Wonderful illustrations, great rhythm for reading aloud, fun twist on a trickster tale. Although it isn't too scary, it struck me that there was a lot...moreWonderful illustrations, great rhythm for reading aloud, fun twist on a trickster tale. Although it isn't too scary, it struck me that there was a lot of text on each page.
I was a little bothered by the changes in font size throughout the book. It didn't add to my understanding or reading, but seemed to be based on when the layout needed the room. I'm wondering if anyone else notices this.(less)
Kadir Nelson’s stirring paintings capture King’s passion, vision and determination on this historic day. Showing literal and figurative scenes from Ki...moreKadir Nelson’s stirring paintings capture King’s passion, vision and determination on this historic day. Showing literal and figurative scenes from King’s speech, and close-ups of King himself, Nelson conveys the many emotions wrapped up in these inspiring words. The complete text of the speech is printed at the back, and an accompanying CD lets young children hear King’s original delivery of this famous speech.(less)
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s older sister tells the story of the March on Washington, bringing young readers into a personal perspective of this mome...moreDr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s older sister tells the story of the March on Washington, bringing young readers into a personal perspective of this momentous event. “Martin’s words were as loud as thunder. When he spoke, I could feel myself filling with pride … the kind of pride that comes from seeing your very own brother touch so many people in such a big way.” Look especially for the audiobook recording of this inspiring book, complete with musical excerpts that set the tone for the day. (less)
While Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke the gospel and led his people with his words, Mahalia Jackson sang the gospel and spread the word through her song...moreWhile Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke the gospel and led his people with his words, Mahalia Jackson sang the gospel and spread the word through her song. The Pinkneys show through inspiring words and pictures how these two pivotal figures in the Civil Rights Movement worked together to lead the American people with their voices. “Martin’s sermons and Mahalia’s spirituals told their listeners: YOU ARE HERE. On the path. Come along. Step proud. Stand strong. Be brave. Go with me. To a place, to a time, when all will BE FREE.” Full of hope, this beautiful book captures the way these two leaders came together to use their gifts to call for change. (less)
I read this as a Candlewick Biography, a small-size reprint in 2013 of the 2010 picture book. I found the combination of text and illustrations very e...moreI read this as a Candlewick Biography, a small-size reprint in 2013 of the 2010 picture book. I found the combination of text and illustrations very effective for understanding the hardships Ella Fitzgerald overcame. Children will like the small trim size but I'm concerned the font size ends up too small. I'll need to see how children react to it.(less)
Blue Balliett centers her most recent book around the rhythms and themes of Langston's Hughes poetry, but the story is firmly rooted in today's urban...moreBlue Balliett centers her most recent book around the rhythms and themes of Langston's Hughes poetry, but the story is firmly rooted in today's urban American landscape. Balliet's novel touched me - it's a powerful, emotional story of the way a young girl tenaciously holds fast to her dreams, in the face of terrible circumstances.
One bitterly cold winter afternoon, Early Pearl's father disappears. One minute Dash is riding his bike home from work, and the next he is gone, without a trace. As eleven-year old Early, her brother and mother reel from the news, their apartment is ransacked and they are suddenly on the run without any money.
With nowhere else to go, the Pearls seek refuge in one of Chicago's homeless shelters. Early is certain that her father is still alive and that if she pays attention to the clues, she will be able to find him. Through it all, she is steadfast in her certainty that she needs to hold fast to her father's dream that they are a family that will survive.
Balliett tells her story through Early's point of view, and I slipped into her perspective right away. I loved the way Early thought about situations, turning them over in her mind to look at them from all angles. I loved, loved the way she thought about words. Here's just one of my favorite examples:
"What happened at 4:44 on that grim January day was wrong. Wrong was the perfect sound for what the word meant: It was heavy, achingly slow, clearly impossible to erase. Wrong. The word had a cold, northern root as old as the Vikings.
Where was Dash? How could he have vanished into that icy, freezing moment?" (p. 23-24, ARC)
Balliett's writing is imbued with rhythm, description and meaning -- in a way that got right to my heart. Balliett shares with her readers her love of language, of words, of ideas. But she shares much more. She shares her hope and optimism that even in hard times, we can hold fast to our dreams. Through Early's story, she gives a face to homelessness, making sure that readers think about what it would be like to suddenly lose everything. It might seem cliched to talk about giving a face to a problem, but I was struck by how easy it was for the police to ignore the Pearl family.
There are certainly some flaws to this book. Part of me liked how names had significance (I chuckled when I figured out that Lyman Scrubs was a liar), but part of me found it too obvious. The international crime ring that Dash became innocently involved with seemed stereotyped, a bit out of a James Bond or Tom Cruise movie. And I never, ever figured out Skip Waive's roll (or name). But, I completely agree with the Booklist review:
"But what’s wonderful about this book, overshadowing the plot flaws, is the way Balliett so thoroughly gets inside the mind of a child accustomed to love and protection—and who now sees her life slipping away. Sadness and stoicism mingle freely in ways that will pierce all readers. Early is a clever heroine, and her smarts are enhanced by the poetry of Langston Hughes, which ripples beautifully through the story and infuses it with hope."
