Both timely and historical.

WERE I NOT A GIRL

THE INSPIRING AND TRUE STORY OF DR. JAMES BARRY

A children’s biography of a complex figure.

The much-interpreted facts, not to mention meaning, of Dr. James Barry’s life are squarely presented in this quiet picture book. After opening with “Imagine living at a time when you couldn’t be the person you felt you were inside,” the story provides some scant information about Dr. Barry’s early life: his female-assigned birth and feminine name in 18th-century Ireland, the restrictive roles for women in that time and place, and Barry’s decision to pass as a man in order to enroll in medical school. At this point the story shifts from she/her pronouns to he/him, as the story dutifully but calmly follows Barry on his travels as a military doctor. The illustrations are subdued and old-fashioned, with background scenes often depicted in smudged black and gray scribbles and the White protagonist surrounded by an almost all-White cast. An early question asks, “Why did Margaret become James? She never said. Nor did he.” Despite the interesting character at its center, this story comes across as somewhat dull, the subject matter proving much more lively than the telling. It ends with the claim that “James was living his truth” without making clear what truth, precisely, Barry was living. An author’s note tries to clarify a position that isn’t as clear in the text, with final notes fleshing out Barry’s biography and discussing gender-neutral pronouns and nonbinary identities. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 19.1% of actual size.)

Both timely and historical. (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-4905-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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An inspirational look at one girl’s quest to make sure that all skin tones are visible and available in the classroom.

MORE THAN PEACH

A Black girl’s simple observation propels her into activism.

Woodard, who launched the More Than Peach Project—which arranges for classrooms and children in need to receive kits that include art supplies and boxes of multicultural crayons (crayons in a variety of skin tones)—relates the incident that sparked her journey. As the book begins, she is dropped off at school and notices that her family’s skin tone differs from that of her classmates. While it is clear that she is one of a few children of color at school, that difference isn’t really felt until her friends start asking for the “skin-color” crayon when they mean peach. She’s bothered that no one else seems to notice that skin comes in many colors, so she devises a unique way of bringing everyone’s attention to that fact. With support from her family and her school, she encourages her fellow classmates to rethink their language and starts an initiative to ensure that everyone’s skin tone is represented in each crayon box. Appealing, realistic artwork depicts Woodard’s experiences, while endpapers feature More Than Peach crayon boxes and childlike illustrations of kids of different ethnicities doing various activities. The story is stirring and will motivate budding activists. (This book was reviewed digitally; the review has been updated for factual accuracy.)

An inspirational look at one girl’s quest to make sure that all skin tones are visible and available in the classroom. (note from Woodard, information on Woodard’s journey into activism, instructions on starting a drive) (Picture-book biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: July 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-80927-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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

I AM RUBY BRIDGES

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 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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