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

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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A larger-than-life subject is neatly captured in text and images.

THURGOOD

The life journey of the first African American to serve on the United States Supreme Court and the incidents that formed him.

Thurgood Marshall grew up in segregated Baltimore, Maryland, with a family that encouraged him to stand for justice. Despite attending poor schools, he found a way to succeed. His father instilled in him a love of the law and encouraged him to argue like a lawyer during dinner conversations. His success in college meant he could go to law school, but the University of Maryland did not accept African American students. Instead, Marshall went to historically black Howard University, where he was mentored by civil rights lawyer Charles Houston. Marshall’s first major legal case was against the law school that denied him a place, and his success brought him to the attention of the NAACP and ultimately led to his work on the groundbreaking Brown v. Board of Education, which itself led to his appointment to the Supreme Court. This lively narrative serves as an introduction to the life of one of the country’s important civil rights figures. Important facts in Marshall’s life are effectively highlighted in an almost staccato fashion. The bold watercolor-and-collage illustrations, beginning with an enticing cover, capture and enhance the strong tone set by the words.

A larger-than-life subject is neatly captured in text and images. (author’s note, photos) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6533-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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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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