Long-overdue but welcome recognition for a pioneering graphic artist.

An effervescent tribute to Jackie Ormes, widely considered to be the first nationally syndicated Black woman cartoonist in the United States.

In a buoyant profile and then a more detailed afterword, Todd takes her scandalously little-known subject from an exuberant child who “fills every space she can find” with drawings to the successful creator of several pre– and post–World War II comic strips featuring strong-minded young Black characters—notably Patty-Jo and Torchy Brown—who confront prejudice and fear in “quiet, mighty ways.” Reflecting her prominence in Chicago’s African American community, Ormes cuts a stylish figure in the jazzy illustrations, and Wright slips in samples of Ormes’ work to capture its vitality as well as the “Jackie joy” that characterized it. “I was always fighting battles,” she said, and along with championing women’s rights to work (and play: One cartoon reproduced here has Patty-Jo, dressed in tatters and holding a football, indignantly telling her sister, “What’cha mean it’s no game for girls? We got feet too, ain’t we?”), she was active enough in social causes and the early civil rights movement to be investigated by the FBI. Rather than complete this picture of her life, the author and the illustrator leave a blank page to represent the decades between her retirement from comics and her death in 1985, but there’s enough here to keep readers marveling at her distinctive character and achievements…and likely wondering why it’s taken this long to discover them. (This book was reviewed digitally; this review has been updated for factual accuracy.)

Long-overdue but welcome recognition for a pioneering graphic artist. (artist’s note, bibliography, photos) (Picture-book biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-338-30590-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022


A pivotal moment in a child’s life, at once stirring and authentically personal.

Before growing up to become a major figure in the civil rights movement, a boy finds a role model.

Buffing up a childhood tale told by her renowned father, Young Shelton describes how young Andrew saw scary men marching in his New Orleans neighborhood (“It sounded like they were yelling ‘Hi, Hitler!’ ”). In response to his questions, his father took him to see a newsreel of Jesse Owens (“a runner who looked like me”) triumphing in the 1936 Olympics. “Racism is a sickness,” his father tells him. “We’ve got to help folks like that.” How? “Well, you can start by just being the best person you can be,” his father replies. “It’s what you do that counts.” In James’ hazy chalk pastels, Andrew joins racially diverse playmates (including a White child with an Irish accent proudly displaying the nickel he got from his aunt as a bribe to stop playing with “those Colored boys”) in tag and other games, playing catch with his dad, sitting in the midst of a cheering crowd in the local theater’s segregated balcony, and finally visualizing himself pelting down a track alongside his new hero—“head up, back straight, eyes focused,” as a thematically repeated line has it, on the finish line. An afterword by Young Shelton explains that she retold this story, told to her many times growing up, drawing from conversations with Young and from her own research; family photos are also included. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A pivotal moment in a child’s life, at once stirring and authentically personal. (illustrator’s note) (Autobiographical picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-545-55465-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022



Visuals dominate on the page. Harris adds to large photos and samples of Parrish’s adult work an elaborately detailed dragon...

The generous (if selective and unfocused) array of pictures don’t quite compensate for a vague, sketchy accompanying narrative in this biography, the first about the influential painter aimed at young people.

Visuals dominate on the page. Harris adds to large photos and samples of Parrish’s adult work an elaborately detailed dragon he drew at age 7, a letter from his teens festooned with funny caricatures and a page of college chemistry notes tricked out with Palmer Cox–style brownies. Rather than include “Daybreak” (his most famous work) or any of Parrish’s characteristically androgynous figures, though, she tucks in semi-relevant but innocuous images from other artists of places Parrish visited and—just because in his prime he was grouped with them for the wide popularity of his reproduced art—a Van Gogh and a Cézanne. Along with steering a careful course in her account of Parrish’s private life (avoiding any reference to his lifelong mistress and frequent model Sue Lewin, for instance), the author makes only a few vague comments about the artist’s distinctive style and technique. In the same vein, she passes quickly over his influences, reduces all of his book-illustration work to one brief mention and closes with the laughable claim that he was the first artist in history who “created for more than a few.”

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4556-1472-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Pelican

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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