A fine contribution to African American creative nonfiction for young readers.

SAVING THE DAY

GARRETT MORGAN'S LIFE-CHANGING INVENTION OF THE TRAFFIC SIGNAL

A brilliant man’s creation makes the world safer.

Born into a big African American farming family, Garrett Morgan always seems to be in the way, despite his desire to help. As a result, he spends much of his time alone, brainstorming problem-solving inventions. Recognizing his intellectual potential, his parents send him to the city to study with a tutor. Garrett applies himself academically and also learns to repair mechanical devices such as sewing machines. (He even invents the zigzag stitch.) After witnessing a crash between a car and a horse and its carriage and after a bicyclist runs him over, Garrett invents the traffic signal. Christie’s lively and highly textured illustrations in his signature style effectively capture the characters’ emotions and bring to life the time period. The poetic text appears on bright single-colored backgrounds, which contrast sharply with the busy illustrations of Morgan’s life. This book derives from an animated short created by the author’s Sweet Blackberry media company, intended to shine a light on stories of African American achievement. The story of Morgan’s accomplishments is entertaining and informative; the book closes with Morgan’s photo and one of his patents. Unfortunately, the book lacks a biographical timeline and other information about Morgan, so readers will need to look elsewhere to learn more about him.

A fine contribution to African American creative nonfiction for young readers. (author's note) (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-45726-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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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...

BEFORE SHE WAS HARRIET

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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Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments.

SUPERHEROES ARE EVERYWHERE

The junior senator from California introduces family and friends as everyday superheroes.

The endpapers are covered with cascades of, mostly, early childhood snapshots (“This is me contemplating the future”—caregivers of toddlers will recognize that abstracted look). In between, Harris introduces heroes in her life who have shaped her character: her mom and dad, whose superpowers were, respectively, to make her feel special and brave; an older neighbor known for her kindness; grandparents in India and Jamaica who “[stood] up for what’s right” (albeit in unspecified ways); other relatives and a teacher who opened her awareness to a wider world; and finally iconic figures such as Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley who “protected people by using the power of words and ideas” and whose examples inspired her to become a lawyer. “Heroes are…YOU!” she concludes, closing with a bulleted Hero Code and a timeline of her legal and political career that ends with her 2017 swearing-in as senator. In group scenes, some of the figures in the bright, simplistic digital illustrations have Asian features, some are in wheelchairs, nearly all are people of color. Almost all are smiling or grinning. Roe provides everyone identified as a role model with a cape and poses the author, who is seen at different ages wearing an identifying heart pin or decoration, next to each.

Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments. (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984837-49-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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