This life of an artist with a social conscience makes itself heard.

THE PEOPLE’S PAINTER

HOW BEN SHAHN FOUGHT FOR JUSTICE WITH ART

Art and protest meld perfectly in the life of a 20th-century artist.

Born into a family of Jewish artisans in early-20th-century Lithuania, Ben Shahn wanted to draw, but there was no money for paper. Instead, he sketched in the margins of his book of Bible stories. After his father, a labor activist, was exiled to Siberia, the family eventually made their way to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Shahn was teased in school because of his accent but won the bullies over with his drawings. His teachers encouraged his talent. Having to quit school to work, Shahn was able to apprentice to a lithographer and attend art school. There, his teachers told him that “pictures should be beautiful—not real life.” Shahn thought otherwise. He went on to paint 23 pictures of the Sacco-Vanzetti trial and worked for the FDR administration photographing the American “outsiders” who needed relief and painting murals for a new village for garment workers. Despite threats from the FBI during the McCarthy era, Shahn continued to paint protesters and peace lovers. Levinson’s strong narrative is supported by emotive, brilliantly vibrant paintings in gouache, acrylic, pencil, chalk, and linoleum block prints. One triptych offers powerful images of the Shahns immigrating to NYC; it’s followed by scenes of the neighborhood with its jumble of new streets and foods. Well-researched and -sourced, this is a valuable addition to the canon of artist biographies. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 42.4% of actual size.)

This life of an artist with a social conscience makes itself heard. (Yiddish glossary, author's note, illustrator's note, timeline, select bibliography, source notes) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4130-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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What makes one person step into danger to help others? A question worthy of discussion, with this title as an admirable...

THE BRAVE CYCLIST

THE TRUE STORY OF A HOLOCAUST HERO

An extraordinary athlete was also an extraordinary hero.

Gino Bartali grew up in Florence, Italy, loving everything about riding bicycles. After years of studying them and years of endurance training, he won the 1938 Tour de France. His triumph was muted by the outbreak of World War II, during which Mussolini followed Hitler in the establishment of anti-Jewish laws. In the middle years of the conflict, Bartali was enlisted by a cardinal of the Italian church to help Jews by becoming a document courier. His skill as a cyclist and his fame helped him elude capture until 1944. When the war ended, he kept his clandestine efforts private and went on to win another Tour de France in 1948. The author’s afterword explains why his work was unknown. Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust museum, honored him as a Righteous Among the Nations in 2013. Bartali’s is a life well worth knowing and well worthy of esteem. Fedele’s illustrations in mostly dark hues will appeal to sports fans with their action-oriented scenes. Young readers of World War II stories will gain an understanding from the somber wartime pages.

What makes one person step into danger to help others? A question worthy of discussion, with this title as an admirable springboard. (photograph, select bibliography, source notes) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68446-063-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Capstone Editions

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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Gives readers a fresh and thrilling sense of what it took to make history.

A PLACE TO LAND

The backstory of a renowned address is revealed.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech” is one of the most famous ever given, yet with this book, Wittenstein and Pinkney give young readers new insights into both the speech and the man behind it. When Dr. King arrived in Washington, D.C., for the 1963 March on Washington, the speech was not yet finished. He turned to his fellow civil rights leaders for advice, and after hours of listening, he returned to his room to compose, fine-tuning even the day of the march. He went on to deliver a powerful speech, but as he closed, he moved away from the prepared text and into a stirring sermon. “Martin was done circling. / The lecture was over. / He was going to church, / his place to land, / and taking a congregation / of two hundred and fifty thousand / along for the ride.” Although much hard work still lay ahead, the impact of Dr. King’s dramatic words and delivery elevated that important moment in the struggle for equal rights. Wittenstein’s free-verse narrative perfectly captures the tension leading up to the speech as each adviser urged his own ideas while remaining a supportive community. Pinkney’s trademark illustrations dramatize this and the speech, adding power and further illuminating the sense of historical importance.

Gives readers a fresh and thrilling sense of what it took to make history. (author’s note, lists of advisers and speakers, bibliography, source notes) (Informational picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4331-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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