A missed opportunity to offer something special.

TO THE MOUNTAINTOP

MY JOURNEY THROUGH THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT

Starting with the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009 and working back to the early 1960s, Hunter-Gault covers many of the significant moments in the civil rights movement, including her own pivotal role in desegregating the University of Georgia.

It was 1961, the year Barack Obama was born, and Hunter-Gault and Hamilton “Hamp” Holmes became the first black students to enroll in the University of Georgia, confronting the racism at the core of the oldest public university in the United Sates. Hunter-Gault places their contribution in the larger context of the civil rights movement from 1960 through 1965, but she has trouble balancing her personal narrative with the many other stories she covers. Given the number of excellent volumes on the subject, this would have been a stronger contribution if Hunter-Gault had focused on her own story; as it is, the book is something of a hodge-podge. Her premise that the civil rights movement was launched in 1960 is questionable, given the many pioneers in the decades prior. Backmatter includes an extensive timeline, articles by other writers on issues of the movement and an extensive bibliography, but there is no mention of any of the excellent works on the subject available for young readers.

A missed opportunity to offer something special. (Nonfiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59643-605-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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SMILE FOR THE CAMERA

This completely absorbing memoir follows the author from age 16, when she escaped from an abusive home in the late 1970s to become a model in New York City. Although Kelle ultimately succeeds, her path from squalor to security takes her through more abusive relationships, homelessness and a sensational murder trial. Kelle is one scrappy girl, though. With a few good friends and the timely kindness of strangers, she survives. This is a cautionary story to those who dream of similar runs to fame. James pulls no punches in her descriptions of the sexual and physical abuse she suffered at the hands of predatory men in the city and in flashback memories of her violent father. She describes a sexual attack and doesn’t shy away from innuendo in her characters’ dialogue. Stark in its honesty, the book propels readers forward with a sense of suspense worthy of a thriller. James bares her former adolescent soul and proudly celebrates her toughness, while owning up to her mistakes as well. Compelling and fascinating—a striking debut. (Memoir. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0623-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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A revealing and absorbing journey through dance classes and competitions to success.

TAKING FLIGHT

FROM WAR ORPHAN TO STAR BALLERINA

Dancing becomes a dream fulfilled.

She is born Mabinty Bangura in Sierra Leone during the Harmattan, a season of Saharan winds. Despite her vitiligo, a skin condition causing spotting, her parents love and nurture her. In 1991, civil war destroys that life, as “debil” (rebel + devil) soldiers bring destruction and the deaths of her parents. A white couple from America adopts her from an orphanage, and Mabinty, now Michaela, leaves starvation and atrocities behind—but not the nightmares. A magazine cover of a ballerina gives her a dream of dancing on stage in tutus and toe shoes, and her American family encourages that dream with classes and attendance at performances. Unfortunately, American racism also becomes part of her life in shopping malls and at ballet schools. With incredible perseverance, family support and talent, Michaela succeeds: She is now dancing with the Dutch National Ballet. She has been a media star and was one of six dancers featured in the 2012 documentary First Position. Readers will find her life story gripping whether or not they are dance fans. The dialogue is fictionalized, but the heart of the journey resonates in this mother/daughter collaboration.

A revealing and absorbing journey through dance classes and competitions to success. (Memoir. 13-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-75511-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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