An excellent introduction to an American icon.

A VOICE NAMED ARETHA

“Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin was once a shy child afraid to sing in front of a large audience. However, she came to learn that through music, she could ease her own pain and help others.

This thoughtfully illustrated biography of Aretha Franklin paints a clear picture of the artist from the time she was a child grappling with the loss of her mother in 1952 through refusing to sing before segregated audiences during the 1960s to winning multiple awards and honors. The narrative covers Aretha’s introduction to entertainers like Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald as well as to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—all were often visitors of her father, famed preacher C.L. Franklin, at their Detroit, Michigan, home. The book moves fluidly through one phase of Aretha’s life and career to the next. The illustrations are vivid, and those of Aretha singing are full of emotion. Aretha is often dressed in gold to signify her queenly stature, and Freeman hides small crowns throughout the pages, often on Aretha herself. The final spread, featuring four overlapping, sequential images of Aretha Franklin at different stages in her music career against a white background, is especially well done and even moving. The backmatter begins with a two-page spread of photographs and more information about Aretha’s life; it’s followed by a list of songs that younger listeners can look up and hear for themselves.

An excellent introduction to an American icon. (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68119-850-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A useful primer for socioemotional growth.

I AM OKAY TO FEEL

Queer Eye star Karamo Brown and his son Jason “Rachel” Brown affirm that all feelings—even negative ones—are OK.

A round-faced boy with brown skin, big brown eyes, and a bright smile walks outside, talking with his dad about feelings. With the son’s speech printed in blue and Dad’s in black, the boy announces that he’s happy and shows it by jumping and spinning while Dad dances. The book’s palette, which often reflects the boy’s emotional state, shifts drastically when a thunderstorm blows in as the sky swirls with patterns in deep blue and purple, and a thick yellow lightning bolt blasts through—a dramatic scene that represents the boy’s perception of the turbulent weather as he sits on the ground crying, hugging his knees. Dad assures him that it’s all right to feel and express fear and helps him calm these negative emotions by encouraging him to stretch and breathe deeply. While the book’s lesson is conveyed in a slightly heavy-handed manner, it’s a good message, and readers will appreciate seeing a story that centers a Black father and son dispelling the stereotype that men and boys—especially those of color—don’t or shouldn’t express emotions. The backmatter includes an emotion wheel with the boy showing a range of facial expressions, accompanied by activities and questions. The acronym “FEEL OKAY” offers opportunities to practice discussing emotions. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A useful primer for socioemotional growth. (authors’ note) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63893-010-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Zando

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2022

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A unique angle on a watershed moment in the civil rights era.

I AM RUBY BRIDGES

The New Orleans school child who famously broke the color line in 1960 while surrounded by federal marshals describes the early days of her experience from a 6-year-old’s perspective.

Bridges told her tale to younger children in 2009’s Ruby Bridges Goes to School, but here the sensibility is more personal, and the sometimes-shocking historical photos have been replaced by uplifting painted scenes. “I didn’t find out what being ‘the first’ really meant until the day I arrived at this new school,” she writes. Unfrightened by the crowd of “screaming white people” that greets her at the school’s door (she thinks it’s like Mardi Gras) but surprised to find herself the only child in her classroom, and even the entire building, she gradually realizes the significance of her act as (in Smith’s illustration) she compares a small personal photo to the all-White class photos posted on a bulletin board and sees the difference. As she reflects on her new understanding, symbolic scenes first depict other dark-skinned children marching into classes in her wake to friendly greetings from lighter-skinned classmates (“School is just school,” she sensibly concludes, “and kids are just kids”) and finally an image of the bright-eyed icon posed next to a soaring bridge of reconciliation. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A unique angle on a watershed moment in the civil rights era. (author and illustrator notes, glossary) (Autobiographical picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-75388-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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