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A brilliant integration of Indigenous American art and history.

Biographical profiles of 34 Indigenous Americans, rendered as poems, are illustrated by nearly 30 enrolled tribal artists.

Bruchac’s introduction dispels stubborn stereotypes about Native people, disputing that their time was “back then, not in the present—or the future.” By presenting profiles chronologically, from The Peacemaker (circa 1000 C.E.) to Wilma Mankiller (1945-2010), he elegantly unspools a more nuanced Native history. Free verse, arranged in stanzas with short lines and simple language, renders complex historical figures relatable for their courage, perseverance, and passion. While some of the subjects—Pocahontas, Geronimo, Jim Thorpe, and others—are covered in student curricula, Bruchac provides unique details and a fresh approach. He refutes the tired trope of a “romance” between preteen Pocahontas and John Smith, explaining that a White observer misinterpreted Smith’s ritual adoption by the Powhatan Nation as violence, mistaking the girl’s ceremonial role as intercession. Warriors, including women, defended their lands against Spanish, British, and American invaders. Po’Pay (circa 1630-1688) helped unify the Pueblo villages against the Spanish colonizers, effectively repelling them for 12 years. Others bridged tribal and mainstream cultures through law, medicine, activism, religion, and art. Throughout, Bruchac meticulously details how the successive colonizers’ brutality, deceit, and coercion scarred both individual members and tribal communities. The stellar art, representing varied media and styles, reifies tribal reverence and often uses humor, irony, and pop-cultural references to skewer stereotypes.

A brilliant integration of Indigenous American art and history. (biographical thumbnails, author’s note) (Historical poetry. 10-14)

Pub Date: Dec. 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4788-7516-1

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Reycraft Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2022

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From the Poetry for Young People series

A sampler worth sampling, despite pallid illustrations and a roster entirely made up of dead or veteran poets.

Kitted out—as usual for volumes in the Poetry for Young People series—with biographical headers and an outstanding introductory overview, the 33 short selections follow a generally chronological course. Atypically, the editors steer largely clear of explicit racial or religious themes in their selections. Phillis Wheatley’s pointed “Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain, / May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train,” and James Weldon Johnson’s “The Creation” stand as exceptions. Along with contributions from James Baldwin and Richard Wright (both better known for their prose), notable additions to the standard African-American poetic canon include 19th-century writers George Moses Horton and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. More-recent meditations from Melvin Dixon (b. 1950) and Elizabeth Alexander (b. 1962) also help to freshen up the collection. Sadly, what vivacity these poems retain is sucked dry by Barbour’s monotonous successions of sad, big-eyed faces and drably colored collages. Well-intentioned, and at least as valuable for its editorial additions as its lyric contents. (index) (Poetry. 10-13)


Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4027-1689-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2012

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Bold, honest, informative, and unforgettable.

A welcome addition to civil rights literature for children.

Ask American children to recall a book on Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks, and most can. Fannie Lou Hamer? They will likely come up short. This expansive, richly illustrated biography about the “voice of the civil rights movement” recounts Hamer’s humble and poverty-stricken beginnings in 1917 as the 20th child of Mississippi sharecroppers through her struggle to fight for the rights of black people on local, regional, and national levels. Hamer’s quotes appear frequently in Weatherford’s free-verse poetry, giving readers a sense of how and what she spoke: “Black people work so hard, and we ain’t got nothin’ / to show for it.” The author also includes painful truths, describing the “night riders’ ” pursuit of Hamer after she attempted to register to vote and a brutal beating at the hands of police following her arrest, from which she suffered lifetime injuries. Hamer’s determination, perseverance, and unwavering resolve come through on every page. Holmes’ quiltlike collage illustrations emphasize the importance Hamer placed on community among African-Americans. Young readers who open this book with just a vague notion of who Fannie Lou Hamer was will wonder no more after absorbing this striking portrait of the singer and activist.

Bold, honest, informative, and unforgettable. (author’s note, timeline, source notes, bibliography) (Picture book/poetry/biography. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6531-9

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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