THE HATMAKER'S SIGN

A STORY BY BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

Thomas Jefferson was feeling stung. The Continental Congress was demanding that he rewrite sections of his Declaration of Independence. Replace this, cut that, the delegates urged. Smoldering, Jefferson took a seat: ``I thought my words were perfect just the way they were,'' he muttered. Hoping to soothe his friend, Ben Franklin quietly told him the parable of the hatmaker, who had designed a sign for his shop: ``John Thompson, Hatmaker, Fashionable Hats Sold Inside for Ready Money.'' After his wife, Hannah, suggests one phrase be deleted, Thompson shows his revised design to others, each of whom has another cut to suggest. Thompson appears at the signmaker's shop with a blank piece of paper. Puzzled, the signmaker suggests: ``John Thompson, Hatmaker, Fashionable Hats Sold Inside for Ready Money.'' ``So you see, Tom,'' concluded Ben. ``No matter what you write, or how well you write it, if the public is going to read it, you can be sure they will want to change it.'' Grander than the story itself is its basis in real events, and Fleming (Gabriella's Song, 1997, etc.) fleshes out the particulars in an excellent author's note. Adding considerably to the charm of the book are Parker's ink-and-watercolor illustrations, with a sketched, fleeting quality that seems to summon the events from history and renders them with immediacy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-531-30075-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Orchard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1998

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MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE

An inspiring story of young boy's compelling desire to read. As a boy of nine, Booker works in a salt mine from the dark of early morning to the gloom of night, hungry for a meal, but even hungrier to learn to read. Readers follow him on his quest in Malden, Virginia, where he finds inspiration in a man ``brown as me'' reading a newspaper on a street corner. An alphabet book helps, but Booker can't make the connection to words. Seeking out ``that brown face of hope'' once again, Booker gains a sense of the sounds represented by letters, and these become his deliverance. Bradby's fine first book is tautly written, with a poetic, spiritual quality in every line. The beautifully executed, luminous illustrations capture the atmosphere of an African-American community post-slavery: the drudgery of days consumed by back- breaking labor, the texture of private lives conducted by lantern- light. There is no other context or historical note about Booker T. Washington's life, leaving readers to piece together his identity. Regardless, this is an immensely satisfying, accomplished work, resonating first with longing and then with joy. (Picture book. 5- 8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-531-09464-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1995

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Celebrated collaborators deliver another thoughtful delight, revealing how “making marks” links us across time and space.

CAVE PAINTINGS

A trip to grandmother’s launches light-years beyond the routine sort, as a human child travels from deep space to Earth.

The light-skinned, redheaded narrator journeys alone as flight attendants supply snacks to diverse, interspecies passengers. The kid muses, “Sometimes they ask me, ‘Why are you always going to the farthest planet?’ ”The response comes after the traveler hurtles through the solar system, lands, and levitates up to the platform where a welcoming grandmother waits: “Because it’s worth it / to cross one universe / to explore another.” Indeed, child and grandmother enter an egg-shaped, clear-domed orb and fly over a teeming savanna and a towering waterfall before disembarking, donning headlamps, and entering a cave. Inside, the pair marvel at a human handprint and ancient paintings of animals including horses, bison, and horned rhinoceroses. Yockteng’s skilled, vigorously shaded pictures suggest references to images found in Lascaux and Chauvet Cave in France. As the holiday winds down, grandmother gives the protagonist some colored pencils that had belonged to grandfather generations back. (She appears to chuckle over a nude portrait of her younger self.) The pencils “were good for making marks on paper. She gave me that too.” The child draws during the return trip, documenting the visit and sights along the journey home. “Because what I could see was infinity.” (This book was reviewed digitally with 9.8-by-19.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 85% of actual size.)

Celebrated collaborators deliver another thoughtful delight, revealing how “making marks” links us across time and space. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77306-172-6

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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