An incredible true story that has as much power as Bessie and the motorcycles she rode.


From the Tales of the Talented Tenth series , Vol. 2

Being the first woman to ride a motorcycle across the United States did not satisfy Bessie Stringfield; she did it eight times!

In a frame narrative to this fascinating biographical tale, a young black woman interviews the elderly Stringfield about her life. Around 1916, Bessie’s father moves his family from Jamaica to Boston, but when he learns of his wife’s terminal illness, he abandons them both. Days later, a white neighbor takes her to an orphanage with kind nuns (the only minor characters from her childhood whose faces readers see). Eventually, the nice white woman who adopts Bessie gives the teen a motorcycle for her birthday—a vehicle Bessie has been dreaming of. Over the years, Bessie travels constantly, marries six times, serves as a civilian motorcycle courier for the military during World War II, becomes a stunt performer in traveling circuses, and earns a nursing degree. Gill uses the graphic format to depict racism creatively and poignantly. He portrays “Old Jim Crow” as flocks of human-sized crows, and the KKK crows wear white sheets (with their beaks sticking through their hoods) as they stage a Georgia cross-burning. When characters call Bessie a racial slur, Gill inserts a rebus into the speech bubble, depicting the head of a stereotypical minstrel figure with nappy hair, dark skin, and huge lips, allowing readers to infer the actual language. Such iconic representations make strong statements that need no words.

An incredible true story that has as much power as Bessie and the motorcycles she rode. (bibliography) (Graphic biography. 10 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-938486-94-4

Page Count: 158

Publisher: Fulcrum

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today.

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A beautifully heart-wrenching graphic-novel adaptation of actor and activist Takei’s (Lions and Tigers and Bears, 2013, etc.) childhood experience of incarceration in a World War II camp for Japanese Americans.

Takei had not yet started school when he, his parents, and his younger siblings were forced to leave their home and report to the Santa Anita Racetrack for “processing and removal” due to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. The creators smoothly and cleverly embed the historical context within which Takei’s family’s story takes place, allowing readers to simultaneously experience the daily humiliations that they suffered in the camps while providing readers with a broader understanding of the federal legislation, lawsuits, and actions which led to and maintained this injustice. The heroes who fought against this and provided support to and within the Japanese American community, such as Fred Korematsu, the 442nd Regiment, Herbert Nicholson, and the ACLU’s Wayne Collins, are also highlighted, but the focus always remains on the many sacrifices that Takei’s parents made to ensure the safety and survival of their family while shielding their children from knowing the depths of the hatred they faced and danger they were in. The creators also highlight the dangerous parallels between the hate speech, stereotyping, and legislation used against Japanese Americans and the trajectory of current events. Delicate grayscale illustrations effectively convey the intense emotions and the stark living conditions.

A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today. (Graphic memoir. 14-adult)

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60309-450-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Top Shelf Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2019

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The trials of a high school basketball team trying to clinch the state title and the graphic novelist chronicling them.

The Dragons, Bishop O’Dowd High School’s basketball team, have a promising lineup of players united by the same goal. Backed by Coach Lou Richie, an alumnus himself, this could be the season the Oakland, California, private Catholic school breaks their record. While Yang (Team Avatar Tales, 2019, etc.), a math teacher and former National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, is not particularly sporty, he is intrigued by the potential of this story and decides to focus his next graphic novel on the team’s ninth bid for the state championship. Yang seamlessly blends a portrait of the Dragons with the international history of basketball while also tying in his own career arc as a graphic novelist as he tries to balance family, teaching, and comics. Some panels directly address the creative process, such as those depicting an interaction between Yang and a Punjabi student regarding the way small visual details cue ethnicity in different ways. This creative combination of memoir and reportage elicits questions of storytelling, memory, and creative liberty as well as addressing issues of equity and race. The full-color illustrations are varied in layout, effectively conveying intense emotion and heart-stopping action on the court. Yang is Chinese American, Richie is black, and there is significant diversity among the team members.

A winner. (notes, bibliography) (Graphic nonfiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62672-079-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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