MRS. LINCOLN’S DRESSMAKER

THE UNLIKELY FRIENDSHIP OF ELIZABETH KECKLEY AND MARY TODD LINCOLN

Using period photographs and illustrations to expand the interest level, this account provides brief, strongly contrasting biographies of Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley. Lincoln, often maligned, grew up in a family of wealth and privilege. She arrived at adulthood with few coping skills to deal with the tragedies she faced—the loss of three of her beloved children in their youth and the assassination of Abraham, her primary source of emotional support. Keckley needed strength from early childhood, growing up as a slave and oftentimes physically abused. A talented seamstress, she not only supported her owner’s family at one point with profits from her sewing, eventually she purchased her freedom. In Washington, she became Lincoln’s seamstress—and one of her few friends. Lincoln’s life has been well documented; it was a stroke of genius to contrast it with the less well-known story of this talented former slave. Including many anecdotes that provide insight into the pair and featuring impeccable research, this volume is an excellent, fascinating addition to literature on the Civil War era. (author’s note, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10 & up)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4263-0377-7

Page Count: 80

Publisher: National Geographic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2008

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A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats.

50 IMPRESSIVE KIDS AND THEIR AMAZING (AND TRUE!) STORIES

From the They Did What? series

Why should grown-ups get all the historical, scientific, athletic, cinematic, and artistic glory?

Choosing exemplars from both past and present, Mitchell includes but goes well beyond Alexander the Great, Anne Frank, and like usual suspects to introduce a host of lesser-known luminaries. These include Shapur II, who was formally crowned king of Persia before he was born, Indian dancer/professional architect Sheila Sri Prakash, transgender spokesperson Jazz Jennings, inventor Param Jaggi, and an international host of other teen or preteen activists and prodigies. The individual portraits range from one paragraph to several pages in length, and they are interspersed with group tributes to, for instance, the Nazi-resisting “Swingkinder,” the striking New York City newsboys, and the marchers of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade. Mitchell even offers would-be villains a role model in Elagabalus, “boy emperor of Rome,” though she notes that he, at least, came to an awful end: “Then, then! They dumped his remains in the Tiber River, to be nommed by fish for all eternity.” The entries are arranged in no evident order, and though the backmatter includes multiple booklists, a personality quiz, a glossary, and even a quick Braille primer (with Braille jokes to decode), there is no index. Still, for readers whose fires need lighting, there’s motivational kindling on nearly every page.

A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats. (finished illustrations not seen) (Collective biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-14-751813-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Puffin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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Humble, endearing and utterly easy to relate to; don’t miss this one.

THE DUMBEST IDEA EVER!

The charismatic creator of the Eisner-nominated Amelia Rules! series recounts his beginnings as a cartoonist.

From the very first panel, Gownley’s graphic memoir is refreshingly different. He’s not the archetypal nerd, and he doesn’t retreat to draw due to feelings of loneliness or isolation. Gownley seems to be a smart kid and a talented athlete, and he has a loyal group of friends and a girlfriend. After he falls ill, first with chicken pox and then pneumonia, he falls behind in school and loses his head-of-the-class standing—a condition he is determined to reverse. A long-standing love of comics leads him to write his own, though his first attempt is shot down by his best friend, who suggests he should instead write a comic about their group. He does, and it’s an instant sensation. Gownley’s story is wonderful; his small-town life is so vividly evinced, it’s difficult to not get lost in it. While readers will certainly pick up on the nostalgia, it should be refreshing—if not completely alien—for younger readers to see teens interacting without texting, instead using phones with cords. Eagle-eyed readers will also be able to see the beginnings of his well-loved books about Amelia. He includes an author’s note that shouldn’t be overlooked—just be sure to keep the tissues handy.

Humble, endearing and utterly easy to relate to; don’t miss this one. (author’s note) (Graphic memoir. 10 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-45346-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2013

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