A solid introduction to an important figure.



This illustrated biography of Kenyan environmental scholar and activist Wangari Maathai showcases her intelligence and courage.

As a girl, Wangari collected firewood from the forest. In clear streams, she witnessed the life cycle of frogs. She tended her own small garden. And when her brothers asked why she didn’t go to school, her mother said, “There’s no reason why not.” Maathai completed high school and went on to study biology in the United States. When she returned home, she found a changed land. The clear rivers were muddy. The forests were replaced by tea and coffee plantations and desert. Even the sacred fig tree had been uprooted. Maathai saw connections between the absence of trees and the poverty and poor nutrition of children and farm animals. With hard work, outreach, and cooperation, Maathai established a tree-planting movement that made a difference in the landscape and communities of her beloved country. Her political involvement is also detailed in this story: her opposition to environmentally irresponsible government plans and how she joined in protest with other women for the release of political prisoners. Each spread matches several paragraphs on one topic with one or more scenes of stylized humans and animals against extremely bright colors. Though the writing is unimpressive, the story is well structured, and the details of Maathai’s life are fascinating enough to merit an attentive read. The arresting figures are engaging, their earth tones set off by pink- and orange-dominated backgrounds. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.5-by-19-inch double-page spreads viewed at 71.8% of actual size.)

A solid introduction to an important figure. (glossary, further information, index) (Picture book/biography. 5-10)

Pub Date: May 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-62371-885-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Crocodile/Interlink

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A larger-than-life subject is neatly captured in text and images.


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...


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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