Comprising 24 pages, the narrative closes a bit abruptly; nonetheless, this is a dynamic and creative introduction to a...

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JAKE MAKES A WORLD

JACOB LAWRENCE, A YOUNG ARTIST IN HARLEM

Coinciding with the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition of Jacob Lawrence’s Migration series, this title imagines the artist as a young teenager experiencing his own move from Philadelphia to Harlem in 1930.

With just a few sentences per spread, historian Rhodes-Pitts describes Jake’s reactions to the colors and textures of once-familiar furnishings—things he has been separated from since his mother sought work in New York three years earlier: “His feet sink deep into the thick blue rug. When his toes touch the ground, it’s like a sky upside down.” Perhaps to suggest that the adolescent is already thinking artistically or that he is noticing his stimulating milieu, Myers inserts sly visual references to 20th-century painters. In addition to Matisse and Miró, he pays homage to O’Keeffe as the boy peers into “Starlight Night” through his window. Vibrant hues and diagonal elements animate the straightforward accounts of street-corner preachers and checkers players. The author adopts a more lyrical tone as Jake visits the Utopia Children’s House for art classes after school. In the penultimate scene, Myers depicts the young man building his neighborhood inside a shoebox with figures that foreshadow the compositions in the final spread of five Migration scenes.

Comprising 24 pages, the narrative closes a bit abruptly; nonetheless, this is a dynamic and creative introduction to a groundbreaking artist and an iconic collection. (biographical note, selected works, museum trustees) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 30, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-87070-965-4

Page Count: 44

Publisher: MoMA

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2015

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A life devoted to freedom and dignity, worthy of praise and remembrance.

MUMBET'S DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

With the words of Massachusetts colonial rebels ringing in her ears, a slave determines to win her freedom.

In 1780, Mumbet heard the words of the new Massachusetts constitution, including its declaration of freedom and equality. With the help of a young lawyer, she went to court and the following year, won her freedom, becoming Elizabeth Freeman. Slavery was declared illegal and subsequently outlawed in the state. Woelfle writes with fervor as she describes Mumbet’s life in the household of John Ashley, a rich landowner and businessman who hosted protest meetings against British taxation. His wife was abrasive and abusive, striking out with a coal shovel at a young girl, possibly Mumbet’s daughter. Mumbet deflected the blow and regarded the wound as “her badge of bravery.” Ironically, the lawyer who took her case, Theodore Sedgwick, had attended John Ashley’s meetings. Delinois’ full-bleed paintings are heroic in scale, richly textured and vibrant. Typography becomes part of the page design as the font increases when the text mentions freedom. Another slave in the Ashley household was named in the court case, but Woelfle, keeping her young audience in mind, keeps it simple, wisely focusing on Mumbet.

A life devoted to freedom and dignity, worthy of praise and remembrance. (author’s note, selected bibliography, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7613-6589-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2013

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A beautiful portrayal of a historic and arduous family journey northward

OVERGROUND RAILROAD

One family’s experience of the Great Migration.

Cline-Ransome and Ransome, a husband-and-wife author-and-illustrator team, have again collaborated on an important story from African American history. Narrator Ruth Ellen, Mama, and Daddy awaken early to travel to New York without the permission or knowledge of the landowner on whose land they sharecrop. (The author’s note mentions that landowners often used threats and violence to keep sharecroppers on the land and perpetually in debt.) The family boards the train with luggage, tickets, and food in a shoebox—since black folks cannot eat in the dining car and must sit in the colored section of the train. The conductor calls out the cities as they progress North. When the conductor removes the “whites only” sign near Baltimore, African Americans can sit wherever they want—though it takes some time before Ruth Ellen and her family find white riders who smile a welcome. Ruth Ellen reads Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass aloud to Mama on the train ride, a gift from her teacher that parallels her own family’s journey. Ransome’s watercolor-and-collage illustrations effectively capture both the historical setting and the trepidation of a family who though not enslaved, nevertheless must escape as if they were. Cotton bolls throughout the images accentuate cotton’s economic dominance in the sharecropping system.

A beautiful portrayal of a historic and arduous family journey northward . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3873-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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