A fascinating introduction to a remarkable life.

VIRGINIA WAS A SPY

The only woman awarded the U.S. Distinguished Service Cross during World War II, Virginia Hall (1906-1982) was always “most original.”

Growing up in Baltimore, Virginia “was different from most girls of her time,” hunting, fishing, and collecting wild animals. Virginia’s “hunger to explore” led her to work for the U.S. Foreign Service in Turkey, where she shattered her left foot in a hunting accident, resulting in amputation below her knee. Undaunted, Virginia learned to walk with a wooden prosthesis, moved to Paris, and witnessed the German invasion and occupation of France. Volunteering as an ambulance driver until Paris surrendered, Virginia then became the first female undercover agent for the British, gathering information and assisting British pilots. Fleeing France, Virginia hiked over the snow-covered Pyrenees into Spain but eventually returned to France as an American spy disguised as a French milkmaid, transmitting radio messages about German troops and leading a French resistance group until the war ended. Repetition of the refrain, “Virginia was Virginia,” punctuates the factual text, introducing each amazing stage of her life. The book opens with a photo of Virginia’s passport, and Kelley’s realistic illustrations, appropriately rendered in somber hues, stark outlines, and arresting angles, highlight dramatic episodes. Suspenseful close-ups of Virginia spying on German soldiers in the French countryside add to the wartime atmosphere. (This book was reviewed digitally with 12-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 75% of actual size.)

A fascinating introduction to a remarkable life. (author's note) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-56846-348-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Creative Editions/Creative Company

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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An inspirational look at one girl’s quest to make sure that all skin tones are visible and available in the classroom.

MORE THAN PEACH

A Black girl’s simple observation propels her into activism.

Woodard, who launched the More Than Peach Project—which arranges for classrooms and children in need to receive kits that include art supplies and boxes of multicultural crayons (crayons in a variety of skin tones)—relates the incident that sparked her journey. As the book begins, she is dropped off at school and notices that her family’s skin tone differs from that of her classmates. While it is clear that she is one of a few children of color at school, that difference isn’t really felt until her friends start asking for the “skin-color” crayon when they mean peach. She’s bothered that no one else seems to notice that skin comes in many colors, so she devises a unique way of bringing everyone’s attention to that fact. With support from her family and her school, she encourages her fellow classmates to rethink their language and starts an initiative to ensure that everyone’s skin tone is represented in each crayon box. Appealing, realistic artwork depicts Woodard’s experiences, while endpapers feature More Than Peach crayon boxes and childlike illustrations of kids of different ethnicities doing various activities. The story is stirring and will motivate budding activists. (This book was reviewed digitally; the review has been updated for factual accuracy.)

An inspirational look at one girl’s quest to make sure that all skin tones are visible and available in the classroom. (note from Woodard, information on Woodard’s journey into activism, instructions on starting a drive) (Picture-book biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: July 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-80927-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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A reasonably solid grounding in constitutional rights, their flexibility, lacunae, and hard-won corrections, despite a few...

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT FREEDOM

Shamir offers an investigation of the foundations of freedoms in the United States via its founding documents, as well as movements and individuals who had great impacts on shaping and reshaping those institutions.

The opening pages of this picture book get off to a wobbly start with comments such as “You know that feeling you get…when you see a wide open field that you can run through without worrying about traffic or cars? That’s freedom.” But as the book progresses, Shamir slowly steadies the craft toward that wide-open field of freedom. She notes the many obvious-to-us-now exclusivities that the founding political documents embodied—that the entitled, white, male authors did not extend freedom to enslaved African-Americans, Native Americans, and women—and encourages readers to learn to exercise vigilance and foresight. The gradual inclusion of these left-behind people paints a modestly rosy picture of their circumstances today, and the text seems to give up on explaining how Native Americans continue to be left behind. Still, a vital part of what makes freedom daunting is its constant motion, and that is ably expressed. Numerous boxed tidbits give substance to the bigger political picture. Who were the abolitionists and the suffragists, what were the Montgomery bus boycott and the “Uprising of 20,000”? Faulkner’s artwork conveys settings and emotions quite well, and his drawing of Ruby Bridges is about as darling as it gets. A helpful timeline and bibliography appear as endnotes.

A reasonably solid grounding in constitutional rights, their flexibility, lacunae, and hard-won corrections, despite a few misfires. (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-54728-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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