A solid effort that offers young readers a glimpse into the lives of children in the time of slavery and appreciate the...

WORDS SET ME FREE

THE STORY OF YOUNG FREDERICK DOUGLASS

For the enslaved child who grew up to be Frederick Douglass, learning to read led to freedom and a life of activism committed to abolition.

Cline-Ransome has based her story on Douglass’ autobiography, giving the gravitas and formality of the adult to the child. She describes his childhood on a Maryland plantation, including his separation from his mother and the ill treatment he and all the other enslaved children received. Sold to his owner’s relatives, the Aulds, in Baltimore, Frederick Bailey, as he was then known, was taught to read from the Bible by Auld’s kindly wife. When her good deed was discovered by her husband, she was forced to close her library to Frederick. Undeterred, he practiced reading on the streets and along the waterfront. Ransome uses acrylic and oil paints to create a palette rich in the blues and greens of the Chesapeake region. The portrait on the back cover is particularly striking. Husband and wife have been frequent, successful collaborators, and this title is equally commendable. One caveat, though: Ending with Douglass’ successful escape rather than a failed one would have been preferable.

A solid effort that offers young readers a glimpse into the lives of children in the time of slavery and appreciate the development of a most notable life. (author’s note, bibliography, timeline) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4169-5903-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering.

THE AMAZING AGE OF JOHN ROY LYNCH

An honestly told biography of an important politician whose name every American should know.

Published while the United States has its first African-American president, this story of John Roy Lynch, the first African-American speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, lays bare the long and arduous path black Americans have walked to obtain equality. The title’s first three words—“The Amazing Age”—emphasize how many more freedoms African-Americans had during Reconstruction than for decades afterward. Barton and Tate do not shy away from honest depictions of slavery, floggings, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, or the various means of intimidation that whites employed to prevent blacks from voting and living lives equal to those of whites. Like President Barack Obama, Lynch was of biracial descent; born to an enslaved mother and an Irish father, he did not know hard labor until his slave mistress asked him a question that he answered honestly. Freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, Lynch had a long and varied career that points to his resilience and perseverance. Tate’s bright watercolor illustrations often belie the harshness of what takes place within them; though this sometimes creates a visual conflict, it may also make the book more palatable for young readers unaware of the violence African-Americans have suffered than fully graphic images would. A historical note, timeline, author’s and illustrator’s notes, bibliography and map are appended.

A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering. (Picture book biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5379-0

Page Count: 50

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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Absolutely wonderful in every way.

THE SECRET SUBWAY

A long-forgotten chapter in New York City history is brilliantly illuminated.

In mid-19th-century New York, horses and horse-drawn vehicles were the only means of transportation, and the din created by wheels as they rumbled on the cobblestones was deafening. The congestion at intersections threatened the lives of drivers and pedestrians alike. Many solutions were bandied about, but nothing was ever done. Enter Alfred Ely Beach, an admirer of “newfangled notions.” Working in secret, he created an underground train powered by an enormous fan in a pneumatic tube. He built a tunnel lined with brick and concrete and a sumptuously decorated waiting room for passenger comfort. It brought a curious public rushing to use it and became a great though short-lived success, ending when the corrupt politician Boss Tweed used his influence to kill the whole project. Here is science, history, suspense, secrecy, and skulduggery in action. Corey’s narrative is brisk, chatty, and highly descriptive, vividly presenting all the salient facts and making the events accessible and fascinating to modern readers. The incredibly inventive multimedia illustrations match the text perfectly and add detail, dimension, and pizazz. Located on the inside of the book jacket is a step-by-step guide to the creative process behind these remarkable illustrations.

Absolutely wonderful in every way. (author’s note, bibliography, Web resources) (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-375-87071-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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