Hold Fast is getting positive early reviews, both from students I have shared it with and professional journals. It's gotten starred reviews from Booklist and Kirkus. The Chicago Tribune has a very interesting article on Hold Fast, interviewing Balliett as well as homelessness activists.
Share this with children who love books that get to the heart and make them think about bigger issues, like Rules by Cynthia Lord or Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. But also share it with children who love language, poetry and words.(less)
Born over 100 years ago, Horace Pippin loved to draw as a child - everyone asked him to draw pictures for them. But life threw many hard times Horace'...moreBorn over 100 years ago, Horace Pippin loved to draw as a child - everyone asked him to draw pictures for them. But life threw many hard times Horace's way. He quit school after eighth grade to work and support his family. He fought valiantly in World War I, but he was wounded and never regained full use of his right arm. When he returned home, Horace's "fingers itched to draw all the colors and textures he saw," but his right arm was too weak to lift.
Bryant shows young readers how Pippin, through sheer determination, learned how to draw and paint again, using his left hand to guide his right. My students were filled with hope and inspiration as they heard about how Pippin stayed true to his dream and visions, even though painting was difficult for him. One of the aspects that really stuck with my students was that Pippin thought carefully about his paintings before he started drawing, because the act of drawing was so difficult. I loved how Melissa Sweet hand-lettered quotes from Pippin throughout, giving readers a real sense of his beliefs. "If a man knows nothing but hard times, he will paint them, for he must be true to himself..." -- Horace Pippin The mixed-media illustrations convey Pippin's warmth and spirit, combining drawings and printed elements with watercolor and gouache paints. Melissa Sweet writes in her illustrator's note that she was "inspired by Pippin's deep, rich colors." Like Bryant's words, Sweet's illustrations fill readers with a sense of Pippin's heartfelt artwork, simple on the surface but thought through at every step.(less)
With rhyming verse and moving illustrations, Smith and Cooper tell the story of how slaves were brought in to help construct the White House as a home...moreWith rhyming verse and moving illustrations, Smith and Cooper tell the story of how slaves were brought in to help construct the White House as a home for the president of our new country. The illustrations and rhythmic text convey the toil and struggle these men endured, but the overall tone balances these hardships with the pride workers felt and the skills they gained. "Month by month, / slave hands toil, / planting seeds of freedom / in fertile soil." (less)
Fascinating use of primary sources to piece together the development of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. I found the narrative flow a bit disjoint...moreFascinating use of primary sources to piece together the development of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. I found the narrative flow a bit disjointed at times, switching between a detached point of view to a "we" point of view, for those who had been waiting for the Proclamation. But the information and range of the story were excellent.(less)
Celebrating the Pullman porters, Bryan Collier creates a fascinating narrative that runs alongside Langston Hughes’ famous poem. Collier’s note descri...moreCelebrating the Pullman porters, Bryan Collier creates a fascinating narrative that runs alongside Langston Hughes’ famous poem. Collier’s note describes the process he used to create this “visual story line” that emphasizes the message of the poem, connecting a boy’s train journey today to the history of his people. An inspiring, beautiful picture book to share and inspire children and parents. (less)
In simple prose and images, Evans tells the story of one child whose family participated in the 1963 March on Washington. By paring down the details t...moreIn simple prose and images, Evans tells the story of one child whose family participated in the 1963 March on Washington. By paring down the details to the essence of this young child’s experience, Evans invites young children to imagine themselves joining this historic event. Using a much lighter and reassuring palette than in his award-winning Underground (Roaring Brook, 2011), Evans combines textured paper collages with line drawings to create illustrations that focus on the essence of the experience. His simplified figures are particularly accessible for young children, helping them focus on the peoples’ expressions. The March on Washington was a day of working together, coming together to stand for civil rights, and Evans emphasizes this perfectly for a very young audience. “We work together. We come from all over ... to march. ... We walk together.” An essential book for school and public libraries to share with young children. (less)
