An inspiring saga of a real-life hero.

ROBERT SMALLS

From the Tales of the Talented Tenth series , Vol. 3

An enslaved sailor successfully commandeers a Confederate ship and sails it to freedom.

Robert Smalls was a 23-year-old enslaved deckhand on the Confederate ship the CSS Planter when he devised a plan to emancipate himself and 15 others, including his wife and children. Smalls’ work on the ship allowed him to learn the navigation and codes needed to move through the blockaded waters surrounding Charleston, South Carolina. It was also how he discovered that the Union would accept those fleeing from slavery as contraband. Against military orders, the captain of the ship allowed White crew members to spend the night away from the ship, entrusting it to the Black sailors. Seizing the opportunity, Smalls led a dangerous escape through Confederate checkpoints by acting as the White captain. His daring resulted in the freedom of those aboard and the capture of a ship and arms for the Union. The epilogue gives more examples of Smalls’ efforts to improve the lives of his people after the Civil War, including as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. This graphic depiction of Smalls’ story successfully captures the determination of enslaved people to secure their own freedom. The colorful panels fully express the taut drama of the venture. This is the latest in the Tales of the Talented Tenth series by graphic storyteller Gill, presenting little-known tales from African American history.

An inspiring saga of a real-life hero. (bibliography) (Graphic biography. 10-16)

Pub Date: May 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68275-066-7

Page Count: 158

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A rich and deeply felt slice of life.

JUST PRETEND

Crafting fantasy worlds offers a budding middle school author relief and distraction from the real one in this graphic memoir debut.

Everyone in Tori’s life shows realistic mixes of vulnerability and self-knowledge while, equally realistically, seeming to be making it up as they go. At least, as she shuttles between angrily divorced parents—dad becoming steadily harder to reach, overstressed mom spectacularly incapable of reading her offspring—or drifts through one wearingly dull class after another, she has both vivacious bestie Taylor Lee and, promisingly, new classmate Nick as well as the (all-girl) heroic fantasy, complete with portals, crystal amulets, and evil enchantments, taking shape in her mind and on paper. The flow of school projects, sleepovers, heart-to-heart conversations with Taylor, and like incidents (including a scene involving Tori’s older brother, who is having a rough adolescence, that could be seen as domestic violence) turns to a tide of change as eighth grade winds down and brings unwelcome revelations about friends. At least the story remains as solace and, at the close, a sense that there are still chapters to come in both worlds. Working in a simple, expressive cartoon style reminiscent of Raina Telgemeier’s, Sharp captures facial and body language with easy naturalism. Most people in the spacious, tidily arranged panels are White; Taylor appears East Asian, and there is diversity in background characters.

A rich and deeply felt slice of life. (afterword, design notes) (Graphic memoir. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-53889-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A standout among writing guides, valuable for its sage and friendly encouragement and for the sheer fun of hanging out with...

WRITING RADAR

USING YOUR JOURNAL TO SNOOP OUT AND CRAFT GREAT STORIES

Advice on writing from one of the best writers around.

“I’m a writer and I’m on your side,” Gantos says, as if he’s putting an arm around a young writer’s shoulder and guiding them through a door to a new life. With a snappy voice, his own funny ink drawings, and expertise drawn from a career full of great books, he covers just about everything: where to find ideas and characters, how to structure a story, why to keep a journal, and even what to write with. Every step of the way he includes examples from his own writing. As humorous as he is, Gantos is authoritative and serious about his craft, careful to include every building block for constructing a good story—characters, setting, problem, action, crisis, resolution, and the need for a double ending (physical and emotional). Chapter 2 (“Getting Started”) ought to be read by all teachers and parents: it’s a manifesto on how to raise a reader (and writer) by reading aloud excellent picture books to young children and placing good books in the hands of children as they get older, and he offers a handy list of just what some of those books should be. While his list of picture books is not a particularly diverse one, the middle-grade titles suggested are nicely inclusive.

A standout among writing guides, valuable for its sage and friendly encouragement and for the sheer fun of hanging out with Jack. (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-30456-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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