A true and inspiring story of a refugee hero

YUSRA SWIMS

Yusra, a young Syrian woman, travels at the age of 17 with her older sister to escape the war in her country.

Having trained since childhood, Yusra dreams of swimming at the Olympics. The sisters, now refugees, pay smugglers and end up on a small inflatable loaded with people and headed to Greece. Shortly after the boat takes off from the Turkish shore, the engine fails. However, Yusra and her sister jump into the water and help guide it to safety despite the rough sea. They arrive on the shore tired and cold. Strangers stare at them with accusing looks, but there is also “sudden kindness” when a child gives Yusra shoes. They walk for miles on rough terrain, then take buses and trains until reaching safety in Germany. There, Yusra starts training to swim again, eventually achieving her dream. In clipped quatrains—no line exceeds four syllables—the story relates Yusra Mardini’s journey from Syria in 2015, culminating in her participation in the 2016 Olympics as part of a team of refugees. Abery’s choice of spare, rhythmic verse gives the narrative a gripping and dramatic feel while Deng’s illustrations convey the struggles of war and displacement. Yusra is portrayed throughout as a strong and resilient young woman, determined and full of courage. A note from the author provides additional information about Yusra’s journey, including her becoming a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. refugee agency.

A true and inspiring story of a refugee hero . (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-56846-329-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Creative Editions/Creative Company

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering.

THE AMAZING AGE OF JOHN ROY LYNCH

An honestly told biography of an important politician whose name every American should know.

Published while the United States has its first African-American president, this story of John Roy Lynch, the first African-American speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, lays bare the long and arduous path black Americans have walked to obtain equality. The title’s first three words—“The Amazing Age”—emphasize how many more freedoms African-Americans had during Reconstruction than for decades afterward. Barton and Tate do not shy away from honest depictions of slavery, floggings, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, or the various means of intimidation that whites employed to prevent blacks from voting and living lives equal to those of whites. Like President Barack Obama, Lynch was of biracial descent; born to an enslaved mother and an Irish father, he did not know hard labor until his slave mistress asked him a question that he answered honestly. Freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, Lynch had a long and varied career that points to his resilience and perseverance. Tate’s bright watercolor illustrations often belie the harshness of what takes place within them; though this sometimes creates a visual conflict, it may also make the book more palatable for young readers unaware of the violence African-Americans have suffered than fully graphic images would. A historical note, timeline, author’s and illustrator’s notes, bibliography and map are appended.

A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering. (Picture book biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5379-0

Page Count: 50

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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The message is worthy, but this phoned-in follow-up doesn’t add anything significant.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE SCHOOLS

From the My Purple World series

A color-themed vision of what school should be like.

In what amounts to a rehash of The World Needs More Purple People (2020), Bell and Hart address adult as well as young readers to explain what “curious and kind you” can do to make school, or for that matter the universe, a better place. Again culminating in the vague but familiar “JUST. BE. YOU!” the program remains much the same—including asking questions both “universe-sized” (“Could you make a burrito larger than a garbage truck?”) and “smaller, people-sized” (i.e., personal), working hard to learn and make things, offering praise and encouragement, speaking up and out, laughing together, and listening to others. In the illustrations, light-skinned, blond-haired narrator Penny poses amid a busy, open-mouthed, diverse cast that includes a child wearing a hijab and one who uses a wheelchair. Wiseman opts to show fewer grown-ups here, but the children are the same as in the earlier book, and a scene showing two figures blowing chocolate milk out of their noses essentially recycles a visual joke from the previous outing. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

The message is worthy, but this phoned-in follow-up doesn’t add anything significant. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-43490-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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