Deza Malone loves reading and dreams of being a writer, but life is throwing many obstacles in her path. Her father has had trouble finding work for m...moreDeza Malone loves reading and dreams of being a writer, but life is throwing many obstacles in her path. Her father has had trouble finding work for many months, as the Great Depression makes life hard for everyone in Gary, Indiana, especially African Americans. But the Malone family sticks together and supports each other. When her father is almost killed in a boating accident, he returns a drastically changed man. After slowly recovering, he leaves for Flint, Michigan in search of work. Deza’s mother, determined to reunite the family, takes Deza and her brother on the road to find their father in Flint. During a brief stay in a Hooverville camp on the outskirts of Flint, Deza meets a character readers will recognize as Bud Caldwell from Curtis’s 2000 Newbery winning book Bud, Not Buddy (Delacorte, 1999). Curtis renders the Great Depression with detail, connecting readers to this rich cast of characters. Small moments convey so much about characters and the times they live in. The overall plot structure is not as tight or well crafted as Bud, Not Buddy. Curtis uses a Deza’s over-eager school essay about her family to introduce the characters in the beginning of the novel, a technique that creates Deza’s voice but distances readers from the action at the heart of the story. In fact, much of the action in the story is carried out by Deza’s father, brother and mother as Deza watches or comments on the happenings. Nevertheless, Deza’s voice does reach many readers, shining through with her spirit in the face of adversity.(less)
Even though families are excited about the news of a new baby, children can be apprehensive about how their lives will change. Gia is sick and tired a...moreEven though families are excited about the news of a new baby, children can be apprehensive about how their lives will change. Gia is sick and tired about hearing about the “ding-dang baby” all of the time. Everyone keeps talking about the baby all of the time; friends at school, aunties who come to visit, everyone seems baby crazy, except Gia. But Gia just wants her life to stay the way it has always been, just with her mom. Woodson skillfully acknowledges Gia’s anger and worry, but emphasizes the love and tenderness in her relationship with her mother. Blackall’s illustration of Gia with her cornrows and beads express a full range of emotion, and her warm tones emphasize the warmth in this African American family. (less)
Inspired by his own childhood trip touring the Civil War battlefields in June 1959, Abbott (Firegirl, Little Brown, 2006; and the Secrets of Droon ser...moreInspired by his own childhood trip touring the Civil War battlefields in June 1959, Abbott (Firegirl, Little Brown, 2006; and the Secrets of Droon series, Scholastic) crafts a spare, yet complex tale of the segregated South in the late 1950s. Bobby and his family are traveling from Ohio to Florida, visiting Civil War battlefields as they take his grandmother back to St. Petersburg. Above all, Bobby is an observer, a child who watches everyone around him, thinking and wondering, but only occasionally stepping into the action. Bobby is certainly influenced by his surroundings, and his thoughts reflect unquestioned prejudices. In alternating chapters, Abbott also tells the story of Louisa and her family, an African American extended family living in Atlanta and Dalton, a small town about ninety miles north of Atlanta. Louisa sends her younger brother Jacob to live with her brother- and sister-in-law. But one day, Jacob goes missing and the family fears racial violence, a real fear influenced by events in the news and all around them. Abbott brings his novel to a powerful, well-written climax as these two sets of characters meet in a bus station in Dalton. But the road to this climax is uneven. The chapters about Louisa and her family are told in first person by many different secondary characters, and Abbott does not develop sufficiently unique voices for each character. Bobby’s gradual awakening to his own prejudices is interesting and compelling, but most of his struggles are quite internal as he wrestles with his relationships with his older brother and mother. Abbott provides an interesting look at an important time in our history, but the overall results are uneven.(less)
The Great Migration is a beautiful blend of poetry, history and illustration. Eloise Greenfield shares a very personal perspective on the mass movemen...moreThe Great Migration is a beautiful blend of poetry, history and illustration. Eloise Greenfield shares a very personal perspective on the mass movement of African Americans from the southern part of the U.S. to the North between 1915 and 1930, intertwining both historical perspective and a personal experience. Greenfield begins with a short explanation of the meaning of “the Great Migration”, what it was, and how it affected her family. In August 1929, she was three months old when her father took the train from their home in North Carolina to find work in Washington, D.C. A month later, he sent for his family: “I was too little to know it then, but I had become a part of the Great Migration.”
The poems in this book follow a number of characters as they set out to move North, hoping to find a better life for themselves and their families. Each character is unnamed, but the poetry speaks from that person’s heart. Through this free verse poetry, the reader is pulled right into what it would be like to contemplate leaving your home. This is a wonderful way into history for students, helping them imagine what it would be like to stand in a person’s shoes. The poems in this book are arranged in a chronological way, following a family’s move North. As the Horn Book review says, “Many of the poems give voice to unnamed travelers' thoughts; Greenfield explores the heart of each person, from the young woman going North alone, who sees her mother secretly packing her teddy bear in her bag, to the angry woman who says, 'I can't wait to get away. . .I hear that train whistling / my name. Don't worry, train, / I'm ready. When you pull / into the station, my bags and I / will be there.'“ I found this approach very moving, perfect for making me want to learn more.
Gilchrist's illustrations blend watercolor and collage to create landscapes and personal portraits that are as powerful as the poems. I was particularly struck by the way she incorporates faces from actual photographs into her artwork, reinforcing the feeling that these poems speak for actual people’s experiences.(less)