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Inspiring and healing as it educates, this volume belongs beside its companion on every bookshelf.

Harrison celebrated black women of note in Little Leaders (2017); here, with an assist from Johnson, she presents a companion volume of profiles from black history, this one focusing on black men.

This is a book many have been waiting for, and it does not disappoint. The winning formula that endeared Little Leaders to readers is employed again here: One page of biographical text faces a full-page portrait of a young-looking figure with a serenely smiling brown face with closed eyes. The figure’s clothing and the background setting design represent his field of contribution. The text begins with each leader’s early life and is held together with a thread showing how the leader found an interest, learned and improved, worked hard, and made his work matter in the lives of others. Ordered chronologically, the names include well-known figures such as Frederick Douglass, Alvin Ailey, and Prince, but there are also many lesser-known names, such as historian Arturo Schomburg and astronaut Leland Melvin. Included also are international legends, such as Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembène and British Ghanaian architect Sir David Adjaye. Whereas hairstyling details created an illusion of visual variation in Little Leaders, here the uniformity of the portraits’ faces is more pronounced—yet this allows readers to see that a black boy can play at and ultimately grow into any one of these roles. A “Draw Your Own Little Legend” spread at the end invites readers into Harrison’s creative process.

Inspiring and healing as it educates, this volume belongs beside its companion on every bookshelf. (further bios, further reading, sources) (Collective biography. 7-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-47514-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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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

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Though a bit loose around the edges, a charmer nevertheless.

Tales of a fourth grade ne’er-do-well.

It seems that young Jordan is stuck in a never-ending string of bad luck. Sure, no one’s perfect (except maybe goody-two-shoes William Feranek), but Jordan can’t seem to keep his attention focused on the task at hand. Try as he may, things always go a bit sideways, much to his educators’ chagrin. But Jordan promises himself that fourth grade will be different. As the year unfolds, it does prove to be different, but in a way Jordan couldn’t possibly have predicted. This humorous memoir perfectly captures the square-peg-in-a-round-hole feeling many kids feel and effectively heightens that feeling with comic situations and a splendid villain. Jordan’s teacher, Mrs. Fisher, makes an excellent foil, and the book’s 1970s setting allows for her cruelty to go beyond anything most contemporary readers could expect. Unfortunately, the story begins to run out of steam once Mrs. Fisher exits. Recollections spiral, losing their focus and leading to a more “then this happened” and less cause-and-effect structure. The anecdotes are all amusing and Jordan is an endearing protagonist, but the book comes dangerously close to wearing out its welcome with sheer repetitiveness. Thankfully, it ends on a high note, one pleasant and hopeful enough that readers will overlook some of the shabbier qualities. Jordan is White and Jewish while there is some diversity among his classmates; Mrs. Fisher is White.

Though a bit loose around the edges, a charmer nevertheless. (Memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-64723-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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