An enriching picture of a hymn that has touched hearts over centuries and across the world.

HOW SWEET THE SOUND

THE STORY OF AMAZING GRACE

In rhyming verse, Weatherford depicts the origin and longevity of the hymn “Amazing Grace.”

John Newton, a passenger aboard the slave ship Greyhound, is “brawling, swearing.” A storm rages; John fears for his life and “relives his past.” He learned hymns and Bible study from his mother as a young child, then left religion behind after his mother died when he was 7 and went to sea with his father. He became a “scoundrel, rascal, picking fights.” Aboard the Greyhound, John prays, “Lord, just let me see the dawn.” Finally they reach England, and grateful John “is reborn.” He captains a ship and marries, and when he retires, he “preaches to end slavery.” In this new life, he writes the well-known opening stanza of “Amazing Grace.” The “lyrics sail across the sea,” where they are adapted and sung by enslaved people in the Americas, Cherokees forced along the Trail of Tears, Civil War soldiers, Mahalia Jackson, and finally Barack Obama. The illustrations are dramatic oil paintings that successfully evoke gravity, sorrow, and religiosity. The lyrical text presents a mature story in spare verse, so younger readers may need to hear it several times, or have parts explained to them, in order for the meaning to sink in. Exposure to the story, however, needn’t wait.

An enriching picture of a hymn that has touched hearts over centuries and across the world. (author’s note, further reading, listening, and viewing) (Informational picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7206-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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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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