From the She Persisted series

A highly recommended addition to this stellar series.

In this series of chapter-book biographies, the common theme is persistence, and that word certainly applies to Oprah Winfrey.

Born to a single mother in Kosciusko, Mississippi, during the Jim Crow era, Oprah was raised by her grandparents on their farm. Once she started school, it was obvious she was bright. However, Oprah’s life was unsettled, as she moved to Wisconsin to join her mother, then two years later to Tennessee to live with her father. Her father was strict about school and church attendance, two areas that gave Oprah opportunities to excel. Her love of reading was noticed, and she was recommended for the Upward Bound program and a rigorous high school. Nevertheless, she struggled with her behavior. During those tumultuous years, Oprah discovered the writings of poet Maya Angelou, and they helped her settle in to schoolwork and speech tournaments. That led to her getting an after-school job at a radio station, then a TV station during college. A move to a Baltimore station led to her success in the interview format and ultimately The Oprah Winfrey Show and international fame. This is a lively introduction to the life of a woman who beat many odds to become successful. Award-winning author Watson describes Oprah’s triumphs as well as her difficulties, including sexual abuse, in age-appropriate prose. Young readers who know only the accomplished philanthropist will take inspiration from knowing of her beginnings. Flint’s black-and-white illustrations enhance the text.

A highly recommended addition to this stellar series. (suggested activities, acknowledgments, references) (Biography. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11598-5

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021


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


A unique angle on a watershed moment in the civil rights era.

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 21, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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