Powerful and uplifting; William Lewis should be a household name.

READ REVIEW

HAMMERING FOR FREEDOM

The true story of William “Bill” Lewis, a man born into slavery who wouldn’t rest until his whole family was free.

Bill and his family were enslaved in Tennessee, where they worked long days in Col. Lewis’ fields. Bill was a young boy when Col. Lewis decided to make him a blacksmith, and Bill became very good at it. Col. Lewis rented him out, a common practice, and started letting Bill keep some of the money. Bill saved his coins and decided to ask Col. Lewis to let him rent himself. Col. Lewis agreed, for a large yearly fee. Bill paid the fee and opened his own blacksmith shop, becoming the first African-American blacksmith in Chattanooga. He worked long days and saved his money, with a goal in mind. Over time, he bought his wife’s freedom, and then their son’s, and then, one by one, the rest of his family’s. The text skillfully includes details about laws governing the lives of enslaved people (Bill travels with a white escort; he buys his wife’s freedom first so that their future children will be born free) while keeping readers hooked through every step of Bill’s plan. Rich illustrations help readers imagine life in the 1800s and show the complexity of Bill’s situation. Readers will root for Bill to the utterly satisfying end.

Powerful and uplifting; William Lewis should be a household name. (afterword, sources) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-60060-969-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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It’s a bit sketchy of historical detail, but it’s coherent, inspirational, and engaging without indulging in rapturous...

ROSA PARKS

From the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

A first introduction to the iconic civil rights activist.

“She was very little and very brave, and she always tried to do what was right.” Without many names or any dates, Kaiser traces Parks’ life and career from childhood to later fights for “fair schools, jobs, and houses for black people” as well as “voting rights, women’s rights and the rights of people in prison.” Though her refusal to change seats and the ensuing bus boycott are misleadingly presented as spontaneous acts of protest, young readers will come away with a clear picture of her worth as a role model. Though recognizable thanks to the large wire-rimmed glasses Parks sports from the outset as she marches confidently through Antelo’s stylized illustrations, she looks childlike throughout (as characteristic of this series), and her skin is unrealistically darkened to match the most common shade visible on other African-American figures. In her co-published Emmeline Pankhurst (illustrated by Ana Sanfelippo), Kaiser likewise simplistically implies that Great Britain led the way in granting universal women’s suffrage but highlights her subject’s courageous quest for justice, and Isabel Sánchez Vegara caps her profile of Audrey Hepburn (illustrated by Amaia Arrazola) with the moot but laudable claim that “helping people across the globe” (all of whom in the pictures are dark-skinned children) made Hepburn “happier than acting or dancing ever had.” All three titles end with photographs and timelines over more-detailed recaps plus at least one lead to further information.

It’s a bit sketchy of historical detail, but it’s coherent, inspirational, and engaging without indulging in rapturous flights of hyperbole. (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-78603-018-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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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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