I BEGIN WITH SPRING

THE LIFE AND SEASONS OF HENRY DAVID THOREAU

A marvelous life survey of a perennially relevant historical figure.

Henry David Thoreau spent many years observing seasonal changes in the natural world; now, a new biography for young readers chronicles the seasons of his life.

The book begins with a description of Thoreau’s outdoorsy childhood spent collecting wildflowers, leaves, and seeds on his grandmother’s farm in Concord, Massachusetts. As a teenager, Henry explored the small town’s rivers and wetlands and “learned the voices of birds, frogs, and insects too.” After studying Greek, Latin, and German at Harvard, he taught at the district school until his beloved brother’s untimely death forced him to reevaluate his life. He started journaling and writing essays and poems inspired by his excursions in nature. Determined to carry out an “experiment” in “living more simply,” he dwelled by himself in a tiny house at Walden Pond for two years. The narrative goes on to describe Thoreau’s writerly life and literary accomplishments; his foray into land surveying; his public lectures; his involvement in the anti-slavery movement; and his many adventures and groundbreaking contributions as a naturalist. Dunlap’s generous text unfolds at a leisurely pace and excels at narrative despite being nonfictional. It puts Thoreau’s lasting legacy into context, establishing his influence on Martin Luther King Jr. and the modern environmental movement. Never overdrawn, Thoreau comes across as a thoroughly modern individual, quirks and all. The book’s layout approximates a nature journal; the pages are riddled with labeled watercolor sketches and handwritten field notes. Facsimiles of primary documents are interspersed throughout, bringing 19th-century Concord to life.

A marvelous life survey of a perennially relevant historical figure. (author’s notes, resources) (Illustrated biography. 7-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-88448-908-5

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

I AM RUTH BADER GINSBURG

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

Quick and slick, but ably makes its case.

The distinguished jurist stands tall as a role model.

Not literally tall, of course—not only was she actually tiny but, as with all the other bobbleheaded caricatures in the “Ordinary People Change the World” series, Ginsburg, sporting huge eyeglasses on an outsize head over black judicial robes even in childhood, remains a doll-like figure in all of Eliopoulos’ cartoon scenes. It’s in the frank acknowledgment of the sexism and antisemitism she resolutely overcame as she went from reading about “real female heroes” to becoming one—and also the clear statement of how she so brilliantly applied the principle of “tikkun olam” (“repairing the world”) in her career to the notion that women and men should have the same legal rights—that her stature comes clear. For all the brevity of his profile, Meltzer spares some attention for her private life, too (“This is Marty. He loved me, and he loved my brains. So I married him!”). Other judicial activists of the past and present, all identified and including the current crop of female Supreme Court justices, line up with a diversely hued and abled group of younger followers to pay tribute in final scenes. “Fight for the things you care about,” as a typically savvy final quote has it, “but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

Quick and slick, but ably makes its case. (timeline, photos, source list, further reading) (Picture-book biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2024

ISBN: 9780593533338

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Rocky Pond Books/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023

JUST LIKE JESSE OWENS

A pivotal moment in a child’s life, at once stirring and authentically personal.

Before growing up to become a major figure in the civil rights movement, a boy finds a role model.

Buffing up a childhood tale told by her renowned father, Young Shelton describes how young Andrew saw scary men marching in his New Orleans neighborhood (“It sounded like they were yelling ‘Hi, Hitler!’ ”). In response to his questions, his father took him to see a newsreel of Jesse Owens (“a runner who looked like me”) triumphing in the 1936 Olympics. “Racism is a sickness,” his father tells him. “We’ve got to help folks like that.” How? “Well, you can start by just being the best person you can be,” his father replies. “It’s what you do that counts.” In James’ hazy chalk pastels, Andrew joins racially diverse playmates (including a White child with an Irish accent proudly displaying the nickel he got from his aunt as a bribe to stop playing with “those Colored boys”) in tag and other games, playing catch with his dad, sitting in the midst of a cheering crowd in the local theater’s segregated balcony, and finally visualizing himself pelting down a track alongside his new hero—“head up, back straight, eyes focused,” as a thematically repeated line has it, on the finish line. An afterword by Young Shelton explains that she retold this story, told to her many times growing up, drawing from conversations with Young and from her own research; family photos are also included. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A pivotal moment in a child’s life, at once stirring and authentically personal. (illustrator’s note) (Autobiographical picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-545-55465-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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