A beautiful celebration of a song that continues to give life to African Americans.



“Before you were born, a girl learned a song”—so begins the story of how “Lift Every Voice” takes root in a young African American girl’s heart and becomes a source of fortitude for her and her descendants, who continue learning, singing, and passing the song along.

Readers learn that the hymn was written by the fictional protagonist’s principal, James Weldon Johnson, and his brother, John Rosamond Johnson, to be sung during a celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday in 1900. As she grows and passes the song down through generations, significant events in the lives of African Americans unspool, including the Great Migration and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and culminating with the ringing of “the freedom bell” at the opening ceremony of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Lyons writes with rhythmic warmth, weaving the lyrics into her story. Full of faith and hope, they were the foundation of the civil rights movement and continue to be a source of encouragement and pride. Mallett’s artwork charmingly illumines the faces of the singers in the book, revealing their passion and often joy in singing what’s become cherished as the African American national anthem. An author’s note reveals that the story spread after Johnson’s students took it for their own and shared it.

A beautiful celebration of a song that continues to give life to African Americans. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51609-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Blandly laudatory.


From the Ordinary People Change the World series

The iconic animator introduces young readers to each “happy place” in his life.

The tally begins with his childhood home in Marceline, Missouri, and climaxes with Disneyland (carefully designed to be “the happiest place on Earth”), but the account really centers on finding his true happy place, not on a map but in drawing. In sketching out his early flubs and later rocket to the top, the fictive narrator gives Ub Iwerks and other Disney studio workers a nod (leaving his labor disputes with them unmentioned) and squeezes in quick references to his animated films, from Steamboat Willie to Winnie the Pooh (sans Fantasia and Song of the South). Eliopoulos incorporates stills from the films into his cartoon illustrations and, characteristically for this series, depicts Disney as a caricature, trademark mustache in place on outsized head even in childhood years and child sized even as an adult. Human figures default to white, with occasional people of color in crowd scenes and (ahistorically) in the animation studio. One unidentified animator builds up the role-modeling with an observation that Walt and Mickey were really the same (“Both fearless; both resourceful”). An assertion toward the end—“So when do you stop being a child? When you stop dreaming”—muddles the overall follow-your-bliss message. A timeline to the EPCOT Center’s 1982 opening offers photos of the man with select associates, rodent and otherwise. An additional series entry, I Am Marie Curie, publishes simultaneously, featuring a gowned, toddler-sized version of the groundbreaking physicist accepting her two Nobel prizes.

Blandly laudatory. (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2875-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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Bird-finding made easy and attractive.


A veteran birder invites young readers to look for the birds around them.

“There are lots of ways to find a bird. / That’s the wonderful thing about birds.” Ward, author of many nature titles including Mama Dug a Little Den, illustrated by Steve Jenkins (2018), offers good suggestions for bird-finding at any age. Move slowly and quietly. Try to blend in. Look up, down, and also straight ahead. And, finally, “the best way to find a bird”: close your eyes and listen. Ward makes clear why birds are where they are. Some are feeding or nesting on the ground; some are snacking or splashing in the water; some are high in the sky; others perch on wires or feed in your own backyard. Sudyka’s opaque watercolors are as engaging as the text. A smiling black child and a shorter child with pale skin and straight, black pigtails discover birds in a variety of environments. Hand-lettered labels identify the many birds shown. Two spreads make a puzzle: Three birds blend into a tree’s bark so well they can barely be seen; a page turn shows them close-up and labeled. The birds might not realistically all be found in the same parts of this country or at the same time, but they are reasonably common (except on the spread showing five extinct birds) and clearly identifiable in these illustrations. An afterword for older readers or caregivers provides good suggestions and further resources.

Bird-finding made easy and attractive. (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6705-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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