An effervescent celebration.

STOMPIN' AT THE SAVOY

HOW CHICK WEBB BECAME THE KING OF DRUMS

Drummer Chick Webb may not have been big, but he was a force to be reckoned with.

Born in East Baltimore somewhere around the turn of the 20th century, little William Webb suffered from spinal tuberculosis, a condition that was exacerbated when he experienced a fall. After an operation, his doctor recommended the family get him a drum set as a means of physical therapy. As that was financially out of reach, William used spoons and pots and pans, eventually buying himself a set of drumsticks and then a full drum kit from his newsboy income. He walked with a hunch and never grew taller than 4-foot-1, but that didn’t stop him from drumming. Punctuating her account with ample onomatopoeia (“Dig-a-dig-a-dig-a-dig-a!”), Donohue describes how he recruited “only the best musicians for his band,” including Ella Fitzgerald as lead singer. He presided over the Savoy Ballroom, which permitted both Black and White dancers and where he and his band played Benny Goodman’s to its knees. Her focus is on the African American musician’s extraordinary talent and his physical challenges, but she does touch on the discrimination of the times. His tragically early death just two years after the showdown with Goodman is revealed in an author’s note. Freeman’s illustrations are full of movement, musical staves and notes swirling across the spreads in visual accentuation of Webb’s swing beat. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 58% of actual size.)

An effervescent celebration. (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5341-1097-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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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Bridges Goes to School, but here the sensibility is more personal, and the sometimes-shocking historical photos have been replaced by uplifting painted scenes.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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Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments.

SUPERHEROES ARE EVERYWHERE

The junior senator from California introduces family and friends as everyday superheroes.

The endpapers are covered with cascades of, mostly, early childhood snapshots (“This is me contemplating the future”—caregivers of toddlers will recognize that abstracted look). In between, Harris introduces heroes in her life who have shaped her character: her mom and dad, whose superpowers were, respectively, to make her feel special and brave; an older neighbor known for her kindness; grandparents in India and Jamaica who “[stood] up for what’s right” (albeit in unspecified ways); other relatives and a teacher who opened her awareness to a wider world; and finally iconic figures such as Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley who “protected people by using the power of words and ideas” and whose examples inspired her to become a lawyer. “Heroes are…YOU!” she concludes, closing with a bulleted Hero Code and a timeline of her legal and political career that ends with her 2017 swearing-in as senator. In group scenes, some of the figures in the bright, simplistic digital illustrations have Asian features, some are in wheelchairs, nearly all are people of color. Almost all are smiling or grinning. Roe provides everyone identified as a role model with a cape and poses the author, who is seen at different ages wearing an identifying heart pin or decoration, next to each.

Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments. (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984837-49-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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