FEARLESS MARY

THE TRUE ADVENTURES OF MARY FIELDS, AMERICAN STAGECOACH DRIVER

A wild ride through an impressive bit of history.

Mary Fields, a woman and former slave, breaks barriers working as a stagecoach driver in 1895.

Telegraphs and trains bring supplies and messages to Cascade, Montana, but to get through the mountains to St. Peter’s Mission requires a stagecoach. The stagecoach driver also acts as guard against outlaws and wild animals; one needs to be “smart, tough, unshakable.…Mary Fields is all of those things.” Of course, no one believes that a woman, much less a former slave, can do this job. But Mary is determined to show the hiring manager that she can outperform any of the male candidates. She shows off her skills, and she gets the job, the first black woman in the country to do so. With her map- and star-reading skills, her trained eagle, her long gun, her courage, and her determination, Mary rides for eight years, into her 70s. Her bravery is remembered in Cascade, and now young readers can be inspired by it too. Charles does a fine job of shaping a suspenseful story from few historical details, inventing some dialogue and rearranging the timeline a bit, as she describes in her author’s note. From the moment Mary rides into town, readers will be hooked. The illustrations, in hues of brown, green, and blue, successfully evoke the small, Western town and the mountains; the humans and animals have faces that display an animation aesthetic.

A wild ride through an impressive bit of history. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8075-2305-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

FRIDA KAHLO AND HER ANIMALITOS

A supplemental rather than introductory book on the great artist.

Frida Kahlo’s strong affection for and identification with animals form the lens through which readers view her life and work in this picture-book biography.

Each two-page spread introduces one or more of her pets, comparing her characteristics to theirs and adding biographical details. Confusingly for young readers, the beginning pages reference pets she owned as an adult, yet the illustrations and events referred to come from earlier in her life. Bonito the parrot perches in a tree overlooking young Frida and her family in her childhood home and pops up again later, just before the first mention of Diego Rivera. Granizo, the fawn, another pet from her adult years, is pictured beside a young Frida and her father along with a description of “her life as a little girl.” The author’s note adds important details about Kahlo’s life and her significance as an artist, as well as recommending specific paintings that feature her beloved animals. Expressive acrylic paintings expertly evoke Kahlo’s style and color palette. While young animal lovers will identify with her attachment to her pets and may enjoy learning about the Aztec origins of her Xolo dogs and the meaning of turkeys in ancient Mexico, the book may be of most interest to those who already have an interest in Kahlo’s life.

A supplemental rather than introductory book on the great artist. (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7358-4269-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

BASKETBALL DREAMS

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

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