While Greenwood was indeed an interesting character, the more valuable—even revolutionary—takeaway is that history isn’t...

EARMUFFS FOR EVERYONE!

HOW CHESTER GREENWOOD BECAME KNOWN AS THE INVENTOR OF EARMUFFS

A look not just at the invention (or not) of earmuffs, but at the process of inventing and the way that history can rewrite itself.

Every year in the beginning of December, the town of Farmington, Maine, has a parade in which all the participants (cars, buses, trucks, included) wear earmuffs. This parade celebrates Chester Greenwood, who was not the inventor of earmuffs. Wait. What? That’s right. Chester Greenwood did not invent earmuffs; he improved the designs of other inventors, applied for a patent and is misremembered today as the inventor of the ubiquitous ear coverings so popular in cold climates. In her latest nonfiction title, McCarthy looks at how this happened, along the way delivering tidbits about patents; the lives of Greenwood and his wife, Isabel, who was active in the suffrage movement; other inventors who were really improvers (Edison and his light bulb); and the movement to dedicate a day to Greenwood. McCarthy’s acrylic illustrations nicely bring history to kids, mixing the familiar and the new. They realistically portray history (and Farmington!) and feature her characteristic big-eyed, round-faced people. Two photographs show Greenwood, sporting earmuffs of course, and a portion of the Chester Greenwood Day parade in downtown Farmington. Backmatter includes a fascinating note about the research for the book, more about patents and a bibliography.

While Greenwood was indeed an interesting character, the more valuable—even revolutionary—takeaway is that history isn’t necessarily reliable; it can change, and McCarthy’s genius is that she communicates this so easily to her audience. (Informational picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-0637-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering.

THE AMAZING AGE OF JOHN ROY LYNCH

An honestly told biography of an important politician whose name every American should know.

Published while the United States has its first African-American president, this story of John Roy Lynch, the first African-American speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, lays bare the long and arduous path black Americans have walked to obtain equality. The title’s first three words—“The Amazing Age”—emphasize how many more freedoms African-Americans had during Reconstruction than for decades afterward. Barton and Tate do not shy away from honest depictions of slavery, floggings, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, or the various means of intimidation that whites employed to prevent blacks from voting and living lives equal to those of whites. Like President Barack Obama, Lynch was of biracial descent; born to an enslaved mother and an Irish father, he did not know hard labor until his slave mistress asked him a question that he answered honestly. Freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, Lynch had a long and varied career that points to his resilience and perseverance. Tate’s bright watercolor illustrations often belie the harshness of what takes place within them; though this sometimes creates a visual conflict, it may also make the book more palatable for young readers unaware of the violence African-Americans have suffered than fully graphic images would. A historical note, timeline, author’s and illustrator’s notes, bibliography and map are appended.

A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering. (Picture book biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5379-0

Page Count: 50

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

LITTLE MELBA AND HER BIG TROMBONE

Bewitched by the rhythms of jazz all around her in Depression-era Kansas City, little Melba Doretta Liston longs to make music in this fictional account of a little-known jazz great.

Picking up the trombone at 7, the little girl teaches herself to play with the support of her Grandpa John and Momma Lucille, performing on the radio at 8 and touring as a pro at just 17. Both text and illustrations make it clear that it’s not all easy for Melba; “The Best Service for WHITES ONLY” reads a sign in a hotel window as the narrative describes a bigotry-plagued tour in the South with Billie Holiday. But joy carries the day, and the story ends on a high note, with Melba “dazzling audiences and making headlines” around the world. Russell-Brown’s debut text has an innate musicality, mixing judicious use of onomatopoeia with often sonorous prose. Morrison’s sinuous, exaggerated lines are the perfect match for Melba’s story; she puts her entire body into her playing, the exaggerated arch of her back and thrust of her shoulders mirroring the curves of her instrument. In one thrilling spread, the evening gown–clad instrumentalist stands over the male musicians, her slide crossing the gutter while the back bow disappears off the page to the left. An impressive discography complements a two-page afterword and a thorough bibliography.

Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60060-898-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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