The strength of this telling is the way it encourages readers to empathize with Madison’s plight, making it a solid entry in...

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MY NAME IS JAMES MADISON HEMINGS

The life of James Madison Hemings, believed by most scholars to be one of several children Thomas Jefferson had with enslaved Sally Hemings, is imagined in this picture book of historical fiction.

James Madison Hemings looks back at his childhood as an enslaved person at Monticello. As he grows up he learns Jefferson is his father, but this connection is never to be acknowledged. Madison, as he is referred to in historical accounts, relates how the unspoken relationship affects his and his siblings’ lives: where they live, what they learn, and ultimately their freedom. “And yet, my name was written in my father’s ‘Farm Book’—the ledger where he recorded all his property.” In this first-person narrative, a child’s confused attempts to make sense of his situation ring true. Winter creates a tone of secrecy and distance in a place where no one is allowed to speak truth. Widener’s acrylic illustrations with their pastoral palette contribute to this with stillness, though they are not static. The many images of Madison as an observer of his surroundings reflect the fact he was the only one of Sally Hemings’ children to leave a written record of his life, a major source for Winter’s story. The detailed author’s note will be a welcome resource for adults, guiding them in answering young readers’ questions.

The strength of this telling is the way it encourages readers to empathize with Madison’s plight, making it a solid entry in that class of picture books tackling tough topics. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-38342-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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A life devoted to freedom and dignity, worthy of praise and remembrance.

MUMBET'S DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

With the words of Massachusetts colonial rebels ringing in her ears, a slave determines to win her freedom.

In 1780, Mumbet heard the words of the new Massachusetts constitution, including its declaration of freedom and equality. With the help of a young lawyer, she went to court and the following year, won her freedom, becoming Elizabeth Freeman. Slavery was declared illegal and subsequently outlawed in the state. Woelfle writes with fervor as she describes Mumbet’s life in the household of John Ashley, a rich landowner and businessman who hosted protest meetings against British taxation. His wife was abrasive and abusive, striking out with a coal shovel at a young girl, possibly Mumbet’s daughter. Mumbet deflected the blow and regarded the wound as “her badge of bravery.” Ironically, the lawyer who took her case, Theodore Sedgwick, had attended John Ashley’s meetings. Delinois’ full-bleed paintings are heroic in scale, richly textured and vibrant. Typography becomes part of the page design as the font increases when the text mentions freedom. Another slave in the Ashley household was named in the court case, but Woelfle, keeping her young audience in mind, keeps it simple, wisely focusing on Mumbet.

A life devoted to freedom and dignity, worthy of praise and remembrance. (author’s note, selected bibliography, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7613-6589-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2013

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A powerful retrospective glimpse at a key event.

LET THE CHILDREN MARCH

A vibrantly illustrated account of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade through the eyes of a young girl who volunteers to participate.

Morrison’s signature style depicts each black child throughout the book as a distinct individual; on the endpapers, children hold signs that collectively create a “Civil Rights and the Children’s Crusade” timeline, placing the events of the book in the context of the greater movement. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. comes to speak at her church, a girl and her brother volunteer to march in their parents’ stead. The narrative succinctly explains why the Children’s Crusade was a necessary logistical move, one that children and parents made with careful consideration and despite fear. Lines of text (“Let the children march. / They will lead the way // The path may be long and / troubled, but I’m gonna walk on!”) are placed within the illustrations in bold swoops for emphasis. Morrison’s powerful use of perspective makes his beautiful oil paintings even more dynamic and conveys the intensity of the situations depicted, including the children’s being arrested, hosed, and jailed. The child crusaders, regardless of how badly they’re treated, never lose their dignity, which the art conveys flawlessly. While the children win the day, such details as the Confederate flag subtly connect the struggle to the current day.

A powerful retrospective glimpse at a key event. (timeline, afterword, artist’s statement, quote sources, bibliography) (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-70452-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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