian welcomes him, inviting him in for a cool drink of water and a book. Tom†s reads until the library closes, and leaves with books checked out on the librarian's own card. For the rest of the summer, he shares books and stories with his family, and teaches the librarian some Spanish. At the end of the season, there are big hugs and a gift exchange: sweet bread from Tom†s's mother and a shiny new book from the librarianto keep. Col¢n's dreamy illustrations capture the brief friendship and its life-altering effects in soft earth tones, using round sculptured shapes that often depict the boy right in the middle of whatever story realm he's entered. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-80401-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1997

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