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A soaring portrait of a “Black girl whose voice / chased away darkness, ushered in light.”

A loving tribute in free verse to a writer who found her home, and herself, in her words.

Once you start speaking again, / ain’t nobody gonna be able to shut you up.” Filling out a biographical framework that begins in 1928 with the birth of Marguerite Annie Johnson into a loving family and ends in 1993 with her reading at President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration, Watson chronicles poet Maya Angelou’s travels from St. Louis to California, Ghana to Harlem and links with friends like “Jimmy” Baldwin, as well as the way she gathered “word-seeds” even through the years of silence after “her mother’s boyfriend / hurt her body, hurt her soul.” In his painted collages, Collier alludes to that silence with a broad, striped ribbon across closed lips in the course of portraying his subject with the same look of dignified reserve throughout her growth from infancy to adulthood. Using a slowly brightening palette, he surrounds her throughout with similarly brown faces until closing with a final bright, smiling solo close-up: “No holding her head down, no hiding. No more silence. / She didn’t have the pitch-perfect voice others had, / but she had her songs, her stories.” In their notes, Watson and Collier both speak to the inspirational power of Angelou’s persistence and courage. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A soaring portrait of a “Black girl whose voice / chased away darkness, ushered in light.” (timeline) (Picture-book biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-287158-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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A pivotal moment in a child’s life, at once stirring and authentically personal.

Before growing up to become a major figure in the civil rights movement, a boy finds a role model.

Buffing up a childhood tale told by her renowned father, Young Shelton describes how young Andrew saw scary men marching in his New Orleans neighborhood (“It sounded like they were yelling ‘Hi, Hitler!’ ”). In response to his questions, his father took him to see a newsreel of Jesse Owens (“a runner who looked like me”) triumphing in the 1936 Olympics. “Racism is a sickness,” his father tells him. “We’ve got to help folks like that.” How? “Well, you can start by just being the best person you can be,” his father replies. “It’s what you do that counts.” In James’ hazy chalk pastels, Andrew joins racially diverse playmates (including a White child with an Irish accent proudly displaying the nickel he got from his aunt as a bribe to stop playing with “those Colored boys”) in tag and other games, playing catch with his dad, sitting in the midst of a cheering crowd in the local theater’s segregated balcony, and finally visualizing himself pelting down a track alongside his new hero—“head up, back straight, eyes focused,” as a thematically repeated line has it, on the finish line. An afterword by Young Shelton explains that she retold this story, told to her many times growing up, drawing from conversations with Young and from her own research; family photos are also included. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A pivotal moment in a child’s life, at once stirring and authentically personal. (illustrator’s note) (Autobiographical picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-545-55465-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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From the Ordinary People Change the World series

Quick and slick, but ably makes its case.

The distinguished jurist stands tall as a role model.

Not literally tall, of course—not only was she actually tiny but, as with all the other bobbleheaded caricatures in the “Ordinary People Change the World” series, Ginsburg, sporting huge eyeglasses on an outsize head over black judicial robes even in childhood, remains a doll-like figure in all of Eliopoulos’ cartoon scenes. It’s in the frank acknowledgment of the sexism and antisemitism she resolutely overcame as she went from reading about “real female heroes” to becoming one—and also the clear statement of how she so brilliantly applied the principle of “tikkun olam” (“repairing the world”) in her career to the notion that women and men should have the same legal rights—that her stature comes clear. For all the brevity of his profile, Meltzer spares some attention for her private life, too (“This is Marty. He loved me, and he loved my brains. So I married him!”). Other judicial activists of the past and present, all identified and including the current crop of female Supreme Court justices, line up with a diversely hued and abled group of younger followers to pay tribute in final scenes. “Fight for the things you care about,” as a typically savvy final quote has it, “but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

Quick and slick, but ably makes its case. (timeline, photos, source list, further reading) (Picture-book biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2024

ISBN: 9780593533338

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Rocky Pond Books/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023

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