PATHFINDERS by Tonya Bolden
Kirkus Star


The Journeys of 16 Extraordinary Black Souls
Age Range: 10 - 14
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In 16 minibiographies, Bolden tells the stories of little-known African-Americans who “had big, bold dreams. Pursued passions. Caught up with their callings.”

A good portion of American history is related through historical sketches arranged chronologically. The volume opens with the story of Venture Smith. Captured from his West African village and transported by slaver to America, Smith grew up in bondage, but he eventually bought his and his family’s freedom and built a house, a boatyard, and a farm in the village of Haddam Neck, Connecticut. The pageant of fascinating historical characters continues with a magician, a physician, a female Civil War spy, a pioneer, a concert singer, a race car driver, a mathematician, a cartoonist, and others. The colorful volume uses photographs, advertisements, fliers, theater posters, engravings, and cartoons to great effect, each well captioned and complemented by sidebars that add historical context. An epilogue points out the changes in America since Venture Smith arrived, including the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, and the Brown v. Board of Education case that struck down government-sanctioned segregation in schools. A full-page color photograph of dancer Misty Copeland concludes the volume, representing the “new odysseys…in the offing.”

A lively volume and an excellent approach to U.S. history. (glossary, source notes, bibliography, image credits, acknowledgments, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 10th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-4197-1455-9
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Abrams
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2016


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