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

LIFT AS YOU CLIMB

THE STORY OF ELLA BAKER

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 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A lovely 20th-anniversary tribute to the towers and all who perished—and survived.

SURVIVOR TREE

A remarkable tree stands where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once soared.

Through simple, tender text, readers learn the life-affirming story of a Callery pear tree that grew and today still flourishes “at the foot of the towers.” The author eloquently describes the pre-9/11 life of the “Survivor Tree” and its heartening, nearly decadelong journey to renewal following its recovery from the wreckage of the towers’ destruction. By tracking the tree’s journey through the natural cycle of seasonal changes and colors after it was found beneath “the blackened remains,” she tells how, after replanting and with loving care (at a nursery in the Bronx), the tree managed miraculously to flourish again. Retransplanted at the Sept. 11 memorial, it valiantly stands today, a symbol of new life and resilience. Hazy, delicate watercolor-and–colored pencil artwork powerfully traces the tree’s existence before and after the towers’ collapse; early pages include several snapshotlike insets capturing people enjoying the outdoors through the seasons. Scenes depicting the towers’ ruins are aptly somber yet hopeful, as they show the crushed tree still defiantly alive. The vivid changes that new seasons introduce are lovingly presented, reminding readers that life unceasingly renews itself. Many paintings are cast in a rosy glow, symbolizing that even the worst disasters can bring forth hope. People depicted are racially diverse. Backmatter material includes additional facts about the tree.

A lovely 20th-anniversary tribute to the towers and all who perished—and survived. (author's note, artist's note) (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-48767-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston...

BEFORE SHE WAS HARRIET

A memorable, lyrical reverse-chronological walk through the life of an American icon.

In free verse, Cline-Ransome narrates the life of Harriet Tubman, starting and ending with a train ride Tubman takes as an old woman. “But before wrinkles formed / and her eyes failed,” Tubman could walk tirelessly under a starlit sky. Cline-Ransome then describes the array of roles Tubman played throughout her life, including suffragist, abolitionist, Union spy, and conductor on the Underground Railroad. By framing the story around a literal train ride, the Ransomes juxtapose the privilege of traveling by rail against Harriet’s earlier modes of travel, when she repeatedly ran for her life. Racism still abounds, however, for she rides in a segregated train. While the text introduces readers to the details of Tubman’s life, Ransome’s use of watercolor—such a striking departure from his oil illustrations in many of his other picture books—reveals Tubman’s humanity, determination, drive, and hope. Ransome’s lavishly detailed and expansive double-page spreads situate young readers in each time and place as the text takes them further into the past.

A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston Weatherford and Kadir Nelson’s Moses (2006). (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2047-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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