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

THE AMAZING AGE OF JOHN ROY LYNCH

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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Absolutely wonderful in every way.

THE SECRET SUBWAY

A long-forgotten chapter in New York City history is brilliantly illuminated.

In mid-19th-century New York, horses and horse-drawn vehicles were the only means of transportation, and the din created by wheels as they rumbled on the cobblestones was deafening. The congestion at intersections threatened the lives of drivers and pedestrians alike. Many solutions were bandied about, but nothing was ever done. Enter Alfred Ely Beach, an admirer of “newfangled notions.” Working in secret, he created an underground train powered by an enormous fan in a pneumatic tube. He built a tunnel lined with brick and concrete and a sumptuously decorated waiting room for passenger comfort. It brought a curious public rushing to use it and became a great though short-lived success, ending when the corrupt politician Boss Tweed used his influence to kill the whole project. Here is science, history, suspense, secrecy, and skulduggery in action. Corey’s narrative is brisk, chatty, and highly descriptive, vividly presenting all the salient facts and making the events accessible and fascinating to modern readers. The incredibly inventive multimedia illustrations match the text perfectly and add detail, dimension, and pizazz. Located on the inside of the book jacket is a step-by-step guide to the creative process behind these remarkable illustrations.

Absolutely wonderful in every way. (author’s note, bibliography, Web resources) (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-375-87071-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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