An adequate tribute to an Americana icon and his musical legacy.

BLUE GRASS BOY

THE STORY OF BILL MONROE, FATHER OF BLUEGRASS MUSIC

This picture book is both a biography of Bill Monroe and a history of bluegrass music, the genre he was instrumental in creating.

While Monroe’s childhood was beset with struggle—having crossed eyes and losing his mother at age 10—there were also times of great joy, such as the jamborees on the front porch of the family home. Singing and playing music brought comfort to young Bill. As an adolescent he played mandolin at country dances with his uncle Pen. Later, he moved to Chicago and played in a band with his brothers, all the while collecting the sounds of the various genres he encountered in the city. Text and illustrations both make note of the influence African-American musicians had on Monroe during this time; however, the lack of acknowledgement of the segregated conditions of both the music industry and Monroe’s home state of Kentucky is a missed opportunity to place his story within its historical context. Eventually, Monroe established his own band, taking the original yet familiar sounds of bluegrass all across the country. The book’s tone is nostalgic, with folksy narration and caricature-esque illustrations. Though this kitsch brings with it a certain appeal, it also unfortunately strips the book of the rugged emotion so characteristic of bluegrass music.

An adequate tribute to an Americana icon and his musical legacy. (author’s note, bibliography, song lyrics) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62979-439-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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A larger-than-life subject is neatly captured in text and images.

THURGOOD

The life journey of the first African American to serve on the United States Supreme Court and the incidents that formed him.

Thurgood Marshall grew up in segregated Baltimore, Maryland, with a family that encouraged him to stand for justice. Despite attending poor schools, he found a way to succeed. His father instilled in him a love of the law and encouraged him to argue like a lawyer during dinner conversations. His success in college meant he could go to law school, but the University of Maryland did not accept African American students. Instead, Marshall went to historically black Howard University, where he was mentored by civil rights lawyer Charles Houston. Marshall’s first major legal case was against the law school that denied him a place, and his success brought him to the attention of the NAACP and ultimately led to his work on the groundbreaking Brown v. Board of Education, which itself led to his appointment to the Supreme Court. This lively narrative serves as an introduction to the life of one of the country’s important civil rights figures. Important facts in Marshall’s life are effectively highlighted in an almost staccato fashion. The bold watercolor-and-collage illustrations, beginning with an enticing cover, capture and enhance the strong tone set by the words.

A larger-than-life subject is neatly captured in text and images. (author’s note, photos) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6533-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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A lovely 20th-anniversary tribute to the towers and all who perished—and survived.

SURVIVOR TREE

A remarkable tree stands where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once soared.

Through simple, tender text, readers learn the life-affirming story of a Callery pear tree that grew and today still flourishes “at the foot of the towers.” The author eloquently describes the pre-9/11 life of the “Survivor Tree” and its heartening, nearly decadelong journey to renewal following its recovery from the wreckage of the towers’ destruction. By tracking the tree’s journey through the natural cycle of seasonal changes and colors after it was found beneath “the blackened remains,” she tells how, after replanting and with loving care (at a nursery in the Bronx), the tree managed miraculously to flourish again. Retransplanted at the Sept. 11 memorial, it valiantly stands today, a symbol of new life and resilience. Hazy, delicate watercolor-and–colored pencil artwork powerfully traces the tree’s existence before and after the towers’ collapse; early pages include several snapshotlike insets capturing people enjoying the outdoors through the seasons. Scenes depicting the towers’ ruins are aptly somber yet hopeful, as they show the crushed tree still defiantly alive. The vivid changes that new seasons introduce are lovingly presented, reminding readers that life unceasingly renews itself. Many paintings are cast in a rosy glow, symbolizing that even the worst disasters can bring forth hope. People depicted are racially diverse. Backmatter material includes additional facts about the tree.

A lovely 20th-anniversary tribute to the towers and all who perished—and survived. (author's note, artist's note) (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-48767-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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