A moving real-life story well-told and beautifully illustrated.

MALALA YOUSAFZAI

WARRIOR WITH WORDS

A nonfiction picture book about a young Pakistani activist who believes that education is a basic human right.

Malala Yousafzai grew up in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, where her father ran a school for girls. She loved books, words and language, and in 2007, when the Taliban came to power in the area and tried to ban education for girls, she started writing brave blog posts asserting that education is a fundamental right. The Taliban infamously responded to the 15-year-old’s courage by shooting her in the head as she sat in her school bus. Malala became an international cause célèbre, shining a light not only on the Taliban’s injustices, but also on the work of activists like her who resisted the regime. After she recovered, she spoke at the United Nations and then took her message—“Every child. Every country. Free school”—around the world. Malala is a celebrity among politically conscious adults, and her story is exactly the sort that captivates kids: A relatable young teenager who stands up to injustice in a simple, powerful way. Leggett Abouraya (Hands Around the Library, 2012) gets off to a slightly shaky, abstract start on the book’s first page: “Malala Yousafzai did not celebrate her sixteenth birthday with a sleepover, but with a stand-up.” After that, however, her words and her storytelling are clear and moving, revealing a real talent for understanding young audiences. Instead of introducing or explaining the Taliban within the body of the story, for example, she leaves it to a longer endnote so the main narrative can focus on Malala herself. When Malala is shot, the author uses straightforward language that isn’t sensationalistic and doesn’t overpower the gravity of the act. The author also highlights elements of Malala’s bright personality, including her love of the color pink, and quotes often from Malala’s speeches and blog. Wheatley’s illustrations meet the high standards set by the text, using cut paper and occasional photographs to create skillful compositions.

A moving real-life story well-told and beautifully illustrated.

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-63083-316-9

Page Count: 36

Publisher: StarWalk Kids Media

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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A substantive and affirming addition to any collection.

THE ABCS OF BLACK HISTORY

An impressive array of names, events, and concepts from Black history are introduced in this alphabet book for early-elementary readers.

From A for anthem (“a banner of song / that wraps us in hope, lets us know we belong”) to Z for zenith (“the top of that mountain King said we would reach”), this picture book is a journey through episodes, ideas, and personalities that represent a wide range of Black experiences. Some spreads celebrate readers themselves, like B for beautiful (“I’m talking to you!”); others celebrate accomplishments, such as E for explore (Matthew Henson, Mae Jemison), or experiences, like G for the Great Migration. The rhyming verses are light on the tongue, making the reading smooth and soothing. The brightly colored, folk art–style illustrations offer vibrant scenes of historical and contemporary Black life, with common people and famous people represented in turn. Whether reading straight through and poring over each page or flipping about to look at the refreshing scenes full of brown and black faces, readers will feel pride and admiration for the resilience and achievements of Black people and a call to participate in the “unfinished…American tale.” Endnotes clarify terms and figures, and a resource list includes child-friendly books, websites, museums, and poems.

A substantive and affirming addition to any collection. (Informational picture book. 6-11)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5235-0749-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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A lovely 20th-anniversary tribute to the towers and all who perished—and survived.

SURVIVOR TREE

A remarkable tree stands where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once soared.

Through simple, tender text, readers learn the life-affirming story of a Callery pear tree that grew and today still flourishes “at the foot of the towers.” The author eloquently describes the pre-9/11 life of the “Survivor Tree” and its heartening, nearly decadelong journey to renewal following its recovery from the wreckage of the towers’ destruction. By tracking the tree’s journey through the natural cycle of seasonal changes and colors after it was found beneath “the blackened remains,” she tells how, after replanting and with loving care (at a nursery in the Bronx), the tree managed miraculously to flourish again. Retransplanted at the Sept. 11 memorial, it valiantly stands today, a symbol of new life and resilience. Hazy, delicate watercolor-and–colored pencil artwork powerfully traces the tree’s existence before and after the towers’ collapse; early pages include several snapshotlike insets capturing people enjoying the outdoors through the seasons. Scenes depicting the towers’ ruins are aptly somber yet hopeful, as they show the crushed tree still defiantly alive. The vivid changes that new seasons introduce are lovingly presented, reminding readers that life unceasingly renews itself. Many paintings are cast in a rosy glow, symbolizing that even the worst disasters can bring forth hope. People depicted are racially diverse. Backmatter material includes additional facts about the tree.

A lovely 20th-anniversary tribute to the towers and all who perished—and survived. (author's note, artist's note) (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-48767-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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