Coretta Scott King Awards
2014 (Author)
P.S. Be Eleven
Book Jacket   Rita Williams Garcia
2014 (Author)
Knock knock: my dad?s dream for me
Book Jacket   written by Daniel Beaty and illustrated by Bryan Collier
 
2013 (Author)
Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America
 written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781423142577 Ten influential black men-including Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, and Martin Luther King Jr.-are profiled in this husband-and-wife team's vibrant collaboration. Andrea Davis Pinkney introduces her subjects with powerful poems, before moving into image-rich, introspective, and candid descriptions of each man's influence on civil rights, culture, art, or politics: "[Malcolm X] thought carefully about some of the beliefs he'd held in the past, and how they supported the idea that he'd been brainwashed by whites. For example, straightening his hair was Malcolm's attempt to deny his black heritage by trying to look 'more white.' " Brian Pinkney's portraits of each man echo the multidimensional prose with their bold strokes and dynamic swirls of color. An examination of Barack Obama's life and presidential election carries readers into the present day, placing the achievements of those who came before him into perspective. Though the text-heavy format may initially daunt some readers, the inviting narrative voice and eloquent portrayal of these iconic men and the times in which they lived make for memorable reading. Ages 9-12. Agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781423142577 Gr 5-8-This book is similar in scope to the author's Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters (Harcourt, 2000. The subjects here include Benjamin Banneker, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Barack Obama, all introduced in the author's characteristically lively prose ("Black students kept on keeping on with dog-eared textbooks and dog-tired feet"; Malcolm Little's hair was transformed from "pretty-boy cotton-kink to slick-daddy bone-straight"). The distinct experiences that shaped each man are ably delineated-the childhood events, the hardships faced, the richly deserved victories won-and the results are, without exception, compelling. The large font size is perfect for the middle-grade audience, but too many blocks of unbroken text may turn away less-confident readers. Thankfully, Brian Pinkney's magnificent portraits and spot art throughout each profile help to amplify each man's story. A must-have for all libraries serving young people.-Sam Bloom, Blue Ash Library, Cincinnati, OH (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781423142577 In her extensive introduction, Pinkney explains how a visit to a creative-writing program made up of young black teens Brother Authors inspired her to write a testament to positive African American role models. She has chosen 10 men, and though each appears in his own extensive chapter, their accomplishments weave them together like a chain. Some are well known, like Martin Luther King Jr., Jackie Robinson, and Malcolm X. Others, such as Benjamin Banneker, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Thurgood Marshall, may be less familiar to today's young people. Pinkney uses an upbeat, sometimes colloquial writing style that kids will appreciate, and with chapters sometimes as long as 20 pages, there is often more information about a subject than might be found in a slim series title. Each chapter begins with an original poem and a Brian Pinkney portrait. Another two or three small pictures break up the long pages of text. Surprisingly, Pinkney provides no notes, even though she references both feelings and words in her biographies. For instance, she quotes Barack Obama's Kenyan grandfather and his unhappiness over his son's marriage to Ann Dunham without any sourcing. While this is problematic, the book is still a handsome piece of bookmaking that does Pinkney's premise proud.--Cooper, Ilene Copyright 2010 Booklist
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2013 (Illustrator)
I, Too, Am America
 written by Langston Hughes and illustrated by Bryan Collier
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781442420083 A celebration of Pullman porters is the focus of this new picture-book edition of Langston Hughes' classic poem. The collage spreads, blending oil paintings and cut paper, begin with an image of a speeding train before moving on to large portraits of African American porters serving white passengers aboard a luxury train. When the passengers leave, the porters gather left-behind items newspapers, blues and jazz albums and toss them from the train. Carried by the wind, the words and music fall into the hands of African Americans across the country. The final, contemporary pages show young black people celebrating their place in America and dreaming of a bright future. Collier's long final note explains his interpretation of the poem, and with adult help, kids can look closely at what the pictures show about the porters then and now as well as Collier's visual themes, including the recurring use of stars and stripes, which culminate in a beautiful, final close-up of a boy with his mother staring through a train window today at the starry city sky.--Rochman, Hazel Copyright 2010 Booklist
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781442420083 K-Gr 5-Hughes's poem of burgeoning pride in one's African American identity, written at the height of the Harlem Renaissance in 1925, is interpreted anew in this striking picture book. Collier has visualized the message of the sparely written poem, barely 60 words in length, through the lens of a Pullman porter. "I, too, sing America" proclaims the opening spread that depicts a passenger rail car whizzing by; then, "I am the darker brother" shows an African American young man in the porter's uniform gazing squarely at readers through a faint, translucent overlay of the American flag, a recurring motif. As the porter cleans up the club car and examines the detritus-newspapers, magazines, blues, and jazz albums left by the train's well-heeled passengers-he impulsively flings it all from the caboose, scattering this knowledge to those who will willingly learn from it. Wafting through time and space, these items fall into the hands of a young female field worker in the long-ago South as well as residents in a contemporary northern urban landscape. The poem's powerful conclusion-"I, too, am America"-depicts a young boy on the subway with his mother, peering out the window through a readily visible flag toward his unknown but hopeful future. Collier's signature mixed-media collages create bold, textured images that give tangible expression to the poet's potent words. A memorable and multilayered volume for all libraries.-Kathleen Finn, St. Francis Xavier School, Winooski, VT (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781442420083 Caldecott Honor artist Collier (Dave the Potter) uses Hughes's well-known poem as text for a visual history of Pullman railway porters, one of the first jobs that offered African-American men steady pay, dignity, and a ladder into the middle class. Hughes's lines-"They send me to eat in the kitchen/ When company comes,/ But I laugh,/ And eat well,/ And grow strong"-fit beautifully with the story of the porters, giving the poem new meaning and impact. Collier's portraits of the porters at work alternate with bold, sweeping spreads of cotton fields, onto which a porter scatters discarded books and magazines, planting knowledge along the railway lines. The story travels from South to North and from old to new, ending in Harlem, where a contemporary African-American mother rides in a subway car, her son gazing out the window. In the next spread, he's seen in startling closeup, parting and peering between the stripes of an all-but-invisible American flag. "I, too, am America," he says. It's a powerful metaphor for looking at African-American history-and the issue of race in America-from the inside out. Ages 4-8. Agent: Marcia Wernick, Wernick and Pratt Agency. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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2012 (Author)
Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans
Book Jacket   Kadir Nelson
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780061730740 As in We Are the Ship, Nelson knits together the nation's proudest moments with its most shameful, taking on the whole of African-American history, from Revolutionary-era slavery up to the election of President Obama. He handles this vast subject with easy grace, aided by the voice of a grandmotherly figure who's an amalgam of voices from Nelson's own family. She does not gloss over the sadness and outrage of her family's history, but her patient, sometimes weary tone ("The law didn't do a thing to stop it," she says about the Ku Klux Klan. "Shoot, some of the men wearing the sheets were lawmen") makes listeners feel the quiet power that survival requires. In jaw-dropping portraits that radiate determination and strength, Nelson paints heroes like Frederick Douglass and Joe Louis, conferring equal dignity on the slaves, workers, soldiers, and students who made up the backbone of the African-American community. The images convey strength and integrity as he recounts their contributions, including "the most important idea ever introduced to America by an African American"-Dr. King's nonviolent protest. A tremendous achievement. Ages 9-up. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780061730740 *Starred Review* Nelson, the creator of We Are the Ship (2008), recipient of both a Coretta Scott King Author Award and a Robert F. Siebert Medal, adds to his notable titles with this powerful view of African American history. Illustrated with 44 full-page paintings, including both portraits and panoramic spreads, this handsome volume is told in the fictionalized, informal voice of an African American senior looking back on her life and remembering what her elders told her. The tone is intimate, even cozy, as the speaker addresses a contemporary honey chile and shares historical accounts that sometimes take a wry view of inequality: about a journey north, for example, she observes that Jim Crow has made the trip right along with us. Grim struggle is always present in her telling, though, and the passages include the horror of race riots, illustrated with a terrifying painting of a burning cross. With such a broad time frame, there is a lot to fit into a100 or so pages, but Nelson effectively captures the roles of ordinary people in landmark events ( We called ourselves the Freedom Riders ) while presenting famous leaders who changed the world, from Frederick Douglass and Rosa Parks to Langston Hughes, Louis Armstrong, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and, finally, President Barack Obama. A detailed time line and a bibliography of books and DVDs closes this powerful, accessible history which will find wide circulation in both schools and public libraries.--Rochman, Hazel Copyright 2010 Booklist
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780061730740 Gr 5 Up-Expanding his focus from the close-up view of history applied in previous books, Nelson uses his formidable skills for the larger landscape: the black experience in America from slavery to the presidency. Like most surveys, the book is organized by struggles and wars; unlike traditional overviews, the facts are filtered through the eyes of a black woman with attitude to spare. This invented narrator, whose "Pap" was kidnapped as a child in Africa and whose brothers fought in World War II, does not suffer fools. Her colloquial commentary, addressed to "honey" or "chile," introduces and interprets the events. Occasionally her voice drops out, and a more textbooklike tone prevails, but mostly her presence provides the heart and soul of the story; readers will care about this information because they care about her. Nelson's oil portraits and tableaux consistently display technical virtuosity, drama, and dignity. From single-page compositions of historical personalities (Frederick Douglass, Joe Louis, Rosa Parks) and representative characters (a Revolutionary War soldier, students at Woolworth's) to full-spread, murallike scenes of a slave ship, a battle, a big band, Nelson varies the viewpoint and contrasts light and darkness to tell a riveting tale. The purpose is presented in the prologue and recast in the epilogue and author's note: "You have to know where you came from so you can move forward." Provocative and powerful, this book offers a much-needed perspective for individuals of all ages seeking to understand America's past and present.-Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780061730740 Gr 5 Up-An unnamed narrator of a collection of family stories relates stirring accounts of relatives who fought by George Washington's side, worked in fields and factories, and marched with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Electrifying portraits shed light on the triumphs and tragedies of our nation's history as reflected in the faces of its people. (Sept.) (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2012 (Illustrator)
Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom
Book Jacket   written and illustrated by Shane W. Evans
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781596435384 Gr 1-3-A stellar introduction to the Underground Railroad, narrated by a group of slaves. Readers experience the fugitives' escape, their long nighttime journey punctuated by meetings with friends and enemies, and their final glorious arrival in a place of freedom. Evans boils the raw emotion of the experience down to the most compressed statements, both mirroring the minimal opportunities for expression during the secret journey and also creating a narrative that invites even the youngest listeners to visit this challenging subject. For this reason, the text may be read as is to preschool audiences, while the abbreviated prose may also generate a rich discussion for older students. Evans writes simply: "The darkness..../We are quiet./The fear./We run." Appropriately, the narration is told from a group perspective, which reflects the broader experience of enslaved African Americans-a theme continued in his full-bleed illustrations of figures cloaked in the anonymity of night. Though subdued in palette until the eruption of color as the figures reach the threshold of freedom, the author's collaged nocturnal paintings shimmer with an arresting luminescence. Two constants leap out from almost every page: the stars above and the bright, fearful eyes of the fugitives. When the travelers at last lift a newborn baby to the rising sun, readers celebrate along with the protagonists.-Jayne Damron, Farmington Community Library, MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781596435384 PreS-Gr 3-In this visual tour de force, darkness becomes a protective blanket, hiding "passengers" on the Underground Railroad as they huddle, crawl, and flee to safety. The family members' fear and determination are palpable as is the warming glow of the sun at journey's end. (Jan.) (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781596435384 The darkness. / The escape. / We are quiet. / The fear . . . / We run. / We crawl. With just two or three words on each double-page spread, the minimalist text is intense in this stirring picture book about a family's escape from slavery. Dramatic, unframed, mixed-media illustrations, rendered in black lines and dark shades of midnight blue, show a child's view of fleeing and hiding in the night, when the only light is in the starry sky. Then there is the lantern of a safe house, but also of a slave catcher. Finally, freedom comes at last with the glorious color of the sun's light, and the art extends the wordplay in an image of a joyful family holding up their own son a baby boy born in freedom. A long appended note offers more historical context, and young readers can go on from here to other picture-book accounts of families torn apart by slavery and those saved by rescuers on the Underground Railroad.--Rochman, Hazel Copyright 2010 Booklist
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781596435384 With haunting pictures and a few simple sentences, Evans (Black Jack: The Ballad of Jack Johnson) introduces beginning readers to a crucial piece of American history. In darkness lit mainly by moonlight, a slave family is seen sneaking away from a plantation, passing a sleeping overseer ("We are quiet"), creeping through shrubbery, and being greeted by a woman in a skirt and cap holding a lantern high ("We make new friends"). The eyes of the slaves shine with doubt and fear. Dense groupings of figures give a sense of immediacy, and rough charcoal lines echo the rugged paths the group travels. Difficult moments are handled with restraint: "Some don't make it," one page says, as a man with a rifle holds a defeated-looking slave. The slaves press on; the dawn that breaks around them is a metaphor for freedom. A man cradles a pregnant woman ("We are almost there"), and on the next page, he holds a swaddled newborn up to the shining sun in triumph. Telling the story without overwhelming readers is a delicate task, but Evans walks the line perfectly. Ages 4-8. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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2011 (Author)
One Crazy Summer
 Rita Williams-Garcia
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780060760885 Williams-Garcia (Jumped) evokes the close-knit bond between three sisters, and the fervor and tumultuousness of the late 1960s, in this period novel featuring an outspoken 11-year-old from Brooklyn, N.Y. Through lively first-person narrative, readers meet Delphine, whose father sends her and her two younger sisters to Oakland, Calif., to visit their estranged mother, Cecile. When Cecile picks them up at the airport, she is as unconventional as Delphine remembers ("There was something uncommon about Cecile. Eyes glommed onto her. Tall, dark brown woman in man's pants whose face was half hidden by a scarf, hat, and big dark shades. She was like a colored movie star"). Instead of taking her children to Disneyland as they had hoped, Cecile shoos them off to the neighborhood People's Center, run by members of the Black Panthers. Delphine doesn't buy into all of the group's ideas, but she does come to understand her mother a little better over the summer. Delphine's growing awareness of injustice on a personal and universal level is smoothly woven into the story in poetic language that will stimulate and move readers. Ages 9-12. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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2011 (Illustrator)
Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave
 illustrated by Bryan Collier, written by Laban Carrick Hill
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780316107310 K-Gr 4-The life of an astonishingly prolific and skilled potter who lived and died a slave in 19th-century South Carolina is related in simple, powerful sentences that outline the making of a pot. The movements of Dave's hands are described using familiar, solid verbs: pulling, pinching, squeezing, pounding. Rural imagery-a robin's puffed breast, a carnival wheel-remind readers of Dave's surroundings. The pithy lines themselves recall the short poems that Dave inscribed on his pots. Collier's earth-toned watercolor and collage art extends the story, showing the landscape, materials, and architecture of a South Carolina farm. Alert readers will find hidden messages in some of the collages, but what stands out in these pictures are Dave's hands and eyes, and the strength of his body, reflected in the shape and size of his legendary jars and pots. A lengthy author's note fleshes out what is known of the man's life story and reproduces several of his two-line poems. A photograph of some of Dave's surviving works cements the book's link to the present and lists of print and online resources encourage further exploration. An inspiring story, perfectly presented and sure to prompt classroom discussion and projects. Outstanding in every way.-Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780316107310 As a closing essay explains, little is known about the man known as Dave the potter. Two things are certain, though: he was a slave in South Carolina, and he was a potter of uncommon skill. As Hill writes, Dave was one of only two potters at the time who could successfully make pots that were larger than twenty gallons. He also inscribed strange, sophisticated poetry into the clay: I wonder where / is all my relation / friendship to all / and, every nation. The verses Hill uses to introduce us to Dave are sometimes just as evocative: On wet days, / heavy with rainwater, / it is cool and squishy, / mud pie heaven. The book's quiet dignity comes from its refusal to scrutinize life as a slave; instead, it is nearly a procedural, following Dave's mixing, kneading, spinning, shaping, and glazing. Collier's gorgeous watercolor-and-collage illustrations recall the work of E. B. Lewis earth-toned, infused with pride, and always catching his subjects in the most telling of poses. A beautiful introduction to a great lost artist.--Kraus, Daniel Copyright 2010 Booklist
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2010 (Author)
Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshall
Book Jacket   Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780822567646 Nelson and Christie know the proper way to open a western with a showdown. Young readers first see outlaw Jim Webb bursting through a glass window; then lawman Bass Reeves' eye sighting down the barrel of his Winchester rifle. After that, kids will have no trouble loping into this picture-book biography. Born a slave, Reeves became one of the most feared and respected Deputy U.S. Marshals to tame the West. Nelson's anecdotal account gives this criminally overlooked frontier hero the same justice that Gary Paulsen did in his book for slightly older readers, The Legend of Bass Reeves (2006). The text, especially, gets into the tall-tale spirit of things ( Bass had a big job. And it suited him right down to the ground. Everything about him was big. ), while the dramatic scenes captured in Christie's stately artwork promise revisitations to the lawman's story. An exciting subject captured with narrative panache and visual swagger, Bass Reeves stands to finally gain his share of adulation from kids drawn to the rough-and-tumble Old West.--Chipman, Ian Copyright 2009 Booklist
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780822567646 With lively language and anecdotes, Nelson (Juneteenth) chronicles the life of African-American lawman Bass Reeves in a biography that elevates him to folk hero. The story opens with an action-packed sequence leading to Reeves killing criminal Jim Webb. The second spread has readers staring down the barrel of Reeves's rifle, in an attention-grabbing, somewhat unsettling closeup. As Webb lay dying, he "gave Bass his revolver out of respect. Bass buried Webb's body and turned in the outlaw's boots and gun belt as proof he'd gotten his man." Christie's (Yesterday I Had the Blues) dynamic full-page oil paintings portray a somber, statuesque Reeves, his big eyes shining from under the brim of his deputy's hat. The folksy language is heavy with simile ("Bass took to guns like a bear to honey") and jargon (vittles, slack-jawed cowpoke), inviting a drawly reading. It's an arresting portrait of a man who rose from escaped slave in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) to become a federal marshal who made thousands of arrests, including his own son, but killed only 14 men. A glossary, bibliography, time line and other source material are included. Ages 8-12. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780822567646 Gr 3-8-Reeves is an unsung hero of the American West whose honesty and sense of duty are an inspiration to all. In a frontier brimming with treachery and lawlessness, this African-American peace officer stood out as a fearless figure of unparalleled integrity, arresting more than 3,000 outlaws during his 32 years of service as a deputy U.S. marshal, all without suffering an injury. He was a former slave who became a successful farmer and family man before accepting the appointment to serve as a lawman in the Indian Territory in 1875. While Gary Paulsen's The Legend of Bass Reeves (Random, 2006) mixes fact and fiction to great effect, Nelson chooses to keep her telling as close to documented research as possible. Selected anecdotes ranging from a humorous encounter with a skunk to an intense gunfight with an outlaw provide a sense of the man's courage and character. The text is chock-full of colorful turns of phrase that will engage readers who don't "cotton to" nonfiction (a glossary of "Western Words" is included). Christie's memorable paintings convey Reeves's determination and caring, while rugged brushstrokes form the frontier terrain. Youngsters will find much to admire here.-Lisa Glasscock, Columbine Public Library, Littleton, CO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780822567646 Nelson and Christie know the proper way to open a western with a showdown. Young readers first see outlaw Jim Webb bursting through a glass window; then lawman Bass Reeves' eye sighting down the barrel of his Winchester rifle. After that, kids will have no trouble loping into this picture-book biography. Born a slave, Reeves became one of the most feared and respected Deputy U.S. Marshals to tame the West. Nelson's anecdotal account gives this criminally overlooked frontier hero the same justice that Gary Paulsen did in his book for slightly older readers, The Legend of Bass Reeves (2006). The text, especially, gets into the tall-tale spirit of things ( Bass had a big job. And it suited him right down to the ground. Everything about him was big. ), while the dramatic scenes captured in Christie's stately artwork promise revisitations to the lawman's story. An exciting subject captured with narrative panache and visual swagger, Bass Reeves stands to finally gain his share of adulation from kids drawn to the rough-and-tumble Old West.--Chipman, Ian Copyright 2009 Booklist
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780822567646 With lively language and anecdotes, Nelson (Juneteenth) chronicles the life of African-American lawman Bass Reeves in a biography that elevates him to folk hero. The story opens with an action-packed sequence leading to Reeves killing criminal Jim Webb. The second spread has readers staring down the barrel of Reeves's rifle, in an attention-grabbing, somewhat unsettling closeup. As Webb lay dying, he "gave Bass his revolver out of respect. Bass buried Webb's body and turned in the outlaw's boots and gun belt as proof he'd gotten his man." Christie's (Yesterday I Had the Blues) dynamic full-page oil paintings portray a somber, statuesque Reeves, his big eyes shining from under the brim of his deputy's hat. The folksy language is heavy with simile ("Bass took to guns like a bear to honey") and jargon (vittles, slack-jawed cowpoke), inviting a drawly reading. It's an arresting portrait of a man who rose from escaped slave in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) to become a federal marshal who made thousands of arrests, including his own son, but killed only 14 men. A glossary, bibliography, time line and other source material are included. Ages 8-12. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780822567646 Gr 3-8-Reeves is an unsung hero of the American West whose honesty and sense of duty are an inspiration to all. In a frontier brimming with treachery and lawlessness, this African-American peace officer stood out as a fearless figure of unparalleled integrity, arresting more than 3,000 outlaws during his 32 years of service as a deputy U.S. marshal, all without suffering an injury. He was a former slave who became a successful farmer and family man before accepting the appointment to serve as a lawman in the Indian Territory in 1875. While Gary Paulsen's The Legend of Bass Reeves (Random, 2006) mixes fact and fiction to great effect, Nelson chooses to keep her telling as close to documented research as possible. Selected anecdotes ranging from a humorous encounter with a skunk to an intense gunfight with an outlaw provide a sense of the man's courage and character. The text is chock-full of colorful turns of phrase that will engage readers who don't "cotton to" nonfiction (a glossary of "Western Words" is included). Christie's memorable paintings convey Reeves's determination and caring, while rugged brushstrokes form the frontier terrain. Youngsters will find much to admire here.-Lisa Glasscock, Columbine Public Library, Littleton, CO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2010 (Illustrator)
My People
Book Jacket   illustrated by Charles R. Smith Jr., written by Langston Hughes
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781416935407 K Up-Smith's knack for pairing poetry and photography is well documented in books such as Hoop Queens (Candlewick, 2003) and Rudyard Kipling's If (S & S, 2006). Here, his artful images engage in a lyrical and lively dance with Langston Hughes's brief ode to black beauty. Dramatic sepia portraits of African Americans-ranging from a cherubic, chubby-cheeked toddler to a graying elder whose face is etched with lines-are bathed in shadows, which melt into black backgrounds. The 33 words are printed in an elegant font in varying sizes as emphasis dictates. In order to maximize the effect of the page turn and allow time for meaning to be absorbed, the short phrases and their respective visual narratives often spill over more than a spread. The conclusion offers a montage of faces created with varying exposures, a decision that provides a light-filled aura and the irregularities that suggest historical prints. A note from Smith describes his approach to the 1923 poem. This celebration of the particular and universal will draw a wide audience: storytime participants; students of poetry, photography, and cultural studies; seniors; families. A timely and timeless offering.-Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781416935407 Some 86 years after its original publication, Langston Hughes' poem My People finds celebratory interpretation in Charles R. Smith Jr.'s elegant sepia photography. Echoing the graceful simplicity of Hughes' verses, Smith's pictures capture African American faces of every size, shape, age, and hue, their countenances shining out from fields of glossy black. The expressions are as varied and captivating as the subjects, from crying babies to radiant children and adults. The pages outnumber the words, 40 to 33, allowing the text, printed in gold, to sweep across the darkness with the titular refrain. In an endnote, Smith shares the questions he asked himself as he began his photographic interpretation, noting Hughes' intent to celebrate the pride he had for his black brothers and sisters. In the aspects that he has captured, and their artful arrangement across the page, he does just that.--Barthelmess, Thom Copyright 2009 Booklist
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781416935407 "At just thirty-three words total, [this] poem is a study in simplicity," writes Smith (Rimshots; If); in its visual simplicity, his picture-book presentation is a tour de force. Introducing the poem two or three words at a time, Smith pairs each phrase with a portrait of one or more African-Americans; printed in sepia, the faces of his subjects materialize on black pages. "The night," reads the opening spread, across from an image of a man's face, his eyes shut; "is beautiful," continues the next spread, showing the same face, now with eyes open and a wide smile. The text, sized big to balance the portraits, shows up in hues that range from white to tan to brown-black, reflecting Smith's reading that "the words celebrate black people of differing shades and ages." An inventive design adds a short, shadowed row or column of small portraits to the edge of many spreads; these quietly reinforce the concept of "my people." Whether of babies, children or adults, Smith's faces emerge into the light, displaying the best that humanity has to offer-intelligence, wisdom, curiosity, love and joy. Ages 4-8. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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2009 (Author)
We are the ship : the story of Negro League baseball
 words and paintings by Kadir Nelson ; foreward by Hank Aaron.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780786808328 In his first outing as author as well as illustrator, Nelson (Ellington Was Not a Street) delivers a history of the Negro Leagues in a sumptuous volume that no baseball fan should be without. Using a folksy vernacular, a fictional player gives an insider account of segregated baseball, explaining the aggressive style of play ("Those fellows would bunt and run you to death. Drove pitchers crazy!") and recalling favorite players. Of Satchel Paige, he says, "Even his slow stuff was fast." As illuminating as the text is, Nelson's muscular paintings serve as the true draw. His larger-than-life players have oversized hands, elongated bodies and near-impossible athleticism. Their lined faces suggest the seriousness with which they took their sport and the circumstances under which they were made to play it. A gatefold depicting the first "Colored World Series" is particularly exquisite-a replica ticket opens from the gutter to reveal the entire line-ups of both teams. And while this large, square book (just a shade smaller than a regulation-size base) succeeds as coffee-table art, it soars as a tribute to the individuals, like the legendary Josh Gibson, who was ultimately elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame without ever playing in the major leagues. As Nelson's narrator says, "We had many Josh Gibsons in the Negro Leagues.... But you never heard about them. It's a shame the world didn't get to see them play." Ages 8-up. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780786808328 Gr 3 Up-In this attractive, oversized book, Nelson offers an appreciative tribute to the Negro Leagues. Adopting the perspective and voice of an elderly ballplayer, he offers a readable account that is infused with an air of nostalgic oral history: "Seems like we've been playing baseball for a mighty long time. At least as long as we've been free." With African Americans banned from playing in the major leagues, Rube Foster organized the Negro Leagues in 1920 and grandly proclaimed: "We are the ship; all else the sea." From 1920 through the 1940s, they offered African Americans an opportunity to play ball and earn a decent living when opportunities to do so were scarce. Nine chapters offer an overview of the founding and history of the leagues, the players, style of play, and the league's eventual demise after Jackie Robinson broke major league baseball's color barrier in 1947. Nelson's brilliant, almost iconic paintings vividly complement his account. Starting with the impressive cover painting of a proud, determined Josh Gibson, the artist brings to light the character and inherent dignity of his subjects. Hank Aaron, who started his Hall of Fame career in the Negro Leagues, contributes a heartfelt foreword. This work expands on the excellent overview offered in Carole Boston Weatherford's A Negro League Scrapbook (Boyds Mills, 2005). It is an engaging tribute that should resonate with a wide audience and delight baseball fans of all ages.-Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780786808328 *Starred Review* Award-winning illustrator and first-time author Nelson's history of the Negro Leagues, told from the vantage point of an unnamed narrator, reads like an old-timer regaling his grandchildren with tales of baseball greats Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and others who forged the path toward breaking the race barrier before Jackie Robinson made his historic debut. The narrative showcases the pride and comradery of the Negro Leagues, celebrates triumphing on one's own terms and embracing adversity, even as it clearly shows the us and them mentality bred by segregation. If the story is the pitch, though, it's the artwork that blasts the book into the stands. Nelson often works from a straight-on vantage point, as if the players took time out of the action to peer at the viewer from history, eyes leveled and challenging, before turning back to the field of play. With enormous blue skies and jam-packed grandstands backing them, these players look like the giants they are. The stories and artwork are a tribute to the spirit of the Negro Leaguers, who were much more than also-rans and deserve a more prominent place on baseball's history shelves. For students and fans (and those even older than the suggested grade level), this is the book to accomplish just that.--Chipman, Ian Copyright 2008 Booklist
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2009 (Illustrator)
The blacker the berry : poems
 by Joyce Carol Thomas ; illustrated by Floyd Cooper.
