Do not miss this complex story of an American legend.

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NINA

A STORY OF NINA SIMONE

This biography of African American icon Nina Simone follows the development of her early musical talent to her popularity as a musician during the civil rights movement.

Born in North Carolina in 1933, Eunice Kathleen Waymon “sang before she could talk and found rhythm before she could walk.” Her mama, a minister, sang only church songs, and her daddy played the upright piano, teaching Eunice to play jazz when Mama was out. From the age of 3, Eunice played music at church while Mama preached. Eunice’s gift was undeniable, and the White woman Mama cleaned for during the week helped arrange music lessons, where Eunice learned classical piano, falling in love with Bach’s music. After high school, Eunice went to New York City to attend the Juilliard School of Music. But when she auditioned for a transfer to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, she was not accepted, and she felt her dream of being a musician slipping away. When she took jobs in nightclubs, she performed as Nina Simone to keep her mother from discovering her secret. The narrative includes details of the love and support of family and community that gave Nina her early start, the disappointments and humiliations she suffered because of racism, and the determination and sheer love of music and of her people that carried her to success despite the setbacks. Todd’s musical prose allows readers into Nina’s perspective, and Robinson’s scenes and portraits absolutely sing with energy, keeping pace perfectly with the text as it expands beyond typical picture-book length. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Do not miss this complex story of an American legend. (note) (Picture book/biography. 4-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5247-3728-3

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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A larger-than-life subject is neatly captured in text and images.

THURGOOD

The life journey of the first African American to serve on the United States Supreme Court and the incidents that formed him.

Thurgood Marshall grew up in segregated Baltimore, Maryland, with a family that encouraged him to stand for justice. Despite attending poor schools, he found a way to succeed. His father instilled in him a love of the law and encouraged him to argue like a lawyer during dinner conversations. His success in college meant he could go to law school, but the University of Maryland did not accept African American students. Instead, Marshall went to historically black Howard University, where he was mentored by civil rights lawyer Charles Houston. Marshall’s first major legal case was against the law school that denied him a place, and his success brought him to the attention of the NAACP and ultimately led to his work on the groundbreaking Brown v. Board of Education, which itself led to his appointment to the Supreme Court. This lively narrative serves as an introduction to the life of one of the country’s important civil rights figures. Important facts in Marshall’s life are effectively highlighted in an almost staccato fashion. The bold watercolor-and-collage illustrations, beginning with an enticing cover, capture and enhance the strong tone set by the words.

A larger-than-life subject is neatly captured in text and images. (author’s note, photos) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6533-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston...

BEFORE SHE WAS HARRIET

A memorable, lyrical reverse-chronological walk through the life of an American icon.

In free verse, Cline-Ransome narrates the life of Harriet Tubman, starting and ending with a train ride Tubman takes as an old woman. “But before wrinkles formed / and her eyes failed,” Tubman could walk tirelessly under a starlit sky. Cline-Ransome then describes the array of roles Tubman played throughout her life, including suffragist, abolitionist, Union spy, and conductor on the Underground Railroad. By framing the story around a literal train ride, the Ransomes juxtapose the privilege of traveling by rail against Harriet’s earlier modes of travel, when she repeatedly ran for her life. Racism still abounds, however, for she rides in a segregated train. While the text introduces readers to the details of Tubman’s life, Ransome’s use of watercolor—such a striking departure from his oil illustrations in many of his other picture books—reveals Tubman’s humanity, determination, drive, and hope. Ransome’s lavishly detailed and expansive double-page spreads situate young readers in each time and place as the text takes them further into the past.

A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston Weatherford and Kadir Nelson’s Moses (2006). (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2047-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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