Though flawed, it brings a good sampling of lore from the past to a new generation of readers.

THE PEOPLE COULD FLY

AMERICAN BLACK FOLKTALES

The combination of Newbery winner Hamilton and the Dillons, two-time Caldecott Medalists, raises high expectations.

It is especially noteworthy that they've combined their talents to present a collection of Black American tales—a folklore awesome in its richness, power and complexity. With all this in mind, we expect to find here nothing less than fire from the mountain. Though there is much to enjoy, and many parts are quite stirring (such as the title story), Hamilton has prepared a sampling of carefully and respectfully retold tales, not a living work of art. A surprisingly facile introduction sets a restrained tone. And her forerunner, the complex figure of Joel Chandler Harris, is unfairly assessed. From reading Hamilton, one would not get the idea that Harris took enormous pains to reproduce the tales as he heard them, even when elements of the stories were incomprehensible to him. The book is organized into four sections: animal tales, fantasy, supernatural and tales of freedom. The final one ("Carrying the Running-Aways: And Other Slave Tales of Freedom") is by far the most effective for the contemporary reader; the best of these stories convey great heroism, beauty and nobility. Less rewarding are the fantasy tales (with the exception of "Wiley, His Mama, and the Hairy Man"), and the supernatural tales (although they frequently entertain, and several would be excellent as read-alouds). The animal tales move the reader the least, and are rather lifeless. Hamilton's approximation of dialect speech is laudable for its readability. The Dillons have lent handsome black-and-white paintings to the work, but they seem posed and static. Still and all, this is a useful collection and a valuable undertaking.

Though flawed, it brings a good sampling of lore from the past to a new generation of readers. (Folktales. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1985

ISBN: 978-0-394-86925-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1985

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A critical contribution to discussions of equal access and of systemic racism.

WITHOUT SEPARATION

PREJUDICE, SEGREGATION, AND THE CASE OF ROBERTO ALVAREZ

Separate but equal—even primary grade students understand this prejudicial oxymoron.

Separation is never equal. When the Lemon Grove School District’s board of trustees decided to expel every one of the 75 students who were of Mexican American descent in order to establish an all-White student body, the Lemon Grove Neighbor’s Committee—Comité de Vecinos de Lemon Grove—decided to take action. The Mexican consul in San Diego provided lawyers who filed on behalf of 12-year-old Roberto Alvarez in San Diego’s California Superior Court. Exploding the board of trustees’ assertion that the minority students were “backward and deficient,” Roberto himself, in fluent English, defended his position. This was the “first successfully fought school desegregation case in the United States.” On April 16, 1931, the decision was made public: “to immediately admit and receive…Roberto Alvarez, and all other pupils of Mexican parentage…without separation or segregation.” Brimner’s straightforward narrative follows Roberto Alvarez from his return to school after Christmas vacation only to be told he was no longer welcome to the day he was able to receive the same education as the White students. The substantial author’s note places this case in context with other desegregation cases in the U.S.—particularly in California. Gonzalez’s colorful and detailed mural-esque illustrations make the historical flavor of the times accessible.

A critical contribution to discussions of equal access and of systemic racism. (photos, sources, source notes) (Informational picture book. 8-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68437-195-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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A visual delight for the culturally savvy.

THE APARTMENT

A CENTURY OF RUSSIAN HISTORY

Seven generations of a family in a communal apartment lead readers through 100 years of Russian history.

First published in Russia as Istoriia Staroi Kvartiry (2016), this story tracks the fictional Muromstev family from its move into the apartment in 1902 to a birthday celebration in 2002, covering major political and personal events within that time period. Double-page, diary-style spreads generally alternate between an intimate look into the apartment, with one of the current generation’s children narrating events both personal and political, and a more objective examination of the history experienced. These pages tend to be crowded with labeled illustrations of household objects, conversations among characters, and collaged-in archival images. Endpapers are plastered, scrapbook-style, with photographs and document clippings, and family trees are helpfully included prior to and following the story proper. Extensive backmatter provides further cultural elucidation. While readers might at first be skeptical of what appears to be a glorified house tour, the triumphs and tribulations of the family quickly become engrossing thanks to Litvina’s conversational, emotive text. Desnitskaya’s simple cartoon illustrations easily distinguish the many characters, although time skips of up to 12 years can make it difficult to discern who’s still alive. Readers unfamiliar with Russian might also have trouble pronouncing character names; conversely, readers who can read the language will enjoy perusing the newspaper articles and song lyrics scattered throughout. Characters are all white presenting, but the Muromstev clan includes Jewish and Georgian family members.

A visual delight for the culturally savvy. (author’s note, glossary, timeline, bibliography, index) (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3403-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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