THE SONG OF MU LAN

A beautiful translation of a sixth-century Chinese folk poem about Mu Lan, a woman who spends more than a decade in the emperor's army disguised as a man and returns home a hero. The text is printed on soft-hued watercolor illustrations where milky rivers flow through hazy, beige landscapes. The figures are deliberately stilted; each detail is carefully and delicately drawncostumed soldiers and horses, banners, glowing fabrics, folded draperiesbut the artfully created panoramas won't draw readers' eyes across the pages, many of which look more or less alike, and which leave the action fairly vague. The poem is written in free verse, with the original appearing in Chinese calligraphy running down the side of each spread. Lee creates a powerful and distinctive mooda product of spare imagery, elegant repetitions, and use of the present tense to describe the distant pastthat makes for an affecting read- aloud. (Picture book/folklore. 4-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 1995

ISBN: 1-886910-00-6

Page Count: 36

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1995

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Both a beautiful celebration of black culture and an excellent first black history book for young children.

BLACK IS A RAINBOW COLOR

A young black child ponders the colors in the rainbow and a crayon box and realizes that while black is not a color in the rainbow, black culture is a rainbow of its own.

In bright paints and collage, Holmes shows the rainbow of black skin tones on each page while Joy’s text describes what “Black is” physically and culturally. It ranges from the concrete, such as “the braids in my best friend’s hair,” to the conceptual: “Black is soft-singing, ‘Hush now, don’t explain’ ”—a reference to the song “Don’t Explain” made popular by Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, the former depicted in full song with her signature camellia and the latter at her piano. Joy alludes throughout the brief text to poetry, music, figures, and events in black history, and several pages of backmatter supply the necessary context for caregivers who need a little extra help explaining them to listeners. Additionally, there is a playlist of songs to accompany reading as well as three poems: “Harlem,” by Langston Hughes, and “We Wear the Mask” and “Sympathy,” by Paul Laurence Dunbar. The author also includes a historical timeline describing some of the names that have been used to describe and label black people in the United States since 1619.

Both a beautiful celebration of black culture and an excellent first black history book for young children. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62672-631-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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PINK AND SAY

A white youth from Ohio, Sheldon Russell Curtis (Say), and a black youth from Georgia, Pinkus Aylee (Pink), meet as young soldiers with the Union army. Pink finds Say wounded in the leg after a battle and brings him home with him. Pink's mother, Moe Moe Bay, cares for the boys while Say recuperates, feeding and comforting them and banishing the war for a time. Whereas Pink is eager to go back and fight against "the sickness" that is slavery, Say is afraid to return to his unit. But when he sees Moe Moe Bay die at the hands of marauders, he understands the need to return. Pink and Say are captured by Confederate soldiers and brought to the notorious Andersonville prison camp. Say is released months later, ill and undernourished, but Pink is never released, and Polacco reports that he was hanged that very first day because he was black. Polacco (Babushka Baba Yaga, 1993, etc; My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother, above) tells this story, which was passed down for generations in her family (Say was her great-great-grandfather), carefully and without melodrama so that it speaks for itself. The stunning illustrations — reminiscent of the German expressionist Egon Shiele in their use of color and form — are completely heartbreaking. A spectacular achievement. (Nonfiction/Picture book. 4- 8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 1994

ISBN: 0-399-22671-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1994

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