The desire to live free is powerful, and this story celebrates one man’s amazing journey to achieve that end.

FREEDOM SONG

THE STORY OF HENRY "BOX" BROWN

When his wife and children are sold away, an enslaved man devises an extraordinary means of escape to the North and succeeds.

Henry Brown worked in a tobacco factory in Richmond, Va. With the help of abolitionist friends, he built a box barely big enough for his large frame and mailed himself to Philadelphia and “freedom-land.” Walker, winner of the Sibert Medal, captures the spirit and resolve of the man through her graceful writing and inclusion of songs of praise. She recounts his childhood, marriage to another slave and the fears, soon realized, that the family would be torn apart. Textured paintings and collage by Qualls express both the depth of Henry’s love and the drama and ordeal of the journey, with dark shadows depicting the closeness of the box. Walker does change one fact. She has Henry cut his finger to get sent home prior to the escape. He actually used acid, as recounted in the award-winning Henry’s Freedom Box, by Ellen Levine and illustrated by Kadir Nelson (2007). Nonetheless, this stands as another excellent, accessible account of the harshness of slavery. An excerpted letter written by the recipient of Henry “Box” Brown is included.

The desire to live free is powerful, and this story celebrates one man’s amazing journey to achieve that end. (author’s note) (Picture book/biography. 5-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-058310-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering.

THE AMAZING AGE OF JOHN ROY LYNCH

An honestly told biography of an important politician whose name every American should know.

Published while the United States has its first African-American president, this story of John Roy Lynch, the first African-American speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, lays bare the long and arduous path black Americans have walked to obtain equality. The title’s first three words—“The Amazing Age”—emphasize how many more freedoms African-Americans had during Reconstruction than for decades afterward. Barton and Tate do not shy away from honest depictions of slavery, floggings, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, or the various means of intimidation that whites employed to prevent blacks from voting and living lives equal to those of whites. Like President Barack Obama, Lynch was of biracial descent; born to an enslaved mother and an Irish father, he did not know hard labor until his slave mistress asked him a question that he answered honestly. Freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, Lynch had a long and varied career that points to his resilience and perseverance. Tate’s bright watercolor illustrations often belie the harshness of what takes place within them; though this sometimes creates a visual conflict, it may also make the book more palatable for young readers unaware of the violence African-Americans have suffered than fully graphic images would. A historical note, timeline, author’s and illustrator’s notes, bibliography and map are appended.

A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering. (Picture book biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5379-0

Page Count: 50

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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