Even though grandmother meets the Motorwagen with the same disgruntlement as the emperor, everybody else cheers the...



Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go; we steal father’s car, we are going quite far, and mother cooks up the whole show.

In the town of Mannheim in Germany, in 1888, Bertha Benz decides to take her husband’s car, the Benz Motorwagen, to grandmother’s house, 60 miles distant in the town of Pforzheim, on roads that were more suited for—to all intents and purposes likely made by—sheep, horses, goats, and cows. Emperor Wilhelm II and the church are not amused by the self-propelled Motorwagen, so Bertha is out to prove them wrong. Bertha and her two sons push the car out of the garage in the early morn, but as they motor along, they meet up with internal-combustion-engine problems that the ingenious Bertha—who had worked with her husband to build the car—solves: she invents the brake shoe along the way, made for her by a cobbler. Adkins tells the tale with brio and dash and illustrates it with nifty, time-gone-by details like roadside alms boxes (hello, toll roads), springs disgorging through gargoylelike face into basins to refresh weary travelers, and naphtha as fuel. The artwork is mostly pleasing, with 1888 European countrysides and villages. The characters’ faces are often obscured by hat brims; when doffed, they often reveal unsettlingly wooden expressions. The story is a hoot of ingenuity and an exhilarating tip of the hat to unsung women heroes, and Adkins has a good time telling it.

Even though grandmother meets the Motorwagen with the same disgruntlement as the emperor, everybody else cheers the contraption’s epic voyage. (timeline, schematics, afterword) (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-58089-696-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering.


An honestly told biography of an important politician whose name every American should know.

Published while the United States has its first African-American president, this story of John Roy Lynch, the first African-American speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, lays bare the long and arduous path black Americans have walked to obtain equality. The title’s first three words—“The Amazing Age”—emphasize how many more freedoms African-Americans had during Reconstruction than for decades afterward. Barton and Tate do not shy away from honest depictions of slavery, floggings, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, or the various means of intimidation that whites employed to prevent blacks from voting and living lives equal to those of whites. Like President Barack Obama, Lynch was of biracial descent; born to an enslaved mother and an Irish father, he did not know hard labor until his slave mistress asked him a question that he answered honestly. Freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, Lynch had a long and varied career that points to his resilience and perseverance. Tate’s bright watercolor illustrations often belie the harshness of what takes place within them; though this sometimes creates a visual conflict, it may also make the book more palatable for young readers unaware of the violence African-Americans have suffered than fully graphic images would. A historical note, timeline, author’s and illustrator’s notes, bibliography and map are appended.

A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering. (Picture book biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5379-0

Page Count: 50

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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A worthy message delivered with a generous dose of inclusivity.


Sharing books brings children from multiple backgrounds together in this companion to Stacey’s Extraordinary Words (2021).

Again lightly burnishing actual childhood memories, voting rights activist and former gubernatorial candidate Abrams recalls reaching out as a young book lover to Julie, a new Vietnamese classmate shy about reading in English. Choosing books to read and discuss together on weekly excursions to the school’s library, the two are soon joined by enough other children from Gambia, South Korea, and elsewhere that their beaming librarian, Mr. McCormick, who is dark-skinned, sets up an after-school club. Later, Julie adds some give and take to their friendship by helping Stacey overcome her own reluctance to join the other children on the playground. Though views of the library seen through a faint golden haze flecked with stars go a little over the top (school librarians may disagree), Thomas fills the space with animated, bright-eyed young faces clustering intimately together over books and rendered in various shades beneath a range of hairstyles and head coverings. The author underscores the diversity of the cast by slipping scattered comments in Spanish, Wolof, and other languages into the dialogue and, after extolling throughout the power of books and stories to make new friends as well as open imaginations to new experiences and identities, brings all of her themes together in an afterword capped by an excellent list of recommended picture books. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A worthy message delivered with a generous dose of inclusivity. (Picture-book memoir. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-327185-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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