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THE LEGEND OF BLUE JACKET

Historian and publishing-industry veteran Spradlin has tackled a contentious chunk of history and legend for his first children’s book. Blue Jacket was a war chief of the Shawnee in the late–18th century. Though there are no personal records to prove it, some historians believe that he was also Marmaduke van Swearingen, the son of Virginia farmers who was allegedly captured by the Shawnee and adopted into the tribe. Using as much evidence as he could gather, and using first-hand anecdotal reports of similar experiences, Spradlin has written a first-person, memoir-like tale of what he believes may have been the life of Blue Jacket. The text reads nicely, though it is long and unvarying, and sits heavy on the page. Himler’s accompanying impressionistic watercolors in warm hues are well-executed but have little child appeal, and do little to enliven the sedate narrative. Young fans of historical accounts of this time period may yet be drawn to this, as it is one of the only (if not the only) version available to them of Blue Jacket. It is to be hoped, then, that they will read Spradlin’s preface, which outlines the debate over this figure. For specialized collections only. (Picture book. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-688-15835-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2002

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BROWN GIRL DREAMING

For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

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  • National Book Award Winner

A multiaward–winning author recalls her childhood and the joy of becoming a writer.

Writing in free verse, Woodson starts with her 1963 birth in Ohio during the civil rights movement, when America is “a country caught / / between Black and White.” But while evoking names such as Malcolm, Martin, James, Rosa and Ruby, her story is also one of family: her father’s people in Ohio and her mother’s people in South Carolina. Moving south to live with her maternal grandmother, she is in a world of sweet peas and collards, getting her hair straightened and avoiding segregated stores with her grandmother. As the writer inside slowly grows, she listens to family stories and fills her days and evenings as a Jehovah’s Witness, activities that continue after a move to Brooklyn to reunite with her mother. The gift of a composition notebook, the experience of reading John Steptoe’s Stevie and Langston Hughes’ poetry, and seeing letters turn into words and words into thoughts all reinforce her conviction that “[W]ords are my brilliance.” Woodson cherishes her memories and shares them with a graceful lyricism; her lovingly wrought vignettes of country and city streets will linger long after the page is turned.

For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-25251-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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FARMER GEORGE PLANTS A NATION

A pleasing new picture book looks at George Washington’s career through an agricultural lens. Sprinkling excerpts from his letters and diaries throughout to allow its subject to speak in his own voice, the narrative makes a convincing case for Washington’s place as the nation’s First Farmer. His innovations, in addition to applying the scientific method to compost, include a combination plow-tiller-harrow, the popularization of the mule and a two-level barn that put horses to work at threshing grain in any weather. Thomas integrates Washington’s military and political adventures into her account, making clear that it was his frustration as a farmer that caused him to join the revolutionary cause. Lane’s oil illustrations, while sometimes stiff, appropriately portray a man who was happiest when working the land. Backmatter includes a timeline, author’s notes on both Mount Vernon and Washington the slaveholder, resources for further exploration and a bibliography. (Picture book/biography. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59078-460-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2008

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