A needed celebration of America’s potential.

Magoon and Freeman collaborate for a picture-book biography of the first Black female Supreme Court justice.

Ketanji Brown Jackson’s parents named her “lovely one,” dressed her in dashikis, and kept her hair natural, helping her to develop pride and belief in herself and her future. As a young person, she exuded confidence and sought ways to spread her “shining light,” from student government to the debate team. She excelled at Harvard College and Harvard Law School. She married, had two daughters, and held 10 different law-related positions before being nominated to the Supreme Court, an event that placed her in the national spotlight, where once again she inspired people with her poise. Her 2022 confirmation as the first Black woman Supreme Court justice broke a new barrier. Magoon’s straightforward prose allows Ketanji’s life story to speak for itself. While younger readers may get lost in some of the details of Ketanji’s adult experiences in law, the theme of Ketanji’s “shining star” connects the phases of her life and shows how she found her purpose. Freeman’s digital illustrations work hardest on spreads showing relationships between characters, highlighting the special roles of her parents and children in her life. The images of Ketanji become a bit repetitive, but readers won’t tire of the still too rare positive imagery of a superstar Black woman. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A needed celebration of America’s potential. (author’s note, glossary, timeline, bibliography, further reading) (Picture-book biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: June 20, 2023

ISBN: 9780063296169

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2023


Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses.

An NBA star pays tribute to the influence of his grandfather.

In the same vein as his Long Shot (2009), illustrated by Frank Morrison, this latest from Paul prioritizes values and character: “My granddad Papa Chilly had dreams that came true,” he writes, “so maybe if I listen and watch him, / mine will too.” So it is that the wide-eyed Black child in the simply drawn illustrations rises early to get to the playground hoops before anyone else, watches his elder working hard and respecting others, hears him cheering along with the rest of the family from the stands during games, and recalls in a prose afterword that his grandfather wasn’t one to lecture but taught by example. Paul mentions in both the text and the backmatter that Papa Chilly was the first African American to own a service station in North Carolina (his presumed dream) but not that he was killed in a robbery, which has the effect of keeping the overall tone positive and the instructional content one-dimensional. Figures in the pictures are mostly dark-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-81003-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022


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

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 21, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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