Uplifting with hope and ablaze with joyous colors!

ABLAZE WITH COLOR

A STORY OF PAINTER ALMA THOMAS

Despite her era’s racial segregation and prejudice, African American artist and art teacher Alma Thomas blazed a colorful trail.

Growing up in the early 1900s, young Alma was drawn to “the sparkling colors of nature” around her family’s large Victorian house in Columbus, Georgia. As the story recounts, she spurned the domestic pursuits her sisters embraced, longing instead “to make things, / things she could hold.” So, she started creating pottery using clay from the banks of the stream behind her childhood home. Due to racial injustice, the Thomas children weren’t allowed to attend the schools, museums, or library in their town; nevertheless, their home was filled with books and learning, and creativity as well. When Alma was 15, her family moved to Washington, D.C., where she studied art in college and then taught art at a local school. The story goes on to describe Thomas’ tireless efforts to increase access to art for the Black students in her community and her many groundbreaking achievements both as an educator and as an artist, including being the first Black woman to have a solo museum exhibition in America. The text achieves a fine balance of evocative lyricism and straightforward exposition. Wise’s vibrant, eye-catching illustrations contain echoes of Thomas’ signature abstract style, with its colorful mosaiclike patterns and tessellated brush strokes. Most characters are Black; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Uplifting with hope and ablaze with joyous colors! (author's note, illustrator's note, timeline, sources, references) (Picture-book biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-302189-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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Despite the name recognition of the author and relevance of the story, sweet yet inconsequential.

I COLOR MYSELF DIFFERENT

A debut picture book from the NFL quarterback who took a knee during the national anthem.

Kaepernick speaks directly to children about growing up Black in a White family. The story focuses on one incident: When he shares a drawing of his adoptive family with his class, other students ask why he’s the only brown-skinned one. But with reassurance from his mother, young Colin realizes he should take pride in his identity. Although he says, “I don’t know too many kids who look like me,” the bland, somewhat idealized illustrations show a classroom with children with a variety of skin tones, and the teacher is Black. The story includes a rather simplistic explanation of what it means to be adopted: “Ever since Mom wrapped me in that warm hug, I knew having brown skin and being adopted made me special.” Kaepernick adds, “I have brown eyes, a brown nose, and brown hands...just like the people who inspire, create, lead, and change the world.” The accompanying illustration depicts nine African American historical figures, including athletes famous for taking political stands: Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who raised their fists at the 1968 Olympics, and Muhammad Ali, as well as Huey Newton, Toni Morrison, Angela Davis, Audre Lorde, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and Malcolm X. The historical roles of these individuals are explained in a brief addendum. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Despite the name recognition of the author and relevance of the story, sweet yet inconsequential. (“letter to the reader”) (Picture-book biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-78962-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2022

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Engaging, well-chosen images and a clear, coherent text illuminate the importance of empathy for the world’s inhabitants.

A WORLD TOGETHER

Large color photographs (occasionally composed of montages) and accessible, simple text highlight global similarities and differences, always focusing on our universal connections.

While child readers may not recognize Manzano, the Puerto Rican actress who played Maria on Sesame Street, adults will recognize her as a trusted diverse voice. In her endnote, she explains her desire to “encourage lively conversations about shared experiences.” Starting out with the familiar, home and community, the text begins with “How many WONDERFUL PEOPLE do you know?” Then it moves out to the world: “Did you know there are about 8 BILLION PEOPLE on the planet?” The photo essay features the usual concrete similarities and differences found in many books of this type, such as housing (a Mongolian yurt opposite a Hong Kong apartment building overlooking a basketball court), food (dumplings, pizza, cotton candy, a churro, etc.), and school. Manzano also makes sure to point out likenesses in emotions, as shown in a montage of photos from countries including China, Spain, Kashmir (Pakistan/India), and the United States. At the end, a world map and thumbnail images show the locations of all photos, revealing a preponderance of examples from the U.S. and a slight underrepresentation for Africa and South America.

Engaging, well-chosen images and a clear, coherent text illuminate the importance of empathy for the world’s inhabitants. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4263-3738-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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