An effervescent celebration.

STOMPIN' AT THE SAVOY

HOW CHICK WEBB BECAME THE KING OF DRUMS

Drummer Chick Webb may not have been big, but he was a force to be reckoned with.

Born in East Baltimore somewhere around the turn of the 20th century, little William Webb suffered from spinal tuberculosis, a condition that was exacerbated when he experienced a fall. After an operation, his doctor recommended the family get him a drum set as a means of physical therapy. As that was financially out of reach, William used spoons and pots and pans, eventually buying himself a set of drumsticks and then a full drum kit from his newsboy income. He walked with a hunch and never grew taller than 4-foot-1, but that didn’t stop him from drumming. Punctuating her account with ample onomatopoeia (“Dig-a-dig-a-dig-a-dig-a!”), Donohue describes how he recruited “only the best musicians for his band,” including Ella Fitzgerald as lead singer. He presided over the Savoy Ballroom, which permitted both Black and White dancers and where he and his band played Benny Goodman’s to its knees. Her focus is on the African American musician’s extraordinary talent and his physical challenges, but she does touch on the discrimination of the times. His tragically early death just two years after the showdown with Goodman is revealed in an author’s note. Freeman’s illustrations are full of movement, musical staves and notes swirling across the spreads in visual accentuation of Webb’s swing beat. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 58% of actual size.)

An effervescent celebration. (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5341-1097-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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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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