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MAGNOLIA FLOWER

An artfully rendered tale of life and love that also conveys an essential but often overlooked chapter in U.S. history.

Scholar Kendi adapts a short story published by Hurston in the Spokesman in 1925.

The Mighty River tells the whimsical, mischievous Brook the story of Bentley, who flees slavery for a Florida forest where Black and Native people live free together as Maroons. Bentley marries Swift Deer, a Cherokee woman who escaped the Trail of Tears, and they have a daughter named Magnolia Flower, who “came at the time of the flowers opening.” When the Civil War ends, Magnolia falls in love with John, a Black man whom Bentley dislikes because he is poor. Bentley locks John up in their house to keep him away from Magnolia, but one night, Magnolia frees John and escapes with him by boat, making the Mighty River a part of their story. The tale comes full circle when Magnolia and John return 47 years later to reflect on and affirm their love. Deeply committed to sharing Hurston’s writing with young readers, Kendi writes in his author’s note about the elements of Black folklore in the story, such as making nature a speaking character. And, as he stresses in a historical note, the tale is a powerful example of Black and Native resistance—an aspect of history that far too often goes undiscussed. Wise’s earth-toned, opalescent illustrations make the trees, water, and flowers feel just as key to the tale as the humans. The excellent marriage between lyrical text and stunning visuals makes for a moving, memorable story. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An artfully rendered tale of life and love that also conveys an essential but often overlooked chapter in U.S. history. (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-309831-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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LET THE CHILDREN MARCH

A powerful retrospective glimpse at a key event.

A vibrantly illustrated account of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade through the eyes of a young girl who volunteers to participate.

Morrison’s signature style depicts each black child throughout the book as a distinct individual; on the endpapers, children hold signs that collectively create a “Civil Rights and the Children’s Crusade” timeline, placing the events of the book in the context of the greater movement. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. comes to speak at her church, a girl and her brother volunteer to march in their parents’ stead. The narrative succinctly explains why the Children’s Crusade was a necessary logistical move, one that children and parents made with careful consideration and despite fear. Lines of text (“Let the children march. / They will lead the way // The path may be long and / troubled, but I’m gonna walk on!”) are placed within the illustrations in bold swoops for emphasis. Morrison’s powerful use of perspective makes his beautiful oil paintings even more dynamic and conveys the intensity of the situations depicted, including the children’s being arrested, hosed, and jailed. The child crusaders, regardless of how badly they’re treated, never lose their dignity, which the art conveys flawlessly. While the children win the day, such details as the Confederate flag subtly connect the struggle to the current day.

A powerful retrospective glimpse at a key event. (timeline, afterword, artist’s statement, quote sources, bibliography) (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-70452-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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THE CREATURE OF THE PINES

From the Unicorn Rescue Society series , Vol. 1

Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers.

Elliot’s first day of school turns out to be more than he bargained for.

Elliot Eisner—skinny and pale with curly brown hair—is a bit nervous about being the new kid. Thankfully, he hits it off with fellow new student, “punk rock”–looking Uchenna Devereaux, a black girl with twists (though they actually look like dreads in Aly’s illustrations). On a first-day field trip to New Jersey’s Pine Barrens, the pair investigates a noise in the trees. The cause? A Jersey Devil: a blue-furred, red-bellied and -winged mythical creature that looks like “a tiny dragon” with cloven hooves, like a deer’s, on its hind feet. Unwittingly, the duo bonds with the creature by feeding it, and it later follows them back to the bus. Unsurprisingly, they lose the creature (which they alternately nickname Jersey and Bonechewer), which forces them to go to their intimidating, decidedly odd teacher, Peruvian Professor Fauna, for help in recovering it. The book closes with Professor Fauna revealing the truth—he heads a secret organization committed to protecting mythical creatures—and inviting the children to join, a neat setup for what is obviously intended to be a series. The predictable plot is geared to newly independent readers who are not yet ready for the usual heft of contemporary fantasies. A brief history lesson given by a mixed-race associate of Fauna’s in which she compares herself to the American “melting pot” manages to come across as simultaneously corrective and appropriative.

Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3170-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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