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A beautiful book and a welcome addition to the picture-book–biography shelf.

Early in life, Ella Baker listened to her grandfather’s sermons, her grandmother’s stories about life during slavery, and her mother’s advice to “Lift as you climb”: the lodestars that guided Baker to her purpose and accomplishments.

Powell’s verse biography chronicles the professional life of civil rights leader Ella Josephine Baker. Not as widely familiar as Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Dorothy Height, she nevertheless played a pivotal role in educating African Americans of all backgrounds about freedom, voting, and their rights. The book cites Baker’s working relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as they formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, as well as her work with the NAACP and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Christie’s illustrations are in the style of African American folk art, a harmonious choice for the subject matter. Vivid colors abound, and the typeset alternates between black and white, both clearly legible against solid backgrounds. Centered in distinctive display type is Baker’s oft-repeated question, “What do you hope to accomplish?” There is an urgency to the clipped text, accentuated by frequent use of the em dash: “Ella thought [Dr. King] should ask— / not command. / Still, she agreed— / for the cause.” Substantial backmatter includes an author’s note with further information about Baker’s personal life, a glossary of the initialisms, a timeline, and a bibliography.

A beautiful book and a welcome addition to the picture-book–biography shelf. (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0623-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses.

An NBA star pays tribute to the influence of his grandfather.

In the same vein as his Long Shot (2009), illustrated by Frank Morrison, this latest from Paul prioritizes values and character: “My granddad Papa Chilly had dreams that came true,” he writes, “so maybe if I listen and watch him, / mine will too.” So it is that the wide-eyed Black child in the simply drawn illustrations rises early to get to the playground hoops before anyone else, watches his elder working hard and respecting others, hears him cheering along with the rest of the family from the stands during games, and recalls in a prose afterword that his grandfather wasn’t one to lecture but taught by example. Paul mentions in both the text and the backmatter that Papa Chilly was the first African American to own a service station in North Carolina (his presumed dream) but not that he was killed in a robbery, which has the effect of keeping the overall tone positive and the instructional content one-dimensional. Figures in the pictures are mostly dark-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-81003-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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An inspiring introduction to the young Nobel Peace Prize winner and a useful conversation starter.

The latest of many picture books about the young heroine from Pakistan, this one is narrated by Malala herself, with a frame that is accessible to young readers.

Malala introduces her story using a television show she used to watch about a boy with a magic pencil that he used to get himself and his friends out of trouble. Readers can easily follow Malala through her own discovery of troubles in her beloved home village, such as other children not attending school and soldiers taking over the village. Watercolor-and-ink illustrations give a strong sense of setting, while gold ink designs overlay Malala’s hopes onto her often dreary reality. The story makes clear Malala’s motivations for taking up the pen to tell the world about the hardships in her village and only alludes to the attempt on her life, with a black page (“the dangerous men tried to silence me. / But they failed”) and a hospital bracelet on her wrist the only hints of the harm that came to her. Crowds with signs join her call before she is shown giving her famous speech before the United Nations. Toward the end of the book, adult readers may need to help children understand Malala’s “work,” but the message of holding fast to courage and working together is powerful and clear.

An inspiring introduction to the young Nobel Peace Prize winner and a useful conversation starter. (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-31957-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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