A gift to Black Americans and everyone else who reads it.

BORN ON THE WATER

A celebration of Black Americans for young readers, derived from Hannah-Jones’ 1619 Project.

Told in a series of poems that create a narrative, the story opens with a young Black girl given a school assignment to trace her ancestry. Despondent, she tells her grandmother about her shame at being unable to complete the assignment. Grandma then tells the story of their ancestors. Refreshingly, that story starts pre-enslavement, in West Central Africa: “Their story does not begin / with whips and chains. / They had a home, a place, a land, / a beginning. / … / Before they were enslaved, they were / free.” Several spreads are dedicated to celebrating the ancestors’ language, skilled hands, sharp minds, joyful hearts, and amazing dancing. When enslavement enters the narrative, authors and illustrator strike a balance between presenting an honest picture and consideration for young readers. Smith’s evocative, vibrant art is full of emotion and motion. Colors and images speak volumes, while characters are portrayed with dignity, even in the worst circumstances. A significant portion of the story focuses on this period and how the ancestors survived and made a home in the United States. Poems “Resistance” and “Legacy” round out the narrative until reaching a conclusion for the character the book opened with in “Pride.” Compression of 400-plus years of history leads to some oversimplification, but overall it is a tremendous achievement.(This book was reviewed digitally.)

A gift to Black Americans and everyone else who reads it. (authors' note, illustrator's note) (Picture book/poetry. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30735-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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It’s a bit sketchy of historical detail, but it’s coherent, inspirational, and engaging without indulging in rapturous...

ROSA PARKS

From the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

A first introduction to the iconic civil rights activist.

“She was very little and very brave, and she always tried to do what was right.” Without many names or any dates, Kaiser traces Parks’ life and career from childhood to later fights for “fair schools, jobs, and houses for black people” as well as “voting rights, women’s rights and the rights of people in prison.” Though her refusal to change seats and the ensuing bus boycott are misleadingly presented as spontaneous acts of protest, young readers will come away with a clear picture of her worth as a role model. Though recognizable thanks to the large wire-rimmed glasses Parks sports from the outset as she marches confidently through Antelo’s stylized illustrations, she looks childlike throughout (as characteristic of this series), and her skin is unrealistically darkened to match the most common shade visible on other African-American figures. In her co-published Emmeline Pankhurst (illustrated by Ana Sanfelippo), Kaiser likewise simplistically implies that Great Britain led the way in granting universal women’s suffrage but highlights her subject’s courageous quest for justice, and Isabel Sánchez Vegara caps her profile of Audrey Hepburn (illustrated by Amaia Arrazola) with the moot but laudable claim that “helping people across the globe” (all of whom in the pictures are dark-skinned children) made Hepburn “happier than acting or dancing ever had.” All three titles end with photographs and timelines over more-detailed recaps plus at least one lead to further information.

It’s a bit sketchy of historical detail, but it’s coherent, inspirational, and engaging without indulging in rapturous flights of hyperbole. (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-78603-018-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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It’s not the most dramatic version, but it’s a visually effective and serviceable addition to the rapidly growing shelf of...

THE FIRST MEN WHO WENT TO THE MOON

A 50th-anniversary commemoration of the epochal Apollo 11 mission.

Modeling her account on “The House That Jack Built” (an unspoken, appropriate nod to President John F. Kennedy’s foundational role in the enterprise), Greene takes Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins from liftoff to post-splashdown ticker-tape parade. Side notes on some spreads and two pages of further facts with photographs at the end, all in smaller type, fill in select details about the mission and its historical context. The rhymed lines are fully cumulated only once, so there is some repetition but never enough to grow monotonous: “This is the Moon, a mysterious place, / a desolate land in the darkness of space, / far from Earth with oceans blue.” Also, the presentation of the text in just three or fewer lines per spread stretches out the narrative and gives Brundage latitude for both formal and informal group portraits of Apollo 11’s all-white crew, multiple glimpses of our planet and the moon at various heights, and, near the end, atmospheric (so to speak) views of the abandoned lander and boot prints in the lunar dust.

It’s not the most dramatic version, but it’s a visually effective and serviceable addition to the rapidly growing shelf of tributes to our space program’s high-water mark. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-58536-412-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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