SEVEN MILES TO FREEDOM

THE ROBERT SMALLS STORY

The daring Civil War escape of a slave, his crew and their families in a stolen Confederate supply boat receives appropriately inspirational treatment in this new picture book. Robert Smalls grew up in Beaufort, S.C., distinguishing himself to his owners as a bright, likely young man. Working on the docks, he quickly learned seamanship, a skill he put to the test when, as wheelman of the Planter, he used his knowledge of the Confederate’s whistle signals and the opportunity presented by the onshore carousing of the white members of the crew to slip through the harbor to freedom. Halfmann tells the story slowly at first, laying out both Smalls’s abilities and the yearning for freedom that only increased with his marriage and subsequent fatherhood. Smith, a newcomer to picture books, sketches out scenes and characters with broad daubs of oil, creating a sculptural effect that heightens the monumental nature of Smalls’s deed. Page turns and textual pacing combine to relate the actual escape with pulse-pounding excitement; readers’ relief at Smalls’s success is almost physical. A triumph. (author’s note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-60060-232-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2008

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VISITING LANGSTON

A little girl is going with her daddy to visit the home of Langston Hughes. She too is a poet who writes about the loves of her life—her mommy and daddy, hip-hop, hopscotch, and double-dutch, but decidedly not kissing games. Langston is her inspiration because his poems make her “dreams run wild.” In simple, joyful verse Perdomo tells of this “Harlem girl” from “Harlem world” whose loving, supportive father tells her she is “Langston’s genius child.” The author’s own admiration for Hughes’s artistry and accomplishments is clearly felt in the voice of this glorious child. Langston’s spirit is a gentle presence throughout the description of his East 127th Street home and his method of composing his poetry sitting by the window. The presentation is stunning. Each section of the poem is part of a two-page spread. Text, in yellow, white, or black, is placed either within the illustrations or in large blocks of color along side them. The last page of text is a compilation of titles of Hughes’s poems printed in shades of gray in a myriad of fonts. Collier’s (Martin’s Big Words, 2001, etc.) brilliantly complex watercolor-and-collage illustrations provide the perfect visual complement to the work. From the glowing vitality of the little girl, to the vivid scenes of jazz-age Harlem, to the compelling portrait of Langston at work, to the reverential peak into Langston’s home, the viewer’s eye is constantly drawn to intriguing bits and pieces while never losing the sense of the whole. In this year of Langston Hughes’s centennial, this work does him great honor. (Poetry. 6-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8050-6744-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2002

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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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