The Keller family, a free-soil Kansas family recently transplanted from Massachusetts, faces the struggle of their first winter in Hopkinson’s second installment in the Prairie Skies trilogy that began with Pioneer Summer (p. 570). Mr. Keller and his son Charlie leave for a supply trip to Lawrence that ends up being anything but routine. They hear of the murder of a free-soil man and, on their trip home, end up in the middle of an argument between the 15 pro-slavery men and some free-soil farmers. Fearing that the town of Lawrence might be at risk, Mr. Keller agrees to join the men. Nine-year-old Charlie is left with the responsibility of driving the oxen team home and becoming the man of the family in his father’s absence. With his mother about to give birth, his sisters to care for, and the worries about dwindling food supplies in the winter ahead, Charlie’s plate is full. There is no time for his characteristic daydreaming and birdwatching. When Charlie runs into Mr. Morgan and his daughter Flory again, the Keller family is torn. On one hand, the Morgans are in need of a safe place to stay and the children remember them fondly from their time together on the steamboat. On the other hand, the Morgans, with their pro-slavery ideas, stand for everything the Kellers are opposed to. When Mama gives birth early, the Kellers have little choice but to trust and accept help from Flory and her father. The family must rely on each other, and the help of others, to make it through a terrible blizzard without Papa. Once again, Hopkinson tells a good story, steeped in rich history and research, and leaves her young readers satisfied, yet ready to know more, promised in the forthcoming Our Kansas Home. (author’s note, recipe, song lyrics) (Fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-689-84351-8

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2002

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A lovely encouragement to young writers to persist.


This follow-up to How To Read a Story (2005) shows a child going through the steps of creating a story, from choosing an idea through sharing with friends.

A young black child lies in a grassy field writing in a journal, working on “Step 1 / Search for an Idea— / a shiny one.” During a walk to the library, various ideas float in colorful thought bubbles, with exclamation points: “playing soccer! / dogs!” Inside the library, less-distinct ideas, expressed as shapes and pictures, with question marks, float about as the writer collects ideas to choose from. The young writer must then choose a setting, a main character, and a problem for that protagonist. Plotting, writing with detail, and revising are described in child-friendly terms and shown visually, in the form of lists and notes on faux pieces of paper. Finally, the writer sits in the same field, in a new season, sharing the story with friends. The illustrations feature the child’s writing and drawing as well as images of imagined events from the book in progress bursting off the page. The child’s main character is an adventurous mermaid who looks just like the child, complete with afro-puff pigtails, representing an affirming message about writing oneself into the world. The child’s family, depicted as black, moves in the background of the setting, which is also populated by a multiracial cast.

A lovely encouragement to young writers to persist. (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-5666-8

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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This easy reader for children reading at the fluency level recounts the story of a girl named Mary Ann Anning and her dog, Tray. They lived on the coast of England in the early 1800s, although the time frame is given only as “a long, long time ago.” Mary Ann and Tray became famous for their discoveries of fossils, including dinosaur bones. They discovered the first pterodactyl found in England, and the name was assigned to their fossil. The story focuses a little too much on the dog, and the title misses a great opportunity to completely acknowledge a girl accomplishing something important in the scientific world, especially in a much earlier era and without formal training or education. Despite this drawback, both Mary Ann and Tray are appealing characters and the discovery of the fossils and subsequent notice from scientists, collectors, and even royalty is appealing and well written. Sullivan’s illustrations provide intriguing period details in costumes, tools, and buildings, as well as a clever front endpaper of fossil-strewn ground covered with muddy paw prints. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-689-85708-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2004

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