Readers will be inspired by one man’s guiding ethic: forward ever, backward never.

MOVING FORWARD

FROM SPACE-AGE RIDES TO CIVIL RIGHTS SIT-INS WITH AIRMAN ALTON YATES

This solid, though somewhat didactic, biography rescues an influential civil rights activist from relative obscurity.

Growing up in the Jim Crow South, Alton Yates witnessed the indignities suffered by Black war veterans due to racism. Still, young Alton longed to join the Air Force and advance his education, so he enlisted in 1955. At Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, he met Paul Stapp, a White lieutenant colonel known as the “Fastest Human on Earth” because of record-breaking speed tests he’d endured. Dr. Stapp was conducting pioneering studies examining human tolerance to extreme acceleration and deceleration and was recruiting research volunteers. Alton stepped up immediately. For four years, he submitted himself to physically punishing experiments, risking his life in the name of scientific progress, until his father’s illness drew him away from military service. Upon returning home to Jacksonville, Florida, Alton, emboldened by the respect and dignity he had been afforded at Holloman, committed himself to the battle for racial justice. The story relates his involvement in Jacksonville’s NAACP Youth Council and the dangers he encountered while participating in civil rights protests en route to its soberly triumphal ending summarizing Yates’ legacy. The digitally rendered illustrations are historically accurate but somewhat unoriginal and depict White characters and Black characters of various skin tones. The backmatter, including the author’s photograph with Alton Yates, is informative. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Readers will be inspired by one man’s guiding ethic: forward ever, backward never. (timeline, author's note, illustrator's note, selected sources) (Picture book biography. 6-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-7365-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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Phoned-in illustrations keep this quick overview firmly planted on the launch pad.

THE BIG BEYOND

THE STORY OF SPACE TRAVEL

A capsule history of space exploration, from early stargazing to probes roaming the surface of Mars.

In loosely rhymed couplets Carter’s high-speed account zooms past the inventions of constellations, telescopes, and flying machines to the launches of Sputnik I, the “Saturn Five” (spelled out, probably, to facilitate the rhyme) that put men on the moon, and later probes. He caps it all with an enticing suggestion: “We’ll need an astronaut (or two)— / so what do you think? Could it be YOU?” Cushley lines up a notably diverse array of prospective young space travelers for this finish, but anachronistic earlier views of a dark-skinned astronaut floating in orbit opposite poetic references to the dogs, cats, and other animals sent into space in the 1950s and a model of the space shuttle on a shelf next to a line of viewers watching the televised moon landing in 1969 show no great regard for verisimilitude. Also, his full-page opening picture of the Challenger, its ports painted to look like a smiley face, just moments before it blew up is a decidedly odd choice to illustrate the poem’s opening countdown. As with his cosmological lyric Once upon a Star (2018, illustrated by Mar Hernández), the poet closes with a page of further facts arranged as an acrostic.

Phoned-in illustrations keep this quick overview firmly planted on the launch pad. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68010-147-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Lacking structure.

BOTTLE TOPS

THE ART OF EL ANATSUI

An introduction to the work of El Anatsui.

In this half-baked biography of the acclaimed Ghanaian artist, Goldberg attempts to string together a comprehensive description of the subject’s life and art—with special attention to his striking sculptures made from bottle caps—and the politics that shaped both. Compelling illustrations—in paint and collage and supported with photographs of Anatsui’s original works in the backmatter—convey aspects of the artist’s life, though they may not hold a young reader’s attention as well as a sparkling, 30-foot-tall fabric sculpture. With little to no background on how Anatsui rose to prominence in the global art scene and only the lightest of touches on the political background in Ghana, why he left to live in Nigeria, or why the trans-Atlantic slave trade might be an important topic for his art, the writing lacks a clear driving theme or message. Passable for those familiar with the work but otherwise flimsy, this book falls prey to the trap of oversimplification on too many fronts, among them the development of an artist, the importance of contemporary African art abroad, and the concept of reusing and recycling; even the “art activity” proposed in the backmatter leaves something to be desired. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Lacking structure. (author’s note, text sources, quotation sources) (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: May 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-62014-966-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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