JOHN, PAUL, GEORGE & BEN

Despite the Beatles-reminiscent title, this offering concerns itself with not four, but five of the Founding Dads: John (Hancock), Paul (Revere), George (Washington), Ben (Franklin) and Tom (Jefferson). Each is imagined in his youth, identified by one characteristic that becomes key to his involvement in the American Revolution. John is bold, writing his name large on the blackboard; Paul is noisy, bellowing out customers’ orders in his family’s shop; George is honest, confessing to the chopping down of not only the cherry tree, but the whole orchard; Ben is clever, sharing his aphorisms with all who will listen; and Tom is independent, making a model of Monticello instead of a birdhouse out of “ye olde balsa wood.” Smith’s faux-antiqued illustrations deliver bucket-loads of zany energy, but his text lacks his sometime partner Jon Scieszka’s focus. While there is a hallowed place for irreverence in children’s literature, one might wish for a work that more evenly balances humor with substance. Still, this may serve as an entry point for kids who think that history is dry as dust, and “Ye Olde True or False Section” really is pretty funny. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-7868-4893-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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A powerful retrospective glimpse at a key event.

LET THE CHILDREN MARCH

A vibrantly illustrated account of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade through the eyes of a young girl who volunteers to participate.

Morrison’s signature style depicts each black child throughout the book as a distinct individual; on the endpapers, children hold signs that collectively create a “Civil Rights and the Children’s Crusade” timeline, placing the events of the book in the context of the greater movement. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. comes to speak at her church, a girl and her brother volunteer to march in their parents’ stead. The narrative succinctly explains why the Children’s Crusade was a necessary logistical move, one that children and parents made with careful consideration and despite fear. Lines of text (“Let the children march. / They will lead the way // The path may be long and / troubled, but I’m gonna walk on!”) are placed within the illustrations in bold swoops for emphasis. Morrison’s powerful use of perspective makes his beautiful oil paintings even more dynamic and conveys the intensity of the situations depicted, including the children’s being arrested, hosed, and jailed. The child crusaders, regardless of how badly they’re treated, never lose their dignity, which the art conveys flawlessly. While the children win the day, such details as the Confederate flag subtly connect the struggle to the current day.

A powerful retrospective glimpse at a key event. (timeline, afterword, artist’s statement, quote sources, bibliography) (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-70452-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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A quietly compelling look at an impoverished family’s resourcefulness and resilience.

HOME IN THE WOODS

Wheeler shares a poignant tale, based on her grandmother’s childhood, of a Depression-era family’s hard times.

Marvel, 6, has seven siblings. Their newly widowed mother guides them, as they carry their worldly goods along, into the woods, where they find an abandoned shack. Though decrepit, it’s got a root cellar, a functioning water pump, a wood stove, and a garden spot rich with leaf mold. As summer yields to autumn, Mum does chores for pay in town. The children draw lots for the home tasks: laundry (hand-scrubbed and hung to dry), wood-splitting, and more. A bountiful harvest engenders prodigious canning as the family prepares for the bitter weather ahead. While the children must buy only basic supplies at the general store, their doleful window shopping produces an inventive outdoor game, in which “We can buy anything we want!” Winter brings snow and cold, quilting, reading by the wood stove, and a wild-turkey stew. Wheeler’s lovely ink-and-watercolor double-page spreads, in somber grays, sunlight yellow, and meadow green, evoke both the period and the family’s stark poverty. The thin faces are gray-white, with dark hair and pale pink cheeks. Delicate visual details abound, from the sparkle of evening raindrops to Mum’s side-buttoned apron. Marvel’s ruminative narration takes occasional poetic turns: “Mum stays awake / into the night… / …whispering / to / the / stars.”

A quietly compelling look at an impoverished family’s resourcefulness and resilience. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-16290-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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