Interesting subject, but the story is less than satisfying.

A STITCH THROUGH TIME

Ava is finally allowed to open Aunt Jo’s mysterious trunk, and what’s inside is more magical than anything Ava could’ve imagined.

Ava, a young Black girl, likens her Aunt Jo’s house to a “fancy museum with curiosities, oddities, and doodads in every corner.” So when Aunt Jo finally gives Ava the key to the trunk she’s been eager to explore, she rushes to unlock it. Inside she finds what she thinks is an old blanket—more like a patchwork quilt. Ava learns that the blanket is made of fabric from gowns created by African American dressmaker and fashion designer Elizabeth Keckley. She and Aunt Jo are magically transported to the past, where they observe Keckley’s work and see the people she made dresses for, like first lady Mary Todd Lincoln. Together, they learn about two other African American modistes of a bygone era: fashion designer Ann Cole Lowe and milliner Mildred Blount. The bold, colorful illustrations are eye-catching and a highlight of the book. The information about the historical figures is presented in a way that feels disconnected from the rest of the story. The narrator’s identity is ambiguous, which is also confusing; the illustrations suggest that Aunt Jo is the narrator, yet the text lacks quotation marks. The book manages to provide interesting facts, but the absence of bibliographic references and backmatter is disappointing.

Interesting subject, but the story is less than satisfying. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5037-5928-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sunbird Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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A life devoted to freedom and dignity, worthy of praise and remembrance.

MUMBET'S DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

With the words of Massachusetts colonial rebels ringing in her ears, a slave determines to win her freedom.

In 1780, Mumbet heard the words of the new Massachusetts constitution, including its declaration of freedom and equality. With the help of a young lawyer, she went to court and the following year, won her freedom, becoming Elizabeth Freeman. Slavery was declared illegal and subsequently outlawed in the state. Woelfle writes with fervor as she describes Mumbet’s life in the household of John Ashley, a rich landowner and businessman who hosted protest meetings against British taxation. His wife was abrasive and abusive, striking out with a coal shovel at a young girl, possibly Mumbet’s daughter. Mumbet deflected the blow and regarded the wound as “her badge of bravery.” Ironically, the lawyer who took her case, Theodore Sedgwick, had attended John Ashley’s meetings. Delinois’ full-bleed paintings are heroic in scale, richly textured and vibrant. Typography becomes part of the page design as the font increases when the text mentions freedom. Another slave in the Ashley household was named in the court case, but Woelfle, keeping her young audience in mind, keeps it simple, wisely focusing on Mumbet.

A life devoted to freedom and dignity, worthy of praise and remembrance. (author’s note, selected bibliography, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7613-6589-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2013

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Waiting for Godot imagined for the playground population’s sensibilities.

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THE ROCK FROM THE SKY

If Samuel Beckett had written an early reader, it might look something like this one.

In the first of five chapters, Klassen places his now-familiar turtle and armadillo (wearing bowler hats) on a minimalist gray/green landscape with one flower and—on the facing page—one plant. Personalities are revealed through occasional, slow movement across the gutter together with color-coded dialogue that feels as if it is being invented in the moment, sans script. Turtle is inflexible, not wanting to relocate, even when Armadillo moves farther away after a bad feeling about the space. It is only when Snake (sporting a beret) appears near the mammal that Turtle joins them—just in time: A huge asteroid falls on the vacated spot. Readers have watched it coming, suspense effectively building as they turn the pages. In subsequent episodes, Armadillo attempts to be helpful; miscommunication abounds; and Turtle is stubborn, proud, and jealous of the unspeaking snake, now near the rock: “I see how it is. Just enough room for two.” Turtle playing the martyr: “Maybe I will never come back.” As daylight turns into a striking, rose-tinged sunset and then a starlit evening, a life-zapping extraterrestrial (created previously in Armadillo’s futuristic forest fantasy) stalks Turtle. At the last minute, a second asteroid annihilates the creature. Klassen’s animals react to their seemingly absurd—but never tragic—universe with characteristically subtle, humorous postures and eye maneuvers. The weirdness of it all exerts its own attractive force, drawing readers back to it to wonder and ponder.

Waiting for Godot imagined for the playground population’s sensibilities. (Early reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1562-5

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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