Important history made beautiful and engaging.

SHE WAS THE FIRST!

THE TRAILBLAZING LIFE OF SHIRLEY CHISHOLM

This picture-book biography shows how Shirley Chisolm’s upbringing and talents led to her career in politics and her historic run for the U.S. presidency.

By the age of 3, Shirley was leading children twice her age in play. When finances were difficult at home in Brooklyn, her parents brought her and her sister to live with her grandmother in Barbados, where she experienced farm life and beaches and saw Black people in all sorts of positions. Readjusting to New York at age 10 during the Great Depression was difficult, but Shirley ultimately excelled in school, completing college and going on to become a schoolteacher before her work with community groups led her into politics. Approximately half of the story details Shirley’s childhood and youth, and the other half shows Chisholm’s transition from teaching into politics, focusing on how she gave a voice to the powerless. Russell-Brown’s text does a remarkable job of pulling together the threads of Shirley’s life to show how her experiences informed her life trajectory, ending on a note of triumph even though she does not win the presidential nomination. Velasquez’s watercolor illustrations are full of life, using texture and light to capture vivid and varied scenery, personalities, and emotion. An extensive afterword expounds upon Chisholm’s continuing legacy. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.8-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 61.2% of actual size.)

Important history made beautiful and engaging. (sources, credits) (Picture book biography. 5-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62014-346-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments.

SUPERHEROES ARE EVERYWHERE

The junior senator from California introduces family and friends as everyday superheroes.

The endpapers are covered with cascades of, mostly, early childhood snapshots (“This is me contemplating the future”—caregivers of toddlers will recognize that abstracted look). In between, Harris introduces heroes in her life who have shaped her character: her mom and dad, whose superpowers were, respectively, to make her feel special and brave; an older neighbor known for her kindness; grandparents in India and Jamaica who “[stood] up for what’s right” (albeit in unspecified ways); other relatives and a teacher who opened her awareness to a wider world; and finally iconic figures such as Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley who “protected people by using the power of words and ideas” and whose examples inspired her to become a lawyer. “Heroes are…YOU!” she concludes, closing with a bulleted Hero Code and a timeline of her legal and political career that ends with her 2017 swearing-in as senator. In group scenes, some of the figures in the bright, simplistic digital illustrations have Asian features, some are in wheelchairs, nearly all are people of color. Almost all are smiling or grinning. Roe provides everyone identified as a role model with a cape and poses the author, who is seen at different ages wearing an identifying heart pin or decoration, next to each.

Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments. (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984837-49-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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A reasonably solid grounding in constitutional rights, their flexibility, lacunae, and hard-won corrections, despite a few...

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT FREEDOM

Shamir offers an investigation of the foundations of freedoms in the United States via its founding documents, as well as movements and individuals who had great impacts on shaping and reshaping those institutions.

The opening pages of this picture book get off to a wobbly start with comments such as “You know that feeling you get…when you see a wide open field that you can run through without worrying about traffic or cars? That’s freedom.” But as the book progresses, Shamir slowly steadies the craft toward that wide-open field of freedom. She notes the many obvious-to-us-now exclusivities that the founding political documents embodied—that the entitled, white, male authors did not extend freedom to enslaved African-Americans, Native Americans, and women—and encourages readers to learn to exercise vigilance and foresight. The gradual inclusion of these left-behind people paints a modestly rosy picture of their circumstances today, and the text seems to give up on explaining how Native Americans continue to be left behind. Still, a vital part of what makes freedom daunting is its constant motion, and that is ably expressed. Numerous boxed tidbits give substance to the bigger political picture. Who were the abolitionists and the suffragists, what were the Montgomery bus boycott and the “Uprising of 20,000”? Faulkner’s artwork conveys settings and emotions quite well, and his drawing of Ruby Bridges is about as darling as it gets. A helpful timeline and bibliography appear as endnotes.

A reasonably solid grounding in constitutional rights, their flexibility, lacunae, and hard-won corrections, despite a few misfires. (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-54728-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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