  Book Jacket
 
2008 (Illustrator)
Let it Shine
Book Jacket   Ashley Bryan
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780689847325 Bryan (Beautiful Blackbird) again proves himself a maestro with scissors (depicted on the endpages) in a series of arresting, kaleidoscopic cut-construction-paper collages that interprets three beloved spirituals: "This Little Light of Mine," "When the Saints Go Marching In" and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." Each page contains two lines of lyrics alongside images of nature or of children and adults with diverse skin tones frolicking harmoniously in settings both urban and pastoral. This wide spectrum of experiences suggests the songs' themes of utopian peace, tolerance and beauty. The hands appearing on the pages of "He's Got the Whole World..." convey a sense of power, reassurance and awe that evoke the wonders of God. An author's note describes a bit of the origin and history of Negro spirituals. Musical notations for each song are included at book's end. Ages 4-8. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780689847325 The inspiring words of three well-known spirituals, This Little Light of Mine, Oh, When the Saints Go Marching In, and He's Got the Whole World in His Hands, are matched with powerful construction-paper collage illustrations. Each double-page spread of this oversize picture book is an explosion of shapes and bright colors. Stocky figures, silhouetted against swirling colors are created from geometric shapes woven together. Rather than conceive a story to accompany the lyrics, Bryan presents series of scenes to reflect each set of lyrics. Children dance around with candles and march with saints; God holds a world of colored objects in his hands. The musical notation and lyrics for each song appear at the end of the book, as does a brief note from Bryan about the history of the spiritual and the changes he made in some of the lyrics. This will be hard to read without breaking into song. --Randall Enos Copyright 2006 Booklist
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780689847325 PreS-Gr 5-Bryan's vibrant illustrations interpret and energize three beloved songs: "This Little Light of Mine," "Oh, When the Saints Go Marching In," and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." Although the artistic style is similar to that in All Night, All Day (Atheneum, 1991), here Bryan uses intricate cut-paper collages to accompany the lines of text at the bottom of the pages. Energy and movement course through many of the full-bleed illustrations, as when children-depicted in rainbow-colored silhouettes-use a boat, an airplane, a bicycle, and other means to carry their lights "Ev'ry where I go." At other times, the images offer comfort and security, as large multicolored hands embrace the world's wonders and "the little bitty baby" is cradled in an adult's protective arms. Simple melody lines and an explanation of the origin and importance of spirituals are appended. Yet, Bryan's illustrations demonstrate more than words the dynamic inspiration that these songs still provide. Readers will find themselves humming as they turn the pages.-Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University, Mankato (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2008 (Author)
Elijah of Buxton
Book Jacket   Christopher Paul Curtis
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780439023443 *Starred Review* After his mother rebukes him for screaming that hoop snakes have invaded Buxton, gullible 11-year-old Elijah confesses to readers that there ain't nothing in the world she wants more than for me to quit being so doggone fra-gile. Inexperienced and prone to mistakes, yet kind, courageous, and understanding, Elijah has the distinction of being the first child born in the Buxton Settlement, which was founded in Ontario in 1849 as a haven for former slaves. Narrator Elijah tells an episodic story that builds a broad picture of Buxton's residents before plunging into the dramatic events that take him out of Buxton and, quite possibly, out of his depth. In the author's note, Curtis relates the difficulty of tackling the subject of slavery realistically through a child's first-person perspective. Here, readers learn about conditions in slavery at a distance, though the horrors become increasingly apparent. Among the more memorable scenes are those in which Elijah meets escaped slaves first, those who have made it to Canada and, later, those who have been retaken by slave catchers. Central to the story, these scenes show an emotional range and a subtlety unusual in children's fiction. Many readers drawn to the book by humor will find themselves at times on the edges of their seats in suspense and, at other moments, moved to tears. A fine, original novel from a gifted storyteller.--Phelan, Carolyn Copyright 2007 Booklist
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780439023443 Elijah Freeman, 11, has two claims to fame. He was the first child "born free" to former slaves in Buxton, a (real) haven established in 1849 in Canada by an American abolitionist. The rest of his celebrity, Elijah reports in his folksy vernacular, stems from a "tragical" event. When Frederick Douglass, the "famousest, smartest man who ever escaped from slavery," visited Buxton, he held baby Elijah aloft, declaring him a "shining bacon of light and hope," tossing him up and down until the jostled baby threw up-on Douglass. The arresting historical setting and physical comedy signal classic Curtis (Bud, Not Buddy), but while Elijah's boyish voice represents the Newbery Medalist at his finest, the story unspools at so leisurely a pace that kids might easily lose interest. Readers meet Buxton's citizens, people who have known great cruelty and yet are uncommonly polite and welcoming to strangers. Humor abounds: Elijah's best friend puzzles over the phrase "familiarity breeds contempt" and decides it's about sexual reproduction. There's a rapscallion of a villain in the Right Reverend Deacon Doctor Zephariah Connerly the Third, a smart-talking preacher no one trusts, and, after 200 pages, a riveting plot: Zephariah makes off with a fortune meant to buy a family of slaves their freedom. Curtis brings the story full-circle, demonstrating how Elijah the "fra-gile" child has become sturdy, capable of stealing across the border in pursuit of the crooked preacher, and strong enough to withstand a confrontation with the horrors of slavery. The powerful ending is violent and unsettling, yet also manages to be uplifting. Ages 9-12. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780439023443 Gr 4-8-Eleven-year-old Elijah Freeman has two claims to fame: he was the first free black to have been born in Buxton, an actual settlement in Canada established in 1849 by the abolitionist Reverend William King; and, during his infancy, he threw up all over the visiting Frederick Douglass. Elijah is an engaging protagonist, and whether he is completing his chores or lamenting his Latin studies or experiencing his first traveling carnival, his descriptions are full of charm and wonder. Although his colloquial language may prove challenging for some readers, it brings an authenticity and richness to the story that is well worth the extra effort that it might require. While some of the neighbors believe Elijah to be rather simple, and even his mother tends to overprotect her "fra-gile" boy, his true character shines out when a disaster occurs in the close community. Elijah's neighbor, Mr. Leroy, has been saving money for years to buy freedom for his wife and children who are still in the U.S. When this money is stolen, Elijah blames himself for inadvertently helping the thief and, risking capture by slave catchers, crosses the border into Detroit to get it back. His guileless recounting of the people he meets and the horrors he sees will allow readers to understand the dangers of the Underground Railroad without being overwhelmed by them. Elijah's decisions along the way are not easy ones, but ultimately lead to a satisfying conclusion. Curtis's talent for dealing with painful periods of history with grace and sensitivity is as strong as ever.-Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2007 (Author)
Copper Sun
 Sharon Draper
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780689821813 Gr. 9-12. Best known for her contemporary African American characters, Draper's latest novel is a searing work of historical fiction that imagines a 15-year-old African girl's journey through American slavery. The story begins in Amari's Ashanti village, but the idyllic scene explodes in bloodshed when slavers arrive and murder her family. Amari and her beloved, Besa, are shackled, and so begins the account of impossible horrors from the slave fort, the Middle Passage, and auction on American shores, where a rice plantation owner buys Amari for his 16-year-old son's sexual enjoyment. In brutal specifics, Draper shows the inhumanity: Amari is systematically raped on the slave ship and on the plantation and a slave child is used as alligator bait by white teenagers. And she adds to the complex history in alternating chapters that flip between Amari and Polly, an indentured white servant on Amari's plantation. A few plot elements, such as Amari's chance meeting with Besa, are contrived. But Draper builds the explosive tension to the last chapter, and the sheer power of the story, balanced between the overwhelmingly brutal facts of slavery and Amari's ferocious survivor's spirit, will leave readers breathless, even as they consider the story's larger questions about the infinite costs of slavery and how to reconcile history. A moving author's note discusses the real places and events on which the story is based. Give this to teens who have read Julius Lester's Day of Tears (2005). --Gillian Engberg Copyright 2006 Booklist
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780689821813 Gr 8 Up-This action-packed, multifaceted, character-rich story describes the shocking realities of the slave trade and plantation life while portraying the perseverance, resourcefulness, and triumph of the human spirit. Amari is a 15-year-old Ashanti girl who is happily anticipating her marriage to Besa. Then, slavers arrive in her village, slaughter her family, and shatter her world. Shackled, frightened, and despondent, she is led to the Cape Coast where she is branded and forced onto a "boat of death" for the infamous Middle Passage to the Carolinas. There, Percival Derby buys her as a gift for his son's 16th birthday. Trust and friendship develop between Amari and Polly, a white indentured servant, and when their mistress gives birth to a black baby, the teens try to cover up Mrs. Derby's transgression. However, Mr. Derby's brutal fury spurs them to escape toward the rumored freedom of Fort Mose, a Spanish colony in Florida. Although the narrative focuses alternately on Amari and Polly, the story is primarily Amari's, and her pain, hope, and determination are acute. Cruel white stereotypes abound except for the plantation's mistress, whose love is colorblind; the doctor who provides the ruse for the girls' escape; and the Irish woman who gives the fugitives a horse and wagon. As readers embrace Amari and Polly, they will better understand the impact of human exploitation and suffering throughout history. In addition, they will gain a deeper knowledge of slavery, indentured servitude, and 18th-century sanctuaries for runaway slaves.-Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780689821813 Draper's (Forged by Fire) historical novel takes on an epic sweep as it chronicles the story of 15-year-old Amari, kidnapped from her African village in 1738 and sold into sexual slavery in South Carolina. The horrors of the kidnapping-Amari's parents and little brother are murdered before her eyes-and the Atlantic crossing unwind in exhaustive detail, but the material seems familiar. The story doesn't really take off until Amari reaches her new "home," a rice plantation run by a Snidely Whiplash clone, who presents her to his evil-to-the-core son as a birthday gift. Befriended by the wise cook, a white indentured girl named Polly and the beleaguered mistress of the household, Amari eventually and improbably finds a way to escape. Draper has obviously done her homework, but the narrative wears its research heavily. Every bad thing that befell an African slave either happens to or is witnessed by Amari (e.g., Africans eaten by sharks, children used as live alligator bait, an infant shot dead out of spite). Rape is constant. These lurid elements may appeal to reluctant readers who would normally shy away from historical fiction, but they unfortunately push the story to the brink of melodrama. The author also pulls her punches with a highly implausible happy ending. But after all that Amari has gone through, readers will likely find the conclusion a huge relief. Ages 14-up. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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2007 (Illustrator)
Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom
 Carole Boston Weatherford
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780786851751 Weatherford's handsome picture book about Harriet Tubman focuses mostly on Tubman's religious inspiration, with echoes of spirituals ringing throughout the spare poetry about her struggle ("Lord, don't let nobody turn me 'round"). God cradles Tubman and talks with her; his words (printed in block capitals) both inspire her and tell her what to do ("SHED YOUR SHOES; WADE IN THE WATER TO TRICK THE DOGS"). Nelson's stirring, beautiful artwork makes clear the terror and exhaustion Tubman felt during her own escape and also during her brave rescue of others. There's no romanticism: the pictures are dark, dramatic, and deeply colored--whether showing the desperate young fugitive "crouched for days in a potato hole" or the tough middle-aged leader frowning at the band of runaways she's trying to help. The full-page portrait of a contemplative Tubman turning to God to help her guide her people is especially striking. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2006 Booklist
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780786851751 In this gorgeous, poetic picture book, Weatherford (The Sound that Jazz Makes) depicts Harriet Tubman's initial escape from slavery and her mission to lead others to freedom as divinely inspired, and achieved by steadfast faith and prayer. The author frames the text as an ongoing dialogue between Tubman and God, inserting narration to move the action along. On the eve of her being sold and torn from her family, Tubman prays in her despair. In response, "God speaks in a whip-poor-will's song. `I set the North Star in the heavens and I mean for you to be free.' " The twinkling star encourages Tubman: "My mind is made up. Tomorrow, I flee." The book's elegant design clearly delineates these elements Harriet's words in italic, God's calming words in all caps drifting across the pages, the narrator's words in roman typeface and makes this read like a wholly engrossing dramatic play. Nelson's (He's Got the Whole World in His Hands) finely rendered oil and watercolor paintings, many set in the rural inky darkness of night, give his protagonist a vibrant, larger-than-life presence, befitting a woman who became known as the Moses of her people. His rugged backdrops and intense portraits convey all the emotion of Tubman's monumental mission. A foreword introduces the concept of slavery for children and an author's note includes a brief biography of Tubman. Ages 5-8. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780786851751 Gr 2-5-Tubman's religious faith drives this handsome, poetic account of her escape to freedom and role in the Underground Railroad. The story begins with Tubman addressing God on a summer night as she is about to be sold south from the Maryland plantation where she and her husband live: "I am Your child, Lord; yet Master owns me,/drives me like a mule." In resounding bold text, God tells her He means for her to be free. The story is sketched between passages of prayerful dialogue that keep Tubman from giving up and eventually call upon her to be "the Moses of [her] people." Deep scenes of night fill many double pages as the dramatic paintings follow her tortuous journey, arrival in Philadelphia, and later trip to guide others. Shifting perspectives and subtle details, such as shadowy forest animals guarding her while she sleeps, underscore the narrative's spirituality. Whether filled with apprehension, determination, or serenity, Tubman's beautifully furrowed face is expressive and entrancing. A foreword briefly explains the practice of slavery and an appended note outlines Tubman's life. The words and pictures create a potent sense of the harsh life of slavery, the fearsome escape, and one woman's unwavering belief in God.-Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2006 (Author)
Day of Tears: A Novel in Dialogue
Book Jacket   Julius Lester
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780786804900 Gr. 6-9. From his first book, To Be a Slave (1968), Lester has told the history of slavery through personal accounts that relay the dehumanizing message of the perpetrators. Here he draws on historical sources to fictionalize a real event: the biggest slave auction in American history, which took place in Savannah, Georgia, in 1859. He imagines the individual voices of many who were there, adults and kids, including several slaves up for sale, the auctioneer, and the white masters and their families buying and selling the valuable merchandise. The huge cast speaks in the present tense and sometimes from the future looking back. A note fills in the facts. The horror of the auction and its aftermath is unforgettable; individuals whom the reader has come to know are handled like animals, wrenched from family, friends, and love. Then there's a sales list with names, ages, and the amount taken in for each person. Brave runaways speak; so does an abolitionist who helps them. Those who are not heroic are here, too, and the racism is virulent (there's widespread use of the n-word). The personal voices make this a stirring text for group discussion. Older readers may want to go on from here to the nonfiction narratives in Growing Up in Slavery (see adjacent review). --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2005 Booklist
