A reverent introduction to a trailblazing performer.

MADAME SAQUI

REVOLUTIONARY ROPE DANCER

In the first picture-book biography of Madame Saqui, readers meet the talented, persevering French tightrope walker who defied gravity.

Marguerite-Antoinette Lalanne and her family flip and tumble onstage in late-18th-century Paris. Marguerite longs to dance on a tightrope, like her parents. But political upheaval in revolutionary-era France drives the family to the countryside, where, secretly, Marguerite takes ropewalking lessons. When her parents see her perform, they decide to return to circus life. After Marguerite marries, performing as Madame Saqui in her husband’s family circus, she heads back to Paris, becoming its “darling” and Napoleon’s favored acrobat. An inspirational tone — emphasizing the setbacks Saqui faced, her strong-willed spirit, and her daring feats (including ropewalking between the towers of Notre Dame de Paris)—pervades the story: “And she never fell,” readers learn on the final page, as an elderly Saqui ropewalks in her 70s. Green’s muted, stylized illustrations feature dramatic moments, as when Saqui, clad in a flowing white dress, dances across a tightrope as fireworks and stars twinkle in the Parisian sky. Saqui and most characters are white, but there is some diversity among other performers. Where readers fall on the complex legacy of Napoleon (warmonger or French hero?) may color their feelings about the book’s tone; as he “waged war across Europe, Madame Saqui reenacted his battles.” Italicized French words are sporadically incorporated into the text.

A reverent introduction to a trailblazing performer. (glossary) (Picture book. 6-12)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-57997-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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A substantive and affirming addition to any collection.

THE ABCS OF BLACK HISTORY

An impressive array of names, events, and concepts from Black history are introduced in this alphabet book for early-elementary readers.

From A for anthem (“a banner of song / that wraps us in hope, lets us know we belong”) to Z for zenith (“the top of that mountain King said we would reach”), this picture book is a journey through episodes, ideas, and personalities that represent a wide range of Black experiences. Some spreads celebrate readers themselves, like B for beautiful (“I’m talking to you!”); others celebrate accomplishments, such as E for explore (Matthew Henson, Mae Jemison), or experiences, like G for the Great Migration. The rhyming verses are light on the tongue, making the reading smooth and soothing. The brightly colored, folk art–style illustrations offer vibrant scenes of historical and contemporary Black life, with common people and famous people represented in turn. Whether reading straight through and poring over each page or flipping about to look at the refreshing scenes full of brown and black faces, readers will feel pride and admiration for the resilience and achievements of Black people and a call to participate in the “unfinished…American tale.” Endnotes clarify terms and figures, and a resource list includes child-friendly books, websites, museums, and poems.

A substantive and affirming addition to any collection. (Informational picture book. 6-11)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5235-0749-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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An incredible connector text for young readers eager to graduate to weighty conversations about our yesterday, our now, and...

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THE UNDEFEATED

Past and present are quilted together in this innovative overview of black Americans’ triumphs and challenges in the United States.

Alexander’s poetry possesses a straightforward, sophisticated, steady rhythm that, paired with Nelson’s detail-oriented oil paintings, carries readers through generations chronicling “the unforgettable,” “the undeniable,” “the unflappable,” and “the righteous marching ones,” alongside “the unspeakable” events that shape the history of black Americans. The illustrator layers images of black creators, martyrs, athletes, and neighbors onto blank white pages, patterns pages with the bodies of slaves stolen and traded, and extends a memorial to victims of police brutality like Sandra Bland and Michael Brown past the very edges of a double-page spread. Each movement of Alexander’s poem is a tribute to the ingenuity and resilience of black people in the U.S., with textual references to the writings of Gwendolyn Brooks, Martin Luther King Jr., Langston Hughes, and Malcolm X dotting stanzas in explicit recognition and grateful admiration. The book ends with a glossary of the figures acknowledged in the book and an afterword by the author that imprints the refrain “Black. Lives. Matter” into the collective soul of readers, encouraging them, like the cranes present throughout the book, to “keep rising.”

An incredible connector text for young readers eager to graduate to weighty conversations about our yesterday, our now, and our tomorrow. (Picture book/poetry. 6-12)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-78096-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Versify/HMH

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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