A “pure-dee” delight for storytime. (Picture book. 4-8)

READ REVIEW

LEVI STRAUSS GETS A BRIGHT IDEA

A FAIRLY FABRICATED STORY OF A PAIR OF PANTS

A tall-tale version of the invention of blue jeans by a New York peddler who came late to the California gold rush but saw a need and filled it.

Johnston's fanciful embroidery of the scraps of actual facts known about the origins of Levis begins with the report that at the discovery of gold, miners “rushed so fast, they lost their pants.” By the second spread, with miners working in their long johns or, discreetly, “in the vanilla,” listeners will be thoroughly hooked. The humor is broad and the language inventive, yet reminiscent of the times. Panning bits of clothing rather than gold sets the miners to “gnashing their clashers.” “Dang!” says Levi Strauss. Later, everyone has been outfitted with a new set of tent-fabric pants but refuses to take them off to wash them: “The whole of California stank….” Strauss obligingly sells them all a second pair. This humorous text is set on double-page illustrations painted with acrylic on old blue jeans whose texture shows through. Seams become part of the picture, the base of a covered wagon or, later, the Golden Gate Bridge. Strauss and his brothers are easily distinguishable from the full-bearded miners. An author's note provides some actual facts to distinguish them from the “pure-dee fabrication.”

A “pure-dee” delight for storytime. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-15-206145-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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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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