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780786804900 Gr 6-9-This powerful and engaging historical novel is told in dialogue and through monologues. It also moves around in time, from the period when the story takes place to "interludes," in which the various characters look back on these events years later. It begins with a factual event-the largest slave auction in United States history that took place in 1859 on Pierce Butler's plantation in Georgia. The book introduces Butler, his abolitionist ex-wife Fanny Kemble, their two daughters, the auctioneer, and a number of slaves sold to pay off Butler's gambling debts. Emma, a fictional house slave, is the centerpiece of the novel. She cares for the master's daughters and has been promised that she will never be sold. On the last day of the auction, Butler impulsively sells her to a woman from Kentucky. There she marries, runs away, and eventually gains her freedom in Canada. Lester has done an admirable job of portraying the simmering anger and aching sadness that the slaves must have felt. Each character is well drawn and believable. Both blacks and whites liberally use the word "nigger," which will be jarring to modern-day students. The text itself is easy to read and flows nicely. Different typefaces distinguish the characters' monologues, their dialogues with one another, and their memories. Still, middle school readers may have some difficulty following the plot until they get used to the unusual format. Altogether this novel does a superb job of showing the inhumanity of slavery. It begs to be read aloud, and it could be used in sections to produce some stunning reader's theatre.-Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780786804900 Unfolding like a play, Lester's novel in dialogue-based on actual events-cannot help but be informed by his research and writing for his 1969 Newbery Honor book, To Be a Slave. In many ways, the scenes here beg to be dramatized upon a stage; many sections read like monologues, but each contributes to a powerful whole. Some readers may initially have trouble connecting Emma, the children's nursemaid, to her parents, Mattie and Will, the master's manservant. As the book progresses, however, the relationships become crystal clear. The book opens as, in Mattie's words, "The rain is coming down as hard as regret." Master Butler is about to hold an auction to sell off 429 slaves in order to repay a gambling debt. Other details unfold, as Will mentions how he and Master Butler grew up together ("He used to look up to me like I was his big brother"); Emma mentions that Mistress Fannie left her husband a year before, and an author's note explains that Fannie Kemble, who opposed slavery, married Pierce Butler not knowing that he owned slaves. The ultimate betrayal occurs when Master Butler agrees to sell Emma, the only person whom Sara, his oldest child, trusts. Lester poignantly conveys how the auction polarizes the two sisters: Sara who detests slavery, and Frances who sides with her father. Some of the flashback sections (particularly that of the "slave-seller") interrupt the flow of events, but the novel provides a compelling opportunity for children to step into the shoes of those whose lives were torn apart by slavery. Ages 9-13. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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2006 (Illustrator)
Rosa
Book Jacket   Nikki Giovanni
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780805071061 Gr. 3-5. Far from the cliche of Rosa Parks as the tired little seamstress, this beautiful picture-book biography shows her as a strong woman, happy at home and at work, and politically aware (not tired from work, but tired of . . . eating at separate lunch counters and learning at separate schools ). Her refusal to give up her seat on a bus inspires her friend Jo Ann Robinson, president of the Women's Political Council, and the 25 council members to make posters calling for the bus boycott, and they organize a mass meeting where the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. speaks for them. Paired very effectively with Giovanni's passionate, direct words, Collier's large watercolor-and-collage illustrations depict Parks as an inspiring force that radiates golden light, and also as part of a dynamic activist community. In the unforgettable close-up that was used for the cover, Parks sits quietly waiting for the police as a white bus driver demands that she give up her seat. In contrast, the final picture opens out to four pages showing women, men, and children marching for equal rights at the bus boycott and in the years of struggle yet to come. The history comes clear in the astonishing combination of the personal and the political. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2005 Booklist
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780805071061 Giovanni (The Sun Is So Quiet) and Collier (Uptown) offer a moving interpretation of Rosa Parks's momentous refusal to give up her bus seat. The author brings her heroine very much to life as she convincingly imagines Parks's thoughts and words while she rode the bus on December 1, 1955 ("She was not frightened. She was not going to give in to that which was wrong"), pointing out that Mrs. Parks was in the neutral section of the bus and (as some fellow riders observe) "She had a right to be there." The author and poet lyrically rephrases what the heroine herself has frequently said, "She had not sought this moment, but she was ready for it." After Mrs. Parks's arrest, the narrative's focus shifts to the 25 members of the Women's Political Council, who met secretly to stage the bus boycott. Inventively juxtaposing textures, patterns, geometric shapes and angles, Collier's watercolor and collage art presents a fitting graphic accompaniment to the poetic text. After viewing an image of Martin Luther King, Jr., encouraging a crowd to walk rather than ride the buses, readers open a dramatic double-page foldout of the Montgomery masses walking for nearly a year before the Supreme Court finally ruled that segregation on buses was illegal. A fresh take on a remarkable historic event and on Mrs. Parks's extraordinary integrity and resolve. Ages 5-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780805071061 Gr 3-5-Rosa Parks's personal story moves quickly into a summary of the Civil Rights movement in this striking picture book. Parks is introduced in idealized terms. She cares for her ill mother and is married to "one of the best barbers in the county." Sewing in an alterations department, "Rosa Parks was the best seamstress. Her needle and thread flew through her hands like the gold spinning from Rumpelstiltskin's loom." Soon the story moves to her famous refusal to give up her seat on the bus, but readers lose sight of her as she waits to be arrested. Giovanni turns to explaining the response of the Women's Political Caucus, which led to the bus boycott in Montgomery. A few events of the movement are interjected-the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the aftermath and reactions to the murder of Emmett Till, the role of Martin Luther King, Jr., as spokesperson. Collier's watercolor and collage scenes are deeply hued and luminous, incorporating abstract and surreal elements along with the realistic figures. Set on colored pages, these illustrations include an effective double foldout page with the crowd of successful walkers facing a courthouse representing the 1956 Supreme Court verdict against segregation on the buses. Many readers will wonder how it all went for Parks after her arrest, and there are no added notes. Purposeful in its telling, this is a handsome and thought-provoking introduction to these watershed acts of civil disobedience.-Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2005 (Author)
Remember: The Journey to School Integration
 Toni Morrison
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780618397402 Gr. 5-12. The photos are electrifying. Beautifully reproduced in sepia prints, the archival images humanize the politics of the civil rights movement. The leaders are shown, but the focus is on ordinary young people and the role they played in school integration. In her eloquent introduction, Morrison talks about what the pictures show: the reality of separate but equal, the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision, the nationwide movement to eliminate racist laws. On the page opposite each photo, however, she imagines the thoughts and feelings of kids in the photos, and the intrusive fictionalized comments get in the way of the visual images (I think she likes me, but . . .What will I do if she hates me? ). The fiction is not about the angry white mobs; there's no verbal racist confrontation. But there's hatred in the pictures, and children will constantly turn back to the photo notes at the end to find out more. Every library will want this not for the condescending made-up stuff but for the stirring history. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2004 Booklist
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780618397402 Gr 3-8-This unusual blend of archival photographs, historical background, and fictional narrative brings to life the experiences and emotions of the African-American students who made the tumultuous journey to school integration. Dramatic, mostly full-page, black-and-white photographs make up the bulk of the book. An introduction sets the scene, and factual pages, consisting of several sentences, are scattered throughout. They explain the significance of the events, the trauma of racial conflict, the courage and determination of African Americans and their supporters, and the importance of remembering and understanding. With poignant simplicity and insight, Morrison imagines the thoughts and feelings of some of the people in the pictures. The wrenching, inspiring autobiographical school integration memoirs of first-grader Ruby Bridges (Through My Eyes [Scholastic, 1999]) and Little Rock Nine high school junior Melba Pettillo Beals (Warriors Don't Cry [Washington Square, 1995]) offer greater immediacy and convey a powerful message for future generations about the need for understanding, self-awareness, and self-respect. However, Morrison's reflective interpretation presents a gentler guide for younger readers. Appended are a chronology of "Key Events in Civil Rights and School Integration History"; "Photo Notes" that describe the actual date, location, and content of each picture; and a dedication that recalls the four young girls killed in the bombing of their Birmingham, AL, church in 1963. The provocative, candid images and conversational text should spark questions and discussion, a respect for past sacrifices, and inspiration for facing future challenges.-Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780618397402 Assembling more than 50 photographs depicting segregation, school scenes and events prior to and following the 1954 Supreme Court ruling on Brown v. Board of Education, Morrison (Who's Got Game?) writes that "because remembering is the mind's first step toward understanding," her book is designed to take readers "on a journey through a time in American life when there was as much hate as there was love." She adds, she has "imagined the thoughts and feelings of some of the people in the photographs to help tell this story." The photographs have a uniformly high impact. Some will be familiar: first-grader Ruby Bridges escorted by U.S. marshals from a newly integrated school; white adults' faces contorted with rage as they heckle black students. Against this disturbing backdrop, perhaps the most striking images are the rare moments of unguarded affection, as when a black girl and a white girl smile candidly at each other in a high school cafeteria. However, it's odd to see words invented for Ruby Bridges, who has told her own story elsewhere, and for other public figures; and not all the imagined words ring true (e.g., beneath a photo of three white teens wearing signs protesting the integration of their high school: "My buddies talked me into this.... These guys are my friends and friends are more important than strangers. Even if they're wrong. Aren't they?"). Odd, too, is the decision to put events that lead up to integration (the bus boycott, lunch counter protests) out of sequential order. In the end, the pairing of the fictional text with the historical photographs poses a problem: how much is the audience asked to "remember" and how much to "imagine"? All ages. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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2005 (Illustrator)
Ellington Was Not a Street
 Ntozake Shange
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780689828843 At once personal and universal, Shange's poem, "Mood Indigo" (published in her 1983 poetry collection, A Daughter's Geography), serves as the narrative for this elegiac tribute to a select group of African-American men who made important contributions to 20th-century culture. Nelson (Big Jabe) ingeniously sets the events in the home of the narrator, depicted as a curious, winning girl in oil paintings that strongly evoke the period and mood as the renowned visitors start to gather in her convivial, well-appointed house. Presented without punctuation, apostrophes or capital letters, the affectingly wistful verse flows freely and lyrically: "it hasnt always been this way/ ellington was not a street," it begins. Paul Robeson hangs his hat on a coat rack, emphasizing the man's larger-than-life presence and tall, athletic stature ("robeson no mere memory") while "du bois walked up my father's stairs" with the aid of a cane. Nelson conveys the learned man's advancing years but, once seated on the couch, Du Bois exudes wisdom and dignity. The volume culminates in a group portrait of Duke Ellington, percussionist Ray Barretto, jazz great Dizzy Gillespie and Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, former president of Ghana, among others; this collective image drives home the point that these legendary figures were contemporaries who defined an era. Brief concluding biographical sketches tell readers more about these engaging personalities and may well lead to further reading. This is truly a book for all ages, lovely to behold and designed to be revisited. All ages. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780689828843 Gr 3-8-Nelson illustrates the noted poet's "Mood Indigo," from her collection entitled A Daughter's Geography. The book begins with the opening lines of the poem set against a pale gray page: "it hasn't always been this way/ellington was not a street." Opposite, a full-page painting shows several people walking beneath a green sign that reads Ellington St. A young African-American woman carrying a red umbrella is prominently featured, and readers will soon understand that she is the child narrator, all grown up (the resemblance is striking). In the poem, Shange recalls her childhood when her family entertained many of the "-men/who changed the world," including Paul Robeson, W.E.B. DuBois, Ray Barretto, Dizzy Gillespie, "Sonny Til" Tilghman, Kwame Nkrumah, and Duke Ellington. Both the words and the rich, nostalgic illustrations are a tribute to these visionaries. Done in oils, the skillfully rendered portraits emphasize facial expressions, clothing, and physical positioning on the page, and provide unmistakable insight into the persona of each individual. Although presented in picture-book format, the poem is sophisticated, and therefore it may need to be read aloud and explained to younger readers. A biographical sketch of each man appears at the end, along with the poem reprinted on a single page.-Mary N. Oluonye, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780689828843 Gr. 3-5. The text of this picture book for older children is a paean to Shange's family home and the exciting men who gathered there, everyone from W. E. B. DuBois and Paul Robeson to Dizzy Gillispie and Duke Ellington. Taken from Shange's 1983 poem Mood Indigo, the words here recall, from a child's perspective, what it was like to listen in the company of men / politics as necessary as collards / music even in our dreams. The evocative words are more than matched by Nelson's thrilling, oversize oil paintings, a cross between family photo album and stage set, featuring this group of extraordinary men interacting--playing cards, singing, discussing. The girl who is always watching them is, unfortunately, portrayed as very young, perhaps three or four, although she appears somewhat older on the beguiling jacket art. Preschoolers are not the audience for this, and despite the helpful notes that introduce the men mentioned in the poem, even older children will need further explanations (e.g., where are the famous women?). Depicting the narrator as a child closer in age to the target audience would have helped bridge the gap between a poem written for adults and a book for children. Still, with words and pictures that are so enticing, this will be embraced by many. --Ilene Cooper Copyright 2004 Booklist
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2004 (Author)
The First Part Last
Book Jacket   Angela Johnson
