Worthy intentions squandered on simplistic exhortations.



An enthusiastic invitation to understand and use our constitutional right to speak out.

Gliding silently over the real-world fact that First Amendment rights apply to minors only in qualified ways, two legal experts who specialize in defending journalists blithely assure young readers in rhyme that they are not only “free to be quiet and free to be LOUD,” but also to pray where they will, to “sign your name to a letter,” to march in protest, to join groups (or not), and to “talk and debate about people in power.” Many will note that a claim that “Freedom belongs to all—even when what we hear sounds icky” leaves an open door for bullying and even unprotected hate speech. (Christy Mihaly and Manu Montoya’s otherwise more nuanced and perceptive Free for You and Me, 2020, similarly overlooks this potential violation of equal protection under the law.) The illustrations collage together a small smiley-face character with arms and a tail with photos of bright-faced, diverse children posing in tights and capes and such iconic First Amendment images as protest marches and the Bill of Rights and other founding documents. They are more decorative than demonstrative, and the closing historical note is not only nearly illegible, being printed in tiny dark type on a blue background, but includes at least one defunct URL.

Worthy intentions squandered on simplistic exhortations. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-947951-27-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: City Point Press/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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The information is not uninteresting, but its delivery is far from compelling.



A clueless itinerant jester becomes a device for communicating medieval fashion.

After getting fired from his job as a jester for the king, traveling entertainer Bickford arrives in a new village hoping to find work. There, Bickford bumps into Trowbridge, a local, who takes the jester on a tour, pointing out the class differences and social roles to be discerned based on people’s attire, taking care to articulate the potential consequences of breaking the rules. “Those two women are wearing a conical hat called a henin…they are showing that they are very important women by the height of their hats,” Trowbridge lectures, and “It can mean death to anyone outside the royal class who dares to wear purple cloth.” The dialogue throughout is so expository as to feel hopelessly stiff, and the illustrations are likewise bland and posed. Very occasional insets offer further exposition. From a plot standpoint, it is mystifying that Bickford, traveling on foot even “for days,” should be so thoroughly unfamiliar with the mores in a community close enough to his place of origin to share his language. The title of the book is a bit of a misnomer, as well, as the serfs’ tatters would hardly have been considered “fashion.” Bickford and Trowbridge both present white; occasional figures in the background appear to be people of color.

The information is not uninteresting, but its delivery is far from compelling. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63440-905-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Red Chair Press

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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A solid resource for a classroom or school library about a phenomenal Cherokee woman that feels a bit like flipping through...



From the Big Words series

This latest in Rappaport’s Big Words series highlights Wilma Mankiller, the Cherokee girl who grows up to become “the first woman chief of the Cherokee Nation.”

The opening text and accompanying illustration immediately place readers in “rural Oklahoma” on the Mankillers’ farm, where Wilma spends her early years in her “family of eleven.” Although poor in material wealth, the Mankillers are “rich in love and community,” and Wilma is raised with the understanding of Gadugi, the Cherokee “philosophy of helping each other.” When a new government policy relocates Wilma’s family into urban life in San Francisco, Wilma experiences the threat of acculturation. Yet despite that danger and other challenges during her early adult years, Wilma finds a new community at the Oakland Indian Center and creates opportunities to help other Native people until she finally returns to Oklahoma, where she goes on to accomplish her most memorable work. Rappaport has produced a thoroughly researched biography enhanced by Mankiller’s own words, and though it’s heavy with text, readers should find that Choctaw artist Kukuk’s detailed scratchboard and watercolor illustrations provide visual balance. The combined effect gives readers a sense of intimacy. 

A solid resource for a classroom or school library about a phenomenal Cherokee woman that feels a bit like flipping through a family photo album. (author’s note, illustrator’s note, important events, pronunciation guide, resources) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4847-4718-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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