A perfect, well-rounded historical story that will engage readers of all ages.

CHESTER NEZ AND THE UNBREAKABLE CODE

A NAVAJO CODE TALKER'S STORY

For young readers, a nuanced, compassionate biography of a Navajo Code Talker.

Like many Native American children, Betoli, a Navajo boy, was taken from his family to a missionary boarding school, where he was forbidden to speak Navajo and forced to change his name to Chester. He endured the painful process of having his long hair shaved, forlornly depicted in a stark image in which black crows with outspread wings carry away the strips of his hair. Summers spent at home, immersed once again in the love, language, and culture of his people, gave him the strength to carry on. As he got older, Chester adapted as best he could to the forced assimilation. He joined the military during World War II and became one of the first Code Talkers, who used their own language to undermine the Japanese, efforts that helped to end the war. Bruchac’s story dares to go beyond the war in highlighting the postwar trauma that Chester experienced, demonstrated in a beautiful yet haunting illustration that symbolically captures his pain. This tale of a real-life Code Talker humanizes the main character by giving readers the whole picture of his connectedness to home and family, which is reinforced in Amini-Holmes’ textured paintings, which resonate on an almost ethereal level.

A perfect, well-rounded historical story that will engage readers of all ages. (author’s note, partial code key, timeline) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8075-0007-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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A reasonably solid grounding in constitutional rights, their flexibility, lacunae, and hard-won corrections, despite a few...

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT FREEDOM

Shamir offers an investigation of the foundations of freedoms in the United States via its founding documents, as well as movements and individuals who had great impacts on shaping and reshaping those institutions.

The opening pages of this picture book get off to a wobbly start with comments such as “You know that feeling you get…when you see a wide open field that you can run through without worrying about traffic or cars? That’s freedom.” But as the book progresses, Shamir slowly steadies the craft toward that wide-open field of freedom. She notes the many obvious-to-us-now exclusivities that the founding political documents embodied—that the entitled, white, male authors did not extend freedom to enslaved African-Americans, Native Americans, and women—and encourages readers to learn to exercise vigilance and foresight. The gradual inclusion of these left-behind people paints a modestly rosy picture of their circumstances today, and the text seems to give up on explaining how Native Americans continue to be left behind. Still, a vital part of what makes freedom daunting is its constant motion, and that is ably expressed. Numerous boxed tidbits give substance to the bigger political picture. Who were the abolitionists and the suffragists, what were the Montgomery bus boycott and the “Uprising of 20,000”? Faulkner’s artwork conveys settings and emotions quite well, and his drawing of Ruby Bridges is about as darling as it gets. A helpful timeline and bibliography appear as endnotes.

A reasonably solid grounding in constitutional rights, their flexibility, lacunae, and hard-won corrections, despite a few misfires. (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-54728-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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Blandly laudatory.

I AM WALT DISNEY

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

The iconic animator introduces young readers to each “happy place” in his life.

The tally begins with his childhood home in Marceline, Missouri, and climaxes with Disneyland (carefully designed to be “the happiest place on Earth”), but the account really centers on finding his true happy place, not on a map but in drawing. In sketching out his early flubs and later rocket to the top, the fictive narrator gives Ub Iwerks and other Disney studio workers a nod (leaving his labor disputes with them unmentioned) and squeezes in quick references to his animated films, from Steamboat Willie to Winnie the Pooh (sans Fantasia and Song of the South). Eliopoulos incorporates stills from the films into his cartoon illustrations and, characteristically for this series, depicts Disney as a caricature, trademark mustache in place on outsized head even in childhood years and child sized even as an adult. Human figures default to white, with occasional people of color in crowd scenes and (ahistorically) in the animation studio. One unidentified animator builds up the role-modeling with an observation that Walt and Mickey were really the same (“Both fearless; both resourceful”). An assertion toward the end—“So when do you stop being a child? When you stop dreaming”—muddles the overall follow-your-bliss message. A timeline to the EPCOT Center’s 1982 opening offers photos of the man with select associates, rodent and otherwise. An additional series entry, I Am Marie Curie, publishes simultaneously, featuring a gowned, toddler-sized version of the groundbreaking physicist accepting her two Nobel prizes.

Blandly laudatory. (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2875-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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