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780689849220 Gr 8 Up-In this lyrical novel, 16-year-old Bobby narrates his journey into teenage fatherhood, struggling to balance school, parenting, and friends who simply do not comprehend his new role and his breathtaking love for his daughter. Winner of the 2004 SRT Coretta Scott King Author Award and the 2004 YALSA Michael L. Printz Award for literary excellence. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780689849220 In this companion novel, Johnson's fans learn just how Bobby, the single father for whom Marley baby-sits in Heaven, landed in that small town in Ohio. Beginning his story when his daughter, Feather, is just 11 days old, 16-year-old Bobby tells his story in chapters that alternate between the present and the bittersweet past that has brought him to the point of single parenthood. Each nuanced chapter feels like a poem in its economy and imagery; yet the characters-Bobby and the mother of his child, Nia, particularly, but also their parents and friends, and even newborn Feather-emerge fully formed. Bobby tells his parents about the baby ("Not moving and still quiet, my pops just starts to cry") and contrasts his father's reaction with that of Nia's father ("He looks straight ahead like he's watching a movie outside the loft windows"). The way he describes Nia and stands by her throughout the pregnancy conveys to readers what a loving and trustworthy father he promises to be. The only misstep is a chapter from Nia's point of view, which takes readers out of Bobby's capable hands. But as the past and present threads join in the final chapter, readers will only clamor for more about this memorable father-daughter duo-and an author who so skillfully relates the hope in the midst of pain. Ages 12-up. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780689849220 Gr 8 Up-Brief, poetic, and absolutely riveting, this gem of a novel tells the story of a young father struggling to raise an infant. Bobby, 16, is a sensitive and intelligent narrator. His parents are supportive but refuse to take over the child-care duties, so he struggles to balance parenting, school, and friends who don't comprehend his new role. Alternate chapters go back to the story of Bobby's relationship with his girlfriend Nia and how parents and friends reacted to the news of her pregnancy. Bobby's parents are well-developed characters, Nia's upper-class family somewhat less so. Flashbacks lead to the revelation in the final chapters that Nia is in an irreversible coma caused by eclampsia. This twist, which explains why Bobby is raising Feather on his own against the advice of both families, seems melodramatic. So does a chapter in which Bobby snaps from the pressure and spends an entire day spray painting a picture on a brick wall, only to be arrested for vandalism. However, any flaws in the plot are overshadowed by the beautiful writing. Scenes in which Bobby expresses his love for his daughter are breathtaking. Teens who enjoyed Margaret Bechard's Hanging on to Max (Millbrook, 2002) will love this book, too, despite very different conclusions. The attractive cover photo of a young black man cradling an infant will attract readers.-Miranda Doyle, San Francisco Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780689849220 Gr. 6-12. Bobby, the teenage artist and single-parent dad inohnson's Coretta Scotting Award winner, Heaven (1998), tells his story here. At 16, he's scared to be raising his baby, Feather, but he's totally devoted to caring for her, even as she keeps him up all night, and he knows that his college plans are on hold. In short chapters alternating between now and then, he talks about the baby that now fills his life, and he remembers the pregnancy of his beloved girlfriend, Nia. Yes, the teens' parents were right. The couple should have used birth control; adoption could have meant freedom. But when Nia suffers irreversible postpartum brain damage, Bobby takes their newborn baby home. There's no romanticizing. The exhaustion is real, and Bobby gets in trouble with the police and nearly messes up everything. But from the first page, readers feel the physical reality of Bobby's new world: what it's like to hold Feather on his stomach, smell her skin, touch her clenched fists, feel her shiver, and kiss the top of her curly head.ohnson makes poetry with the simplest words in short, spare sentences that teens will read again and again. The great cover photo shows the strong African American teen holding his tiny baby in his arms. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2003 Booklist
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2004 (Illustrator)
Beautiful Blackbird
Book Jacket   Ashley Bryan
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780689847318 K-Gr 2-Because they haven't got a spot of black on their bodies, the colorful birds of Africa envy Blackbird. They extol his feathers that "gleam all colors in the sun" in their songs and dances. And although he assures them that "Color on the outside is not what's on the inside," he generously shares the blackening brew in his gourd. First he adds a necklace of midnight to Ringdove, then markings of black to every feathered creature large and small, causing them to finally sing, "Oh beautiful black, uh-huh, uh-huh/Black is beautiful, UH-HUH!" Adapted from an Ila tale from Zambia, this story delivers a somewhat contradictory message. Blackbird frequently affirms that it's what's inside that counts but his avian friends are certainly fixated on adding some black to their feathered finery. The story line is simple and the rhythmic chants of the flock frequently interspersed throughout the text add drama and a rapper's cadence. The cut-paper silhouettes are colorful but static, effectuating a stylized formality. The endpapers include an image of the scissors used to create the collages and reinforce the physical process behind the art. This unusual and little-known pourquoi tale may supplement larger collections and serves as a thoughtful and entertaining addition to units on self-esteem.-Carol Ann Wilson, Westfield Memorial Library, NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780689847318 K^-Gr. 2. In this simple adaptation of a tale from the Ila-speaking people of Zambia, the message is clear: "Black is beautiful." Once upon a time, Blackbird was the only bird of Africa who wasn't brightly colored. When Ringdove asks who is the most beautiful bird, the other birds name Blackbird. At Ringdove's request, Blackbird brings blackening from his medicine gourd to decorate Ringdove's colored neck; the other birds also want trimming, so Blackbird paints dots and brushes lines and arcs until his gourd is empty. Using a more vivid palette than usual, Bryan employs boldly colored, cut-paper artwork to dramatize the action. The overlapping collage images fill the pages with energy as the songlike responses of the birds tap out a rhythm punctuated with "uh-huhs." In an author's note, Bryan explains that the scissors pictured on the endpapers, which Bryan used to create the collages, were once also used by his mother. Ready-made for participative storytelling. --Julie Cummins
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780689847318 Storyteller Bryan's (What a Wonderful World) singular voice provides rhythm and sound effects throughout this musical adaptation of a Zambian tale. When gray Ringdove calls the other monotone birds together and asks, "Who of all is the most beautiful?" they all reply, "Blackbird." They then encircle Blackbird, dancing and singing, "Beak to beak, peck, peck, peck,/ Spread your wings, stretch your neck./ Black is beautiful, uh-huh!/ Black is beautiful, uh-huh!" At the birds' request, Blackbird agrees to paint black markings on them (with the blackening brew in his medicine gourd), but he warns Ringdove that it's not the color black that will make them beautiful. "Color on the outside is not what's on the inside..... Whatever I do/ I'll be me and you'll be you." The message about inner beauty and identity becomes somewhat diluted by the closing song, in which the birds triumphantly sing, "Our colors sport a brand-new look,/ A touch of black was all it took./ Oh beautiful black, uh-huh, uh-huh/ Black is beautiful, UH-HUH!" But if the ending creates a bit of confusion, Bryan's collages make up for it with their exhibition of colorful splendor and composition. Scenes of the rainbow of wings are outdone only by a lakeside view of their colors intricately "mirrored in the waters." And Bryan's lilting and magical language is infectious. Ages 3-7. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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2003 (Author)
Bronx Masquerade
 Nikki Grimes
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780803725690 Gr 8 Up-A flowing, rhythmic portrait of the diversity and individuality of teen characters in a classroom in Anywhere, U.S.A. Each teen's story is told by combining his or her poetry with snippets of narration. Readers meet Tyrone, an aspiring songwriter who sees no use for school; Lupe, who thinks that becoming a mother would give her the love she lacks in her life; and Janelle, who is struggling with her body image. As their stories unfold and intertwine with those of their classmates, readers are able to observe changes in them and watch the group evolve into a more cohesive unit. Grimes's style is reminiscent of Mel Glenn's poetry novels, but by telling these stories in both poetry and narration, the author adds a new twist. Competent and reluctant readers alike will recognize and empathize with these teens. As always, Grimes gives young people exactly what they're looking for-real characters who show them they are not alone.-Lynn Evarts, Sauk Prairie High School, Prairie du Sac, WI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780803725690 When a high school teacher in the Bronx begins to host open-mike poetry in his classroom on Fridays, his students find a forum to express their identity issues and forge unexpected connections with one another. Grimes's (Jazmin's Notebook) creative, contemporary premise will hook teens, and the poems may even inspire readers to try a few of their own. The poetic forms range from lyrics penned by aspiring rapper Tyrone to the concrete poem of a budding Puerto Rican painter Raul (titled "Zorro" and formed as the letter "Z"). Ultimately, though, there may be too many characters for the audience to penetrate deeply. The students in Mr. Ward's English class experience everything from dyslexia and low self-esteem to teenage motherhood and physical abuse. The narrators trade off quickly, offering only a glimpse into their lives. Not even Tyrone, who breaks in after each student's poem to offer some commentary, comes fully to life. The students' poems, however, provide some lasting images (e.g., overweight Janelle, who is teased for her "thick casing," writes, "I am coconut,/ and the heart of me/ is sweeter/ than you know"). Any one of these students could likely dominate a novel of his or her own, they simply get too little time to hold the floor here. Ages 12-up. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780803725690 Gr. 7-12. Tyrone Bittings doesn't believe in a future: "Life is cold . . . What I've got is right here, right now, with my homeys." But an English-class open mike changes everything. Grimes' first novel since Jazmin's Notebook (1998) comprises brief monologues in the voices of students and their poems. Funny and painful, awkward and abstract, the poems talk about race, abuse, parental love, neglect, death, and body image ("Don't any of these girls like the way they look?" asks Tyrone). Most of all, they try to reveal the individuals beyond the stereotypes. With such short vignettes, the characters are never fully realized, and the message about poetry's ability to move beyond color and cultural boundaries is anything but subtle. Even so, readers will enjoy the lively, smart voices that talk bravely about real issues and secret fears. A fantastic choice for readers' theater. --Gillian Engberg
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2003 (Illustrator)
Talkin About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman
 E.B. Lewis
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780439352437 Gr 3-8-This fresh contribution to the spate of relatively recent titles about Coleman has a decidedly unique tone. Talkin' is a well-conceived, well-executed, handsomely illustrated, fictionalized account of the life of the first black female licensed pilot in the world (CIP places the book in the 600s). An introductory note puts the aviatrix in historical context, but neglects to explain some references (e.g., Jim Crow laws). The text consists of 21 poetic vignettes of Coleman delivered by "speakers" at a funeral parlor, all of whom have come to mourn the pilot who died at age 34 in a plane accident. Their reminiscences on stark white pages are illustrated with miniature portraits bordered in sepia, each one facing a full-page watercolor capturing a moment in the woman's life. Skillfully drawn and occasionally photographic in their realism, the pictures perfectly match each speaker's recollections. A concluding note states rather definitively in regard to her death: "The cause of the crash remains a mystery" despite some evidence to the contrary. No sources are listed. While fictional, this is a fine piece to use to set a tone or inspire more research into Coleman's life. It could also serve as an exceptional writing model for students. The concept, much like Marilyn Nelson's Carver: A Life in Poems (Front Street, 2001), is noteworthy.-Harriett Fargnoli, Great Neck Library, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780439352437 Born in poverty, Bessie Coleman overcame many obstacles to become a pilot, and only her untimely death kept her from opening the first flight school for African Americans. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780439352437 Historic flights take the spotlight in two fall titles. Talkin' About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman by Nikki Grimes, illus. by E.B. Lewis, recalls the life of the world's first licensed African-American female pilot through 20 eulogies, fictionalized perspectives based on actual people. "I remember that bone-chillin' January day in 1892/ when Bessie's first cry raised the roof/ off that dirt-floor cabin, back in Texas," Bessie's father, George Coleman, begins. Newspaper editor Robert Abbott tells of her enrollment in a French flight school ("No flight school/ in our color-minded nation/ would accept a woman, or a Negro"). Lewis's elegant inset portraits appear alongside the words of each speaker; full-bleed, full-page paintings illustrate dramatic moments in Coleman's life. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780439352437 Gr. 2^-5. In a volume that looks like a picture book and reads like a series of closely related poems, Grimes offers a many-sided portrait of the first African American aviatrix, Bessie Coleman. Following a brief introduction to Coleman's life, the story, couched in a fictional framework, opens in the parlor of a house in Chicago, where friends and relatives gather to mourn Bessie's death. Each spread features one person speaking about Bessie. A full-page watercolor faces a page with a small picture of the speaker and a free-verse reminiscence. The speakers range from mother to sister to flight instructor to news reporter, but teller by teller, the story moves chronologically and builds emotionally to the last entry, where Bessie speaks of the joy of flying. On the last page, Grimes comments on Coleman's life. Lewis' paintings, subdued in tone and color, reflect the spirit of the verse through telling details and sensitive, impressionistic portrayals. The verse reads aloud beautifully, making it a good choice for readers' theater. The book will also work well for reading aloud as the artwork shows up to good advantage from a distance. Although there have been other books about Coleman, this is a fine, original portrayal. --Carolyn Phelan
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2002 (Author)
The Land
Book Jacket   Mildred Taylor
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780803719507 Gr 7-10-In this prequel to Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (Dial, 1976), readers meet the relatives of the Logan family who lived during Civil War and Reconstruction times. Paul Edward is the son of a slave and her white master. He is treated well by his white half brothers and by his father, who teaches him to read and write. However, he and his sister learn that they are part of the white family in only certain respects. Early in his life, Paul is tormented for his mixed racial heritage by a black boy, Mitchell Thomas, who later becomes his best friend. The story follows these two young men as circumstances force them to run away from home and make their way in the world. Through hard work, the kindly help of a white employer, and sheer determination, Paul logs a tract of land that will supposedly be his. After much backbreaking labor, he is cheated out of it by the white owner. The plot takes several surprising twists as Paul and Mitchell fall in love with the same young woman, and tragedy lies in wait for them. The ugliness of racial hatred and bigotry is clearly demonstrated throughout the book. The characters are crisply drawn and believable, although at times Paul's total honesty, forthrightness, and devotion to hard work seem almost too good to be true. While this book gives insight and background to the family saga, it stands on its own merits. It is wonderful historical fiction about a shameful part of America's past. Its length and use of the vernacular will discourage casual readers, but those who stick with it will be richly rewarded. For fans of the other Logan books, it is not to be missed.-Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780803719507 Gr. 7-12. Like Taylor's Newbery Medal book, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1976), this powerful historical novel, a prequel to Roll of Thunder, refuses to "whitewash" history. As the author notes in her afterword, the language was painful and life was painful for many African Americans, including her family. Drawing directly on her family history, especially what she knows about her great-grandfather, she goes back to the time of Reconstruction to tell a searing story of cruelty, racism, and betrayal. She also tells a thrilling coming-of-age story about friendship, hope, and family strength. Paul-Edward narrates it in his own voice, which combines a passionate immediacy with the distance of an adult looking back. There are things he can never forget. The story begins when he is nine years old in Georgia. Born of a part-Indian, part-African slave mother and a white plantation owner, he is raised by both parents. Paul is treated "almost" as if he were white. He eats at his white father's table--except when there are guests. He learns to read, and his best friend is his white brother, Robert, who is the same age. His greatest enemy is Mitchell, the son of black sharecroppers on the plantation, who beats Paul unmercifully ("You think you way better 'n everybody else"). Then Paul teaches Mitchell to read, and Mitchell teaches Paul to fight. Through Paul's personal turmoil, Taylor dramatizes society's rigid racist divisions. Paul's identity as a "white nigger," caught between black and white, almost destroys him. A bitter turning point comes when Robert betrays him to save face with white friends. Taylor makes it plain that Paul never gets over it. Never. Paul learns another harsh lesson when he loses his temper and beats up a white bully: his father thrashes him to teach him an essential lesson for his survival: "You don't ever hit a white man. . . . Use your head, Paul-Edward, not your fists." Losing his temper could get him lynched, and he doesn't forget, even when whites exploit him, insult him, cheat him, and injure him. His dream is to own his own land. It becomes his obsession. The second part of the book is about his work, backbreaking work for months and years to get that land. As a teenager, he finally runs away, and Mitchell runs with him. They meet up later, brothers now, family, "[Mitchell is] more a brother to me than any of my blood." The bond between Paul and Mitchell is at the heart of the book, all the more moving because it begins with raging hostility. Paul falls in love with a strong, independent woman, whom he eventually marries. But his focus is on the land, working the land, his own land. It's rare to find detail about work and business in books for children. Paul's work is vividly described: he trains and races horses, and he makes money as a skilled carpenter. Then he signs a contract with a white landowner and works seven days a week, clearing the land, chopping the trees, hacking the branches, burning the brush, planting cotton--only to have the landowner tear up the contract ("You think I care about a paper signed with a nigger?"). That moment is like a lightning flash, illuminating the racist truth through Paul's bitter heartbreak. Yet, even then, Paul remains ruthlessly determined. He continues his backbreaking labor and quest for the land, obsessively calculating how much he needs and how he'll earn it. The banks refuse Paul credit. He sells his most precious possessions. Finally, with the help of Mitchell, he earns the money and, through a complicated financial transaction that involves a sympathetic white man and a surprise family inheritance, he buys the land of his dreams. The novel will make a great discussion book in American history classes dealing with black history; pioneer life; and the Reconstruction period, about which little has been written for this age group. Filled with details of how people work the land and build a home, what they eat and how they cook it, the book will appeal to teens who loved the Little House books(a series that also spoke to racism), and it could easily be paired with any number of stories about immigrants' struggles to follow their dreams in America. Taylor's characters are drawn without sentimentality. Not all whites are demonized; some whites help Paul. But many are vicious racists, like the farmers who don't want blacks owning land nearby. The "n" word hits like a blow each time it's used. But, as the author writes, that's what her grandfather endured. Let's hope that the historical truth, the words, and the violence don't cause adult censors to keep this landmark book from young adults who will want to read it and talk about it. Paul-Edward's granddaughter will be Cassie Logan, and readers who remember her from Roll of Thunder will grab this and be astonished by its powerful story. --Hazel Rochman
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780803719507 Taylor's gift for combining history and storytelling are as evident here as in her other stories about the Logan family. This prequel to Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry focuses on Cassies's grandfather, Paul-Edward Logan, and explains how the seeds were planted for feuds between the Logans and other families, as well as certain loyalties.Here, the author deftly explores double standards in the South during the years following the Civil War. She lays the groundwork for these issues to be examined through two key relationships in the childhood of Paul-Edward, a boy of mixed race: the strong bond he shares with Robert, his white half-brother, and a tenuous friendship with Mitchell, whose parents were born into slavery and whose father works for Paul-Edward's father. Through them, the hero becomes painfully aware of the indelible line dividing black and white society. Though it is acceptable that his father, plantation-owner Edward, keeps an African-American mistress and helps rear her children, Paul-Edward and his sister, Cassie, are not allowed the same privileges as their half-brothers. An incident of family betrayal and a broken promise prompts Paul-Edward to run away from home and pursue his dream to farm his own piece of land. After arriving in Mississippi and setting his sights on the acreage he wants to buy, he soon discovers that becoming a landowner of color is more complicated and dangerous than expected. Like any good historian, Taylor extracts truth from past events without sugarcoating issues. Although her depiction of the 19th-century South is anything but pretty, her tone is more uplifting than bitter. Rather than dismissing hypocrisies, she digs beneath the surface of Paul-Edward's friends and foes, showing how their values have been shaped by social norms. Here, villains are as much victims as heroes, but only those as courageous as the protagonist challenge the traditions that promote inequality. Even during the book's most wrenching scenes, the determination, wisdom and resiliency-which become the legacy of the Logan family-will be strongly felt. Taylor fans should hasten to read this latest contribution to the Logan family history, and newcomers will eagerly lap this up and plunge into the author's other titles. Ages 12-up. (Step.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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2002 (Illustrator)
Goin Someplace Special
Book Jacket   Jerry Pinkney
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780689818851 Ages 5-8. Tricia Ann excitedly gets her grandmother's permission to go out by herself to "Someplace Special" --a place far enough away to take the bus and to have to walk a bit. But this isn't just any trip. Tricia's trip takes place in the segregated South of the 1950s. That means Tricia faces sitting at the back of the bus, not being allowed to sit on a whites-only park bench, and being escorted out of a hotel lobby. She almost gives up, but a local woman who some say is "addled," but whom Tricia Ann knows to be gentle and wise, shows her how to listen to the voice inside herself that allows her to go on. She arrives at her special destination--the public library, whose sign reads "All Are Welcome." Pinkney's watercolor paintings are lush and sprawling as they evoke southern city streets and sidewalks as well as Tricia Ann's inner glow. In an author's note, McKissack lays out the autobiographical roots of the story and what she faced as a child growing up in Nashville. This book carries a strong message of pride and self-confidence as well as a pointed history lesson. It is also a beautiful tribute to the libraries that were ahead of their time.--Denise Wilms
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780689818851 Gr 3-5-'Tricia Ann's first solo trip out of her neighborhood reveals the segregation of 1950s' Nashville and the pride a young African-American girl takes in her heritage and her sense of self-worth. In an eye-opening journey, McKissack takes the child through an experience based upon her own personal history and the multiple indignities of the period. She experiences a city bus ride and segregated parks, restaurants, hotels, and theaters and travels toward "Someplace Special." In the end, readers see that 'Tricia Ann's destination is the integrated public library, a haven for all in a historical era of courage and change. Dialogue illustrates her confidence and intelligence as she bravely searches for truth in a city of Jim Crow signs. Pinkney re-creates the city in detailed pencil-and-watercolor art angled over full-page spreads, highlighting the young girl with vibrant color in each illustration. A thought-provoking story for group sharing and independent readers.-Mary Elam, Forman Elementary School, Plano, TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780689818851 McKissack draws from her childhood in Nashville for this instructive picture book. "I don't know if I'm ready to turn you loose in the world," Mama Frances tells her granddaughter when she asks if she can go by herself to "Someplace Special" (the destination remains unidentified until the end of the story). 'Tricia Ann does obtain permission, and begins a bittersweet journey downtown, her pride battered by the indignities of Jim Crow laws. She's ejected from a hotel lobby and snubbed as she walks by a movie theater ("Colored people can't come in the front door," she hears a girl explaining to her brother. "They got to go 'round back and sit up in the Buzzard's Roost"). She almost gives up, but, buoyed by the encouragement of adult acquaintances ("Carry yo'self proud," one of her grandmother's friends tells her from the Colored section on the bus), she finally arrives at Someplace Special a place Mama Frances calls "a doorway to freedom" the public library. An afterword explains McKissack's connection to the tale, and by putting such a personal face on segregation she makes its injustices painfully real for her audience. Pinkney's (previously paired with McKissack for Mirandy and Brother Wind) luminescent watercolors evoke the '50s, from fashions to finned cars, and he captures every ounce of 'Tricia Ann's eagerness, humiliation and quiet triumph at the end. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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2001 (Author)
Miracles Boys
 Jacqueline Woodson
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780399231131 Gr. 6^-10. Lafayette, 12, tells his family story in a voice that's funny, smart, and troubled. It's a story of poverty and grief, of family secrets and brotherly love. Lafayette's oldest brother, Ty'ree, has given up hope of college so that he can work and raise Lafayette and their middle brother, Charlie, who robbed a local candy store two years ago and has returned home from the correctional facility an angry stranger. Charlie is now in trouble again; this time it's a gang fight. With the boys always is the absence of their beloved mother and the guilt, blame, and sorrow they all feel and incite in one another. Mama is too saintly a figure, at least in her three sons' soft-glowing sorrowful memories, but the fast-paced narrative is physically immediate, and the dialogue is alive with anger and heartbreak, "brother to brother to brother." As in Walter Dean Myers' novel 145th Street [BKL D 15 99], the city block in the story is hard and dangerous--and it is home. --Hazel Rochman
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780399231131 Once again, Woodson (If You Come Softly; From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun) reveals a keen understanding of the adolescent psyche via the narration of a winning seventh-grader. Lafayette, whose mother has recently died, is worried that some day he will be separated from his two older brothers: high-school-graduate Ty'ree, who gave up a scholarship to MIT to take care of his younger siblings; and Charlie, the rebellious middle boy, who, after spending more than two years in a correctional facility, has returned home cold and tough. (Lafayette calls him "Newcharlie," because his brother, with whom he was once so close, now seems unrecognizable to him.) Viewing household tensions and hardships through Lafayette's eyes, readers will come to realize each character's internal conflicts and recognize their desperate need to cling together as a family. The boys' loyalties to one another are tested during a cathartic climax, though it is resolved a bit too easily, and Lafayette's visions of his mother aren't fully developed or integrated into the plot. Gang violence and urban poverty play an integral part in this novel, but what readers will remember most is the brothers' deep-rooted affection for one another. An intelligently wrought, thought-provoking story. Ages 10-up. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780399231131 Gr 6-10-A compelling novel about three streetwise New York City brothers trying to help one another confront their personal demons. Thirteen-year-old Lafayette still grieves for his mother, who died of diabetes two years earlier. He blames himself for not being able to save her. Older brother Ty'ree is more mature and responsible but he, too, is tormented by the past. He witnessed his father rescue a drowning woman and later die of hypothermia before Lafayette was born, and he continues to feel guilty for not being able to help him. Lafayette and Ty'ree take comfort in school, work, and other routines of daily life to keep their lives focused and their minds off the past. All of this changes, however, when a middle brother named Charlie returns from a juvenile-detention facility where he served a three-year sentence for an armed robbery. Having this angry, sometimes hostile presence in their lives forces Lafayette and Ty'ree to depend upon one another even more to work through their grief and figure out how to help Charlie survive. As usual, Woodson's characterizations and dialogue are right on. The dynamics among the brothers are beautifully rendered. The narrative is told through dialogue and Lafayette's introspections so there is not a lot of action, but readers should find this story of tough, self-sufficient young men to be powerful and engaging.-Edward Sullivan, New York Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2001 (Illustrator)
Uptown
 Bryan Collier
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780805073997 "Collier's watercolor and collage artwork effectively blends a boy's idealism with the telling details of the city streets in this picture-book tour of Harlem," said PW. Ages 4-8. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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2000 (Author)
Bud, Not Buddy
Book Jacket   Christopher Paul Curtis
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780385323062 As in his Newbery Honor-winning debut, The Watsons Go to BirminghamÄ1963, Curtis draws on a remarkable and disarming mix of comedy and pathos, this time to describe the travails and adventures of a 10-year-old African-American orphan in Depression-era Michigan. Bud is fed up with the cruel treatment he has received at various foster homes, and after being locked up for the night in a shed with a swarm of angry hornets, he decides to run away. His goal: to reach the man heÄon the flimsiest of evidenceÄbelieves to be his father, jazz musician Herman E. Calloway. Relying on his own ingenuity and good luck, Bud makes it to Grand Rapids, where his "father" owns a club. Calloway, who is much older and grouchier than Bud imagined, is none too thrilled to meet a boy claiming to be his long-lost son. It is the other members of his bandÄSteady Eddie, Mr. Jimmy, Doug the Thug, Doo-Doo Bug Cross, Dirty Deed Breed and motherly Miss ThomasÄwho make Bud feel like he has finally arrived home. While the grim conditions of the times and the harshness of Bud's circumstances are authentically depicted, Curtis shines on them an aura of hope and optimism. And even when he sets up a daunting scenario, he makes readers laughÄfor example, mopping floors for the rejecting Calloway, Bud pretends the mop is "that underwater boat in the book Momma read to me, Twenty Thousand Leaks Under the Sea." Bud's journey, punctuated by Dickensian twists in plot and enlivened by a host of memorable personalities, will keep readers engrossed from first page to last. Ages 9-12. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780385323062 Gr 4-7-Motherless Bud shares his amusingly astute rules of life as he hits the road to find the jazz musician he believes is his father. A medley of characters brings Depression-era Michigan to life. (Sept.) (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780385323062 Gr. 4^-6. Bud, 10, is on the run from the orphanage and from yet another mean foster family. His mother died when he was 6, and he wants to find his father. Set in Michigan during the Great Depression, this is an Oliver Twist kind of foundling story, but it's told with affectionate comedy, like the first part of Curtis' The Watsons Go to Birmingham (1995). On his journey, Bud finds danger and violence (most of it treated as farce), but more often, he finds kindness--in the food line, in the library, in the Hooverville squatter camp, on the road--until he discovers who he is and where he belongs. Told in the boy's naive, desperate voice, with lots of examples of his survival tactics ("Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar out of Yourself"), this will make a great read-aloud. Curtis says in an afterword that some of the characters are based on real people, including his own grandfathers, so it's not surprising that the rich blend of tall tale, slapstick, sorrow, and sweetness has the wry, teasing warmth of family folklore. --Hazel Rochman
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780385323062 Gr 4-7-When 10-year-old Bud Caldwell runs away from his new foster home, he realizes he has nowhere to go but to search for the father he has never known: a legendary jazz musician advertised on some old posters his deceased mother had kept. A friendly stranger picks him up on the road in the middle of the night and deposits him in Grand Rapids, MI, with Herman E. Calloway and his jazz band, but the man Bud was convinced was his father turns out to be old, cold, and cantankerous. Luckily, the band members are more welcoming; they take him in, put him to work, and begin to teach him to play an instrument. In a Victorian ending, Bud uses the rocks he has treasured from his childhood to prove his surprising relationship with Mr. Calloway. The lively humor contrasts with the grim details of the Depression-era setting and the particular difficulties faced by African Americans at that time. Bud is a plucky, engaging protagonist. Other characters are exaggerations: the good ones (the librarian and Pullman car porter who help him on his journey and the band members who embrace him) are totally open and supportive, while the villainous foster family finds particularly imaginative ways to torture their charge. However, readers will be so caught up in the adventure that they won't mind. Curtis has given a fresh, new look to a traditional orphan-finds-a-home story that would be a crackerjack read-aloud.-Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2000 (Illustrator)
