The desire to live free is powerful, and this story celebrates one man’s amazing journey to achieve that end.

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FREEDOM SONG

THE STORY OF HENRY "BOX" BROWN

When his wife and children are sold away, an enslaved man devises an extraordinary means of escape to the North and succeeds.

Henry Brown worked in a tobacco factory in Richmond, Va. With the help of abolitionist friends, he built a box barely big enough for his large frame and mailed himself to Philadelphia and “freedom-land.” Walker, winner of the Sibert Medal, captures the spirit and resolve of the man through her graceful writing and inclusion of songs of praise. She recounts his childhood, marriage to another slave and the fears, soon realized, that the family would be torn apart. Textured paintings and collage by Qualls express both the depth of Henry’s love and the drama and ordeal of the journey, with dark shadows depicting the closeness of the box. Walker does change one fact. She has Henry cut his finger to get sent home prior to the escape. He actually used acid, as recounted in the award-winning Henry’s Freedom Box, by Ellen Levine and illustrated by Kadir Nelson (2007). Nonetheless, this stands as another excellent, accessible account of the harshness of slavery. An excerpted letter written by the recipient of Henry “Box” Brown is included.

The desire to live free is powerful, and this story celebrates one man’s amazing journey to achieve that end. (author’s note) (Picture book/biography. 5-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-058310-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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Utterly compelling.

WHEN I WAS EIGHT

The authors of Fatty Legs (2010) distill that moving memoir of an Inuit child’s residential school experience into an even more powerful picture book.

“Brave, clever, and as unyielding” as the sharpening stone for which she’s named, Olemaun convinces her father to send her from their far-north village to the “outsiders’ school.” There, the 8-year-old receives particularly vicious treatment from one of the nuns, who cuts her hair, assigns her endless chores, locks her in a dark basement and gives her ugly red socks that make her the object of other children’s taunts. In her first-person narration, she compares the nun to the Queen in Alice in Wonderland, a story she has heard from her sister and longs to read for herself, subtly reminding readers of the power of literature to help face real life. Grimard portrays this black-cloaked nun with a scowl and a hooked nose, the image of a witch. Her paintings stretch across the gutter and sometimes fill the spreads. Varying perspectives and angles, she brings readers into this unfamiliar world. Opening with a spread showing the child’s home in a vast, frozen landscape, she proceeds to hone in on the painful school details. A final spread shows the triumphant child and her book: “[N]ow I could read.”

Utterly compelling. (Picture book/memoir. 5-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-55451-490-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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