Unfortunately, this ode to an undeservedly overlooked legend does not hit all the right notes.

BORN TO SWING

LIL HARDIN ARMSTRONG'S LIFE IN JAZZ

A biography of Lil Hardin Armstrong, who “was just born to swing,” one of the first female musicians to make it in the world of jazz.

Lil Hardin was born in Memphis, near Beale Street, “where the music never stopped.” Though her mother said blues was “Devil’s music,” Lil Hardin was allowed to play the family organ and at church, where she jazzed up the old church hymns. The Great Migration swept Lil Hardin and her mother up in its tide to Chicago, where a job playing piano in a music store led to gigs, even though a woman playing the piano in a jazz band was unheard of. As a fixture in Chicago’s jazz scene, she met Louis Armstrong, and the pair eventually married. Lil Hardin—whose reputation was cemented—used her fame to help boost Louis’, and after the couple parted ways, she enjoyed a successful career as a songwriter, musician, and bandleader. Rockliff relates the jazz pioneer’s story in Lil Hardin’s imagined and enthusiastic first person, her conversational address developing an appropriately big personality. Wood’s bright, naïve acrylics complement the narrative style, but they do not evoke the smooth, accomplished sounds that were Lil Hardin’s musical signature. Curiously, despite a closing photograph that evinces many different skin tones in Lil Hardin’s combo, characters are almost all portrayed as the same medium brown color.

Unfortunately, this ode to an undeservedly overlooked legend does not hit all the right notes. (biographical note, discography, timeline, bibliography, author’s note) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62979-555-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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A larger-than-life subject is neatly captured in text and images.

THURGOOD

The life journey of the first African American to serve on the United States Supreme Court and the incidents that formed him.

Thurgood Marshall grew up in segregated Baltimore, Maryland, with a family that encouraged him to stand for justice. Despite attending poor schools, he found a way to succeed. His father instilled in him a love of the law and encouraged him to argue like a lawyer during dinner conversations. His success in college meant he could go to law school, but the University of Maryland did not accept African American students. Instead, Marshall went to historically black Howard University, where he was mentored by civil rights lawyer Charles Houston. Marshall’s first major legal case was against the law school that denied him a place, and his success brought him to the attention of the NAACP and ultimately led to his work on the groundbreaking Brown v. Board of Education, which itself led to his appointment to the Supreme Court. This lively narrative serves as an introduction to the life of one of the country’s important civil rights figures. Important facts in Marshall’s life are effectively highlighted in an almost staccato fashion. The bold watercolor-and-collage illustrations, beginning with an enticing cover, capture and enhance the strong tone set by the words.

A larger-than-life subject is neatly captured in text and images. (author’s note, photos) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6533-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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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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