In the Time of the Drums
Book Jacket   Kim L. Siegelson and Brian Pinkney
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780786804368 Gr 2-5-A Gullah story brought into beautiful focus by Pinkney's trademark scratchboard-on-oil drawings. Mentu and his grandmother, Twi, are plantation slaves who live on an island off the coast of Georgia. Twi knows some "powerful root magic" and still yearns for her African home. She remembers the stories and the rhythms of the drums, and shares them with Mentu. One day, a ship bearing new slaves arrives in Teakettle Creek, and the island people beat ``ancient rhythms" on their drums announcing the ship's arrival. At first the Ibos think they are back in Africa; when they realize they are not, they refuse to leave the ship. Suddenly, Twi hangs her charm bag on Mentu's neck and begins to run toward the water. Magically, the years slip off her as she beckons to the newcomers. Together, they break away from the slave catchers and disappear under the water. Mentu believes that they are walking home to freedom. This well-told story is unusual and powerful. It raises some interesting questions about the meaning and value of freedom, and of literal interpretation of text. The rhythms hint at Gullah language, but the narrative is clear, accessible, and at the same time poetic. Pinkney's illustrations enhance the power of the tale by being at once realistic and mystical. This thought-provoking story would be a splendid addition to any collection.-Linda Greengrass, Bank Street College Library, New York City (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780786804368 Gr 2-5-A Gullah story brought into beautiful focus by Pinkney's trademark scratchboard-on-oil drawings. Mentu and his grandmother, Twi, are plantation slaves who live on an island off the coast of Georgia. Twi knows some "powerful root magic" and still yearns for her African home. She remembers the stories and the rhythms of the drums, and shares them with Mentu. One day, a ship bearing new slaves arrives in Teakettle Creek, and the island people beat ``ancient rhythms" on their drums announcing the ship's arrival. At first the Ibos think they are back in Africa; when they realize they are not, they refuse to leave the ship. Suddenly, Twi hangs her charm bag on Mentu's neck and begins to run toward the water. Magically, the years slip off her as she beckons to the newcomers. Together, they break away from the slave catchers and disappear under the water. Mentu believes that they are walking home to freedom. This well-told story is unusual and powerful. It raises some interesting questions about the meaning and value of freedom, and of literal interpretation of text. The rhythms hint at Gullah language, but the narrative is clear, accessible, and at the same time poetic. Pinkney's illustrations enhance the power of the tale by being at once realistic and mystical. This thought-provoking story would be a splendid addition to any collection.-Linda Greengrass, Bank Street College Library, New York City (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780786804368 Siegelsons (The Terrible, Wonderful Tellin at Hog Hammock) lyrical retelling of a Gullah legend seems to pulse in time to the goatskin drums of the Sea Islands, the setting for this haunting tale. Young Mentu lives with his African-born grandmother Twi, an Ibo conjure woman. Though Mentu exhibits a strength beyond his years, Twi cautions him to save his energy: Soon it will be your time to be strong-strong, she says. As the two watch the workers in the fields, Twi tells her grandson how slavery has broken them.... The old ways had slowly slipped away and been left behind like sweat drops in a newly plowed row. One day, a ship arrives, its cargo an entire village of Ibo people; from the hold of the ship, they hear the sound of Twi beating her goatskin drums, and think they have returned home. When they see the foreign shores, however, the Ibos sing words familiar to Twi: Say the water brought em cross the passage and it can take em back, fe true, she translates for Mentu. Working her magic, Twi leads the Ibo people into the water, where, legend has it, they walked all the way back to Africa on the bottom of the ocean. Siegelson subtly lays the groundwork for Twis double meaning, as the grandmother builds a sense of history (it takes a mighty strength not to forget). The parting scene shows Mentu teaching his daughter the songs that Twi taught him. Pinkneys (The Faithful Friend) finely etched art dramatically captures the storys simultaneous sadness and hope, contrasting such images as the ships shadowy hold with a narrow opening of sun-filled sky where Twis drumbeats fill the air, and Twi leading the Ibo people into a swirling, yet smooth sea filled with a spectrum of sherbet-colored hues as their chains melt away. At once magical yet chillingly real, this is a thought-provoking and memorable work. Ages 6-9. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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1999 (Author)
Heaven
 Angela Johnson
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780689822292 Gr 6-9-What makes a person who she is? Is it her name, the people she lives with, or is blood the only link to identity? Marley, 14, suddenly plunges head first into these complex questions when she discovers that the people she's been living with her entire life aren't her real parents. Butchy is not her real brother, and her mysterious Uncle Jack, who has been writing her short but beautiful letters for as long as she can remember, turns out to be her real, very absent father. In spare, often poetic prose reminiscent of Patricia MacLachlan's work, Johnson relates Marley's insightful quest into what makes a family. Her extreme anger with her supposed parents, who turn out to be her aunt and uncle, for not telling her the truth, for not being the perfect family that she'd always thought them to be, wars with her knowledge that not even her friend Shoogy Maple's model family is as perfect and beautiful as it seems. The various examples of "family" Marley encounters make her question what's real, what's true, what makes sense, and if any of that really matters as much as the love she continues to feel for her parents in spite of their seeming betrayal. Johnson exhibits admirable stylistic control over Marley's struggle to understand a concept that is often impossible to understand or even to define.-Linda Bindner, formerly at Athens Clarke County Library, GA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780689822292 As in her Gone from Home (reviewed above), Johnson here explores the themes of what makes a place home and which people family. Fourteen-year-old Marley's tranquil life in Heaven, Ohio, turns hellish the day her family receives a letter from Alabama. The note (from the pastor of a church that was destroyed by arson) requests a replacement for Marley's baptismal record, and reveals that "Momma" and "Pops" are really Marley's aunt and uncle, and mysterious Jack (an alleged "uncle" with whom Marley has corresponded but doesn't remember) is her true father. In this montage of Marley's changing perceptions, Johnson presents fragments of the whole picture a little at a time: images of people, places (the Western Union building "1637" steps away from Marley's house) and artifacts (a box filled with love letters between her birth parents) gain significance as Marley begins to make sense of the past and integrate her perceptions into her new identity. The author's poetic metaphors describe a child grasping desperately for a hold on her reality ("It was one of those nights that started to go down before the sun did," she says of the evening the fateful letter arrives). The melding of flashbacks and present-day story line may be confusing initially, but readers who follow Marley's winding path toward revelation will be well rewarded. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780689822292 Gr. 6^-10. In Humming Whispers (1995) and Gone from Home [BKL Ag 98], Johnson writes powerfully about deep family sorrow and loss. Here she writes about happiness despite sorrow, about a teenager whose life has always been heaven. Marley, 14, lives in the small Ohio town of Heaven, rooted in her loving African American family, close to good friends, and part of a caring community. Then she discovers she is adopted--Mom and Pops are really her aunt and uncle, and for a while, Heaven seems like hell. The paradise setup is too idyllic, and in the anguish of Marley's discovery and upheaval, everyone is absolutely perfectly supportive and understanding. And Marley's real dad comes home at last. What saves this from being generic Hallmark is Johnson's plain, lyrical writing about the people in Marley's life. Everyone has secrets. There are all kinds of loving families. Marley baby-sits for a devoted single-parent dad. The owner of the general store is like a mother to the neighborhood. In fact, the most troubled family is the "perfect" nuclear one of Marley's best friend, who needs as much support as Marley does. On the news, they hear about people burning churches, but Johnson makes us see the power of loving kindness. --Hazel Rochman
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1999 (Illustrator)
I See the Rhythm
 Michele Wood
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1998 (Author)
Forged by Fire
Book Jacket   Sharon Draper
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780689806995 Gr. 7^-10. Gerald Nickelby, a minor character in Tears of a Tiger (1994), emerges full-fledged and courageous in this companion story. His stable life with a firm but loving aunt (who is caring for him while his mother serves a prison sentence for child neglect) is shattered when his mother returns to claim him on his ninth birthday. With her is a young daughter, Angel, to whom Gerald is drawn, and her husband, Jordan, whom Gerald instinctively dislikes. When Gerald learns that Jordan is sexually abusing Angel, he risks physical assault and public embarrassment to rescue her. Although written in a more conventional form than the earlier novel, the dialogue is still convincing, and the affection between Angel and Gerald rings true. With so much tragedy here (the car crash and death of Gerald's friend Rob in Tears are again recounted, though Draper, thankfully, stops before Andy Jackson's suicide), there is some danger of overloading the reader. Nevertheless, Draper faces some big issues (abuse, death, drugs) and provides concrete options and a positive African American role model in Gerald. --Candace Smith
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780689806995 Gr 7-10?Gerald, a battered and neglected African-American child, is severely burned in a fire at the age of three, having been left home alone by his single mother, Monique. Upon leaving the hospital he goes to live with his warm and caring Aunt Queen. When he is nine, his mother reenters his life for the first time since the accident. Monique introduces him to Angel, his four-year-old half-sister, and Jordan Sparks, Angel's surly father. When Aunt Queen dies suddenly of a heart attack, Gerald is returned to his mother and takes on the role of loving protector of his little sister. He soon learns that Sparks, who mentally and physically abuses all of the family, is sexually abusing Angel. Gerald and Angel's testimony helps send Sparks to prison, but upon his release six years later, he returns to the family, with the blessing of Monique, whose own life is checkered with bouts of substance abuse. A terse confrontation erupts into a fiery climax when Sparks again attempts to molest Angel. The riveting first chapter was originally published as a short story in Ebony magazine under the title "One Small Touch." While the rest of the book does not sustain the mood and pace of the initial chapter, Forged by Fire is a grim look at an inner-city home where abuse and addiction are a way of life and the children are the victims. There's no all's-well ending, but readers will have hope for Gerald and Angel, who have survived a number of gut-wrenching ordeals by relying on their constant love and caring for one another.?Tom S. Hurlburt, La Crosse Public Library, WI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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1998 (Illustrator)
In Daddys Arms I Am Tall
Book Jacket   Javaka Steptoe
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781880000311 This stunning homage to fathers offers a textured potpourri of voices and visuals. Love, pain, respect, adoration and just plain fun resonate in the works contributed by 12 poets, including Angela Johnson, Dakari Hru and Folami Abiade. A child's giggle-filled excitement reaches fever pitch in Hru's "Tickle Tickle" when he rough-houses with his dad: "me papa tickle me feet/ he call it `finger treat'/ me scream and run (but OH, WHAT FUN!)/ when papa tickle me feet." In Abiade's piece, a father wraps his child in reassurance : "in daddy's arms i am tall/ & close to the sun & warm/ in daddy's arms." Making his picture-book debut, Steptoe (son of the late Caldecott Honor artist John Steptoe) employs a wide variety of mixed-media techniques, offering a unique approach to each spread. The result is akin to strolling through an art gallery: wooden floor boards, burlap, buttons, pennies, seashells, tin and basketball leather are among the ingredients assembled here. Steptoe often renders central figures in cut- or torn-paper collage enhanced by chalk or pastel; one piece, inspired by Sanchez's "My Father's Eyes," measures 10 feet long and five feet high. Readers will find the poems universally accessible and the innovative artwork fresh and new at every turn. There is much to celebrate in this elegant volume, whether it's the strength and beauty of the poets' and artist's heritage or the loving bond between father and child that links all cultures. All ages. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781880000311 Gr 3 Up?This innovative, stunningly illustrated picture book celebrates the role of fathers in the African-American experience. The artist illustrates 13 poems with collages made from paper with pastel; appliqué; and a multitude of found objects, including fabric, coins, seashells, buttons, sand, seeds, and leaves. The artwork vibrates with emotion; even the simplest pieces, showing torn-paper figures on a solid background, capture the powerful bond between parent and child. The poems, written by Angela Johnson, Davida Adedjouma, Carole Boston Weatherford, and others, depict fathers working in the fields and in post offices, playing basketball, fishing, tickling, or hugging. Steptoe's own poem, "Seeds," is a tribute to his father: "You drew pictures of life/with your words." Libraries will want this title for Black History Month, National Poetry Month, Father's Day, or anytime a patron asks for a book about fathers. Teachers will find it inspiring in classroom units on poetry, or it can be used in conjunction with David Diaz's work to demonstrate collage techniques in an art class. Whatever its use, this lovely book deserves a place on library shelves.?Dawn Amsberry, Oakland Public Library, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781880000311 Gr. 3^-5, younger for reading aloud. The son of John Steptoe has a true winner in fact, receiving the 1998 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for his first picture book. Javaka Steptoe creates a splendid series of images in mixed media--from found objects, torn and cut paper, and color--to illustrate a series of short poems about fathers. From the stark simplicity of David Anderson's "Promises," with its cut-paper silhouette figure of a child's hug seen from behind his dad, to the many-layered image of shells, kente cloth, and paper for Sonia Sanchez's "My Father's Eyes," to the shirt made from a scrap of old tin ceiling in the evocative illustration for Carole Boston Weatherford's "Farmer," these arresting illustrations are a rich foil for the singing tenderness of the poetry. Different in spirit and texture but with the same warmth and joy as Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly's Lots of Dads (1997), this promises read-aloud and read-to-share comfort for many readings and rereadings. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido
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1997 (Author)
Slam
 Walter Dean Myers
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780590486675 Gr. 8^-12. On the basketball court, 17-year-old Greg "Slam" Harris is in control. His disciplined body does what he tells it, the ball becomes an extension of his arms, and his powerful legs allow him to elevate above the chaos at ground level. Off the court, however, order is elusive and elevation rarely possible: his grandmother is in the hospital, possibly dying; he has trouble fitting in at the predominantly white high school he attends; his grades are sinking ever lower; and his best friend from the neighborhood may be dealing crack. We've heard this story many times before, but Myers does a good job of rescuing his characters from stereotype. His descriptions of Slam on the court, feeling the ball's grain on his fingertips as his hands clear the rim, use crisp details, not flowery language, to achieve their muscular poetry, and Myers is equally vivid in relating the torment Slam feels as he stares at a page of indecipherable algebra formulas. Although Myers' message about one's responsibility for making life's hard choices occasionally feels a bit forced, rather than growing naturally from the story, he wisely avoids the heavily inspirational, Rocky-style finale common to so many sports novels. "Sometimes I think you guys are just heartbreaks waiting to happen," Slam's girlfriend Mtisha tells him at the end, providing a sobering coda to this admirably realistic coming-of-age novel. --Bill Ott
