A powerful enslavement narrative from a literary icon, deftly retold for a younger audience.

Scholar Kendi adapts Hurston’s account of one of the last survivors of the transatlantic slave trade.

Among her many accomplishments, Hurston was a trained anthropologist, and one of her works of scholarship—based on interviews conducted in the late 1920s but not published until 2018—was the story of Cudjo Lewis, the last person to endure the Middle Passage. Although the slave trade was outlawed in 1808 in the United States, in 1859, the captain of the Clotilda secretly traveled to West Africa to purchase enslaved people. Lewis recounts his harrowing tale, including being imprisoned in an enclosure called “the barracoon” before he was sold and brought to Alabama. Lewis endured enslavement for five and a half years, until the Civil War ended. Those who came over on the Clotilda formed a community, and once it became clear they could not return to West Africa, they worked together to buy land for a village they named AfricaTown, where they built homes and a church and raised families. Kendi’s adaptation provides context and clarity. The use of dialect is understandable and authentic; Kendi allows Hurston’s storytelling mastery to shine through for younger readers. The relationship between Hurston and Lewis enriches the story, but it’s clear that his firsthand account is the primary focus. Final art not seen.

A powerful enslavement narrative from a literary icon, deftly retold for a younger audience. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 2024


Page Count: 208

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023



A measured corrective to pervasive myths about what is often referred to as the “first Thanksgiving.”

Contextualizing them within a Native perspective, Newell (Passamaquoddy) touches on the all-too-familiar elements of the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving and its origins and the history of English colonization in the territory now known as New England. In addition to the voyage and landfall of the Mayflower, readers learn about the Doctrine of Discovery that arrogated the lands of non-Christian peoples to European settlers; earlier encounters between the Indigenous peoples of the region and Europeans; and the Great Dying of 1616-1619, which emptied the village of Patuxet by 1620. Short, two- to six-page chapters alternate between the story of the English settlers and exploring the complex political makeup of the region and the culture, agriculture, and technology of the Wampanoag—all before covering the evolution of the holiday. Refreshingly, the lens Newell offers is a Native one, describing how the Wampanoag and other Native peoples received the English rather than the other way around. Key words ranging from estuary to discover are printed in boldface in the narrative and defined in a closing glossary. Nelson (a member of the Leech Lake Band of Minnesota Chippewa) contributes soft line-and-color illustrations of the proceedings. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Essential. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-72637-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Scholastic Nonfiction

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021


Like oil itself, this is a book that needs to be handled with special care.

In 1977, the oil carrier Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of oil into a formerly pristine Alaskan ocean inlet, killing millions of birds, animals, and fish. Despite a cleanup, crude oil is still there.

The Winters foretold the destructive powers of the atomic bomb allusively in The Secret Project (2017), leaving the actuality to the backmatter. They make no such accommodations to young audiences in this disturbing book. From the dark front cover, on which oily blobs conceal a seabird, to the rescuer’s sad face on the back, the mother-son team emphasizes the disaster. A relatively easy-to-read and poetically heightened text introduces the situation. Oil is pumped from the Earth “all day long, all night long, / day after day, year after year” in “what had been unspoiled land, home to Native people // and thousands of caribou.” The scale of extraction is huge: There’s “a giant pipeline” leading to “enormous ships.” Then, crash. Rivers of oil gush out over three full-bleed wordless pages. Subsequent scenes show rocks, seabirds, and sea otters covered with oil. Finally, 30 years later, animals have returned to a cheerful scene. “But if you lift a rock… // oil / seeps / up.” For an adult reader, this is heartbreaking. How much more difficult might this be for an animal-loving child?

Like oil itself, this is a book that needs to be handled with special care. (author’s note, further reading) (Informational picture book. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3077-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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