REVOLUTIONARY POET

Subtitled 'A Story About Phillis Wheatley,' this is a clear, straightforward account of the poet's life. Weidt (Daddy Played Music for the Cows, 1995, etc.) makes plain the facts: In September 1773, at the age of 20, Phillis Wheatley became the second American woman to publish a book—and the first African- American of either gender to do so. She had arrived in Boston 13 years earlier on the slave ship Phillis, a frail, sickly child who spoke no English. Wealthy Bostonian Susannah Wheatley bought her for her household, where, as Weidt explains, Phillis was better treated that most slaves of the time. While a few more examples of the poet's work would have been welcome, this biography gives middle-graders a solid introduction. Young's black-and-white illustrations enhance the text, showing many telling details of colonial life. (bibliography, index) (Biography. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 1997

ISBN: 1-57505-037-4

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1997

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WHO WAS BEN FRANKLIN?

Benjamin Franklin “snatched the lightning from the sky and the scepter from tyrants” and his story is told here in many informative and amusing anecdotes. Among them: young, skinny-dipping Ben pulled across a pond by his kite, Ben in London proving he can swim three miles, Ben making up fake “news items” to spice up his Pennsylvania Gazette, and Ben wanting to get married in spite of his “bumpy” love life. These human-interest stories balance the better-known record of Franklin’s accomplishments as an inventor and political force in colonial America. Franklin invented the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, and an artificial arm. He started a public library, a volunteer fire company, and a general hospital in Philadelphia. He improved the colonies’ mail delivery system and founded the Philadelphia Academy, which later became the University of Pennsylvania. Franklin helped draft the Declaration of Independence, helped secure French support for the Revolution, and helped hammer out the Constitution. His final public act was to urge Congress to end slavery. All of this and more are covered in this brief, engaging, well-written biography. Not just a birth-to-death exposition of facts, this account opens with Franklin’s catching lightning in a bottle and, by the end, has succeeded in portraying Franklin as a “man of many talents” and a flesh-and-blood person. The black-and-white illustrations, which appear on every spread, are superb, adding information and touches of humor. Readers will like the Ben Franklin they come to know in this outstanding biography. Two timelines are appended—one on Franklin’s life, and one on world events. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42495-9

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001

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A mighty portrait of poverty amid cruelty and optimism.

FREE LUNCH

Recounting his childhood experiences in sixth grade, Ogle’s memoir chronicles the punishing consequences of poverty and violence on himself and his family.

The start of middle school brings about unwanted changes in young Rex’s life. His old friendships devolve as his school friends join the football team and slowly edge him out. His new English teacher discriminates against him due to his dark skin (Rex is biracial, with a white absentee dad and a Mexican mom) and secondhand clothes, both too large and too small. Seemingly worse, his mom enrolls him in the school’s free-lunch program, much to his embarrassment. “Now everyone knows I’m nothing but trailer trash.” His painful home life proffers little sanctuary thanks to his mom, who swings from occasional caregiver to violent tyrant at the slightest provocation, and his white stepdad, an abusive racist whose aggression outrivals that of Rex’s mom. Balancing the persistent flashes of brutality, Ogle magnificently includes sprouts of hope, whether it’s the beginnings of a friendship with a “weird” schoolmate, joyful moments with his younger brother, or lessons of perseverance from Abuela. These slivers of relative levity counteract the toxic relationship between young Rex, a boy prone to heated outbursts and suppressed feelings, and his mother, a fully three-dimensional character who’s viciously thrashing against the burden of poverty. It’s a fine balance carried by the author’s outstanding, gracious writing and a clear eye for the penetrating truth.

A mighty portrait of poverty amid cruelty and optimism. (author’s note, author Q&A, discussion guide, writing guide, resources) (Memoir. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-324-00360-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Norton Young Readers

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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