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780590486675 A love of basketball isn't necessary to enjoy this gritty, feelingly told tale, but it would certainly help. Myers (The Glory Field) uses contemporary urban black locutions to relay his narrator's view of the mean streets of Harlem, as well as describe some heart-thumping hoop action in a novel that, like most good sports stories, is about more than just sports. "I can hoop," says Slam. "Case closed.... You can take my game to the bank and wait around for interest." Grandiose fantasies of his future as a millionaire NBA star?or maybe a millionaire movie producer?are about all that he has on his mind, even though he is on his way to flunking out of the magnet high school he just transferred to, his grandmother is dying, his father is out of work and hitting the bottle again and his oldest friend appears to be dealing crack. Only when he is playing basketball does Slam know what moves to make and how to relate to the people around him. The rest of the time he stumbles, alienating his mother, girlfriend, teachers, even his coach and teammates. But, as the plain-speaking assistant coach tells him, "Everybody is in the game off the court," and Slam finally realizes that it's his attitude, not other people, that holds him back. Enduring truths, winningly presented. Ages 12-up. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780590486675 Gr 8 Up-Seventeen-year-old Greg, nicknamed Slam because of his ability on the basketball court, is the narrator of this street-wise novel. He is one of a small number of blacks who attends the Latimer Arts Magnet School in the Bronx. Though a junior, this is his first year at Latimer; he has problems keeping his grades up, and his basketball coach and some teammates resent his playing style. Along with these struggles, Slam faces some typical teenage woes with the opposite sex, his younger brother, etc., as well as some more serious concerns-a father who drinks too much, drugs on the streets, and a good friend heading for big trouble. Slam's battles both on and off the court parallel one another, demonstrating that easy resolutions to difficult problems are rare. As the book reaches its climax, the young man begins to realize that he needs to approach life like he does basketball, which is a possible start in the right direction. Plenty of high-intensity basketball action and street lingo from the "hood" will appeal to reluctant readers. Once again, Myers produces a book that reinforces his standing as a preeminent YA author. Booktalk this title along with James Bennett's Squared Circle (1995) and David Klass's Danger Zone (1996, both Scholastic) to basketball-minded teens.-Tom S. Hurlburt, La Crosse Public Library, WI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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1997 (Illustrator)
Minty
 Jerry Pinkney
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780803718883 Ages 5^-9. Set on the Maryland plantation where Harriet Tubman ("Minty" ) was raised a slave, this fictionalized story dramatizes what daily life was like for her as a child. Schroeder's words are clear and strong. There's no gracious big house here, no happy slave. The angry Missus sends the "difficult" slave child Minty to work in the fields. When the overseer orders her to check the muskrat traps, she sets the animals free and is whipped for it. Pinkney's realistic portraits are powerful, and, as in John Henry (1994), the dappled double-page landscapes connect the strong child hero with the might of the natural world. Her mother tells her to "pat the lion," but her father knows she means to run away, and several idyllic paintings show him teaching her to read the night sky and swim in the river and survive in the woods. The blend of fact and fiction is occasionally problematic (was she really planning escape at eight years old, or was that age chosen to suit the picture-book audience?), but kids will be moved by the picture of secret childhood rebellion in someone who grew up to lead hundreds to freedom. --Hazel Rochman
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780803718883 This fictionalized account of Tubman's childhood on a Maryland plantation provides a cruel snapshot of life as a slave and the horrid circumstances that fueled the future Underground Railroad leader's passion and determination. At eight years old, Minty (so-called as a nickname for Araminta) boils with rebellion against her brutal owners and bucks their authority whenever possible. Deeming her too clumsy for housework, Mrs. Brodas banishes Minty to harder work in the fields. Toiling in the hot sun only intensifies Minty's desire to run away to freedom, and soon her father teaches her how to survive in the wild, so that she'll be prepared to make her break one day. Schroeder's (Ragtime Tumpie; Carolina Shout!) choice of lively vignettes rather than a more traditional biography is a wise one. With color and feeling he humanizes a historic figure, coaxing readers to imagine or research the rest of the story. Pinkney's (John Henry) full-bodied watercolors evoke a strong sense of time and place. Laudably, Pinkney's scenes consistently depict young Minty's point of view, giving the harshness of her reality more resonance for readers. A formal author's note follows the text and both Schroeder and Pinkney have included personal messages about the history of the book project. A firm stepping stone toward discussions of slavery and U.S. history. Ages 5-9. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780803718883 K-Gr 3?This beautifully illustrated and moving fictional story can be used to introduce Harriet Tubman and the injustice of slavery to young audiences. Minty (Harriet's "cradle" name was Araminta) is a spirited child who hides in order to shirk the commands of the temperamental Mrs. Brodas. When she spills a pitcher of cider, the mistress of the plantation throws the girl's beloved rag doll into the fire and sends her to work in the fields. There, she disobeys the overseer by freeing some muskrats from their traps and is whipped for her willfulness. After this incident, Minty's father takes her dreams of escape seriously and teaches her to survive in the wild. She is tempted to take a horse from in front of the Brodas house and to flee, but hesitates and loses the opportunity. Nevertheless, she vows that someday she will run away. An author's note tells of the realization of her dream and her work with the Underground Railroad. Pinkney's illustrations are outstanding, even when compared to his other fine work. His paintings, done in pencil, colored-pencils, and watercolor, use light and shadow to great effect, and his depictions of Minty are particularly powerful and expressive. This is a dramatic story that will hold listeners' interest and may lead them to biographical material such as David A. Adler's A Picture Book of Harriet Tubman (Holiday, 1992) and Ann McGovern's Wanted Dead or Alive (Scholastic, 1991). However, with so many real-life incidents from Tubman's childhood to choose from, one has to wonder why Schroeder decided to create fictional ones.?Louise L. Sherman, Anna C. Scott School, Leonia, NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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1996 (Author)
Her Stories
Book Jacket   Virginia Hamilton
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780590473682 Hamilton fans who have wondered what happened to Cammy Coleman after the death of her cousin Patty Ann will find the answer in this sequel to Cousins, which introduces many new members of the Coleman clan. The author's on-target dialogue and skillfully drawn characterizations compensate for the book's uneven pacing. However, some audience members (especially those unfamiliar with the novel's predecessor) may have trouble sorting out minor characters. Cammy herself feels a bit overwhelmed by the onslaught of Colemans, who arrive in her town for a reunion; she decides to call them all "second cousins." One such relative, Jahnina ("outa New York. Queens"), both fascinates and repels the 12-year-old heroine. Brimming with city smarts, computer know-how and self-confidence, 13-year-old Jahnina offers more than one form of enlightenment, and the scenes between Cammy and her are the high points of the novel. This drama reflects the day-to-day squabbles, disappointments and tensions that plague every household. More pointedly, Hamilton conveys the eternal, unshakable love that binds family members together. Ages 11-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780590473682 Gr 5-8-In the first few chapters of this sequel to Hamilton's Cousins (Philomel, 1990), Cammy Coleman is still reacting emotionally to the tragic drowning death the previous summer of her close cousin Patty Ann. This summer's big event is the family reunion, with cousins, second cousins, third cousins, and more coming from far and wide to Cammy's small town. After a rocky start, she forms a special friendship with Jahnina, also known as Fractal, who is from New York City. (The various characters all seem to have one or more nicknames, which may create some confusion for readers.) As the girls get to know one another better and better, however, Cammy is unable to accept the true nature of their relationship-they are half sisters. Through dialect and believable actions and outcomes, Hamilton's characters spring to life. Punchy sentence fragments accurately reflect the rush of emotion felt by preadolescents as they are inevitably introduced to the complications of adulthood and family dynamics. Although the plot is thin and the tone somewhat uneven, the emotional truths are both dramatic and real. Hamilton's fans and those interested in the joys and heartaches of growing up will enjoy the extended Coleman family.-Peg Solonika, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780590473682 Gr. 5^-8. In this sequel to Hamilton's astonishing novel Cousins (1990), it's a year later, and 12-year-old Cammy and her family are still in anguish over the drowning of her cousin Patty Ann. The story is not as focused this time, partly because there is such a huge cast of characters to keep straight as the extended family gathers for a summertime reunion in Cammy's small Ohio town. At the center of the story is a family secret that has been kept from Cammy all her life: just who exactly is the girl Fractal from Queens, New York, who teaches Cammy how to use a computer and travel through cyberspace? Why is Fractal in Cammy's father's house? Cammy discovers that her loving parents did wrong, are wrong, and are far from the perfect image she has always had of them. At the same time, she sees that the river that drowned her cousin is also a source of renewal and union and connection. The metaphors are sometimes overworked, but the secret will hold readers--the drama between the mean and the nice in everyone. --Hazel Rochman
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1996 (Illustrator)
The Middle Passage
Book Jacket   Tom Feelings
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780803718043 In his introduction, Feelings, known best for his children's book celebrating African creativity, Soul Looks Back in Wonder (1993), explains why he chose to create this picture book for adults about the Middle Passage, the horrific transatlantic journey that brought enslaved Africans to the land of their imprisonment. Racial violence in the U.S. during the 1960s had filled him with despair, prompting him to move to Ghana to nurture the joy he could still detect deep in his heart. Living in Africa was a soul-saving affirmation of self and creativity for Feelings, but it also forced him to confront the brutal reality of the slave trade. It took Feelings 20 years to complete this wrenching but forthright and, ultimately, cathartic work of art, testimony not only to our capacity for evil, but also to the triumph of the spirit and of beauty. --Donna Seaman
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780803718043 YA?Feelings's art speaks to the soul in this magnificent visual record of the Black Diaspora in the Americas. Clarke provides a concise narrative of the slave trade, and then readers pause at a double-spread image of a man, woman, bird, sun, and land before the pages become horrific. Guns, yokes, chains, whips, knives?one can see anger, grief, sadness, pain, and almost hear the screams coming from the captives' open mouths. The crowded holes, ankle chains, branding, rats, and sharks swarming around the ship as bodies are thrown overboard all build, image by image, to the reality of man's inhumanity to man. White enforcers are depicted more as wisps than as defined persons, while blacks are primarily drawn with sharp definition. The art is rendered in pen-and-ink and tempera on rice paper and printed in tritone (two black inks and one gray, plus a neutral press varnish). The satin feel of the thick, oversized pages; the black endpapers; the gray introductory and end matter; and pure white backgrounds for the journey itself demonstrate the care that went into the book's production. A powerfully rendered reality that all teens deserve the opportunity to experience.?Barbara Hawkins, Oakton High School, Fairfax, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780803718043 Gr 9 Up-The brutality and suffering endured by the shackled Africans as they were corralled onto ships and transported to America is revealed in this oversize volume. Expressionistic paintings contrast the ghostly white captors with the more fully realized slaves in scenes of unspeakable inhumanity and incomprehensible strength of spirit. Visceral; profoundly moving. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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1995 (Author)
Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters
 Patricia McKissack
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780590430272 Gr. 4-6, with interest for older readers. This unusual book shows life on a Virginia plantation in 1859. Beginning after the harvest is in, the narrative describes the preparations for the Christmas season and the celebrations that follow. The differences in resources, lifestyles, and traditions between the plantation owner's family and the slaves provides a continuous contrast. Although the slaves' hardships are evident, they are not sensationalized, and the slaves' relationships with Massa and Missus in the big house are drawn with more subtlety than in many other children's books on the period. The final scenes use ironic foreshadowing: the master tells his young daughter that she'll be old enough to have her own slave in 1865, and in the quarters, a mother tells her son not to speak of running away, because she has heard rumors of freedom coming. Dramatic, full-color illustrations throughout the book offer windows on the period, showing individualized portraits of the characters at work, at rest, and at play. Some may find this a romanticized picture of slavery, but appended notes provide background information and show the authors' research on the period. ~--Carolyn Phelan
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780590430272 On a Virginia plantation in 1859, the slaves work hard to get the Big House ready for Christmas, and to prepare their own Quarters for the ``Big Times'' also. As they describe the goings-on during the weeks before Christmas as well as the actual rituals of the day, the McKissacks carefully and convincingly delineate the discrepancies between the two milieux-from the physical settings to the people's differing appreciations of the holiday's riches. The contrast is startling and stirring. This is a book of significant dimension and importance, and could be read at any time of year. The authors also add riddles, rhymes, recipes and copious notes. Rendered in acrylic on board, Thompson's remarkably realistic paintings are charged with emotion and masterfully tie together the book's diverse contents. Ages 8-13. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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1995 (Illustrator)
The Creation
 James Ransome
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780823410699 Ages 5-9. Illustrating Johnson's poem "The Creation," written in 1919, is not as easy as it might first appear. The usual grand, somewhat abstract depictions of the first seven days aren't a good match for the colloquial tone of this verse. Here, the chills-down-your-spine feeling grows slowly as the notes of concrete imagery build to a crescendo of elemental grandeur. Ransome's illustrations come as close as any could to getting it right. Three sorts of pictures appear: double-page spreads illustrating scenes from nature with a bright, morning-of-the-world quality; sedate borders for the text, featuring repeated animal motifs; and opposite the text, views of a black man sitting under a tree and telling "The Creation" to a circle of children, all enthralled by the storyteller. In turn, these sun-dappled scenes will capture the attention of children who have the good fortune to meet the poem in this unusual and thoughtful setting. The artist's painterly style interprets the natural world with sensitivity, but the strength of his illustrations is that he found a way to reflect the storyteller's voice, the distinguishing quality of the poetry. ~--Carolyn Phelan
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780823410699 Gr 1-4-An earlier edition of Johnson's fine poem of the Harlem Renaissance failed to find illustrations to match its excellence (Little, 1993). Ransome, however, has given its verbal artistry powerful visual expression. Double-page spreads of scenes from the Creation-light, earth, water, vegetation, animals, humans-alternate with the poem. Displays of text appear on the right-hand pages, bordered with repeated animal motifs. Opposite them are paintings of a storyteller under a shady tree, giving what is clearly an animated performance to a group of children. The intimacy and relative predictability of these scenes contrast effectively with the splendid movement and spacious surprises of the alternates. The division of the poem into pages is well paced, and there is a satisfying buildup to the last spread, depicting a man the ruddy brown of Georgia clay rising from a flowering meadow. The artist has avoided the pitfall of trying to show God at work, while providing a perfect creative stand-in, the benign storyteller. This book combines the sense of awe and nobility at creation with respect and wonder at human participation. It should make Johnson's poem better known, while showcasing Ransome's impressive talent.-Patricia Dooley, formerly at University of Washington, Seattle (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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