A story that recovers an important piece of African-American history inextricably tied to the history of Mammoth Cave, a...

LIFT YOUR LIGHT A LITTLE HIGHER

THE STORY OF STEPHEN BISHOP: SLAVE-EXPLORER

This story whispers of the life of a man most contemporary American readers should know but don’t.

Stephen Bishop, born circa 1821, had intimate knowledge of Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, where he served as guide for visitors who traveled far to tour the underground passageways. Despite the ban against teaching slaves to read, Stephen acquired literacy and wrote his name on the ceiling of Mammoth Cave by using smoke from a lighted candle. Henson weaves Bishop’s impressive scientific discoveries of cave life into the sparse narrative, demonstrating the magnitude of his contributions despite that little is known of his life or death. Collier’s strikingly symbolic collage illustrations often draw a stark line between what appears above and below the ground, emphasizing the covert nature of Bishop’s achievements. Perhaps the book’s most memorable illustration appears when, speaking in Bishop’s voice, Henson says that slaves are “bought and sold…same as an ox or mule” while overlapping silhouettes of black and brown textured faces appear within the collage cutout of an ox plowing a field. Rich backmatter will help young readers understand more about the historical context in which Bishop lived and died.

A story that recovers an important piece of African-American history inextricably tied to the history of Mammoth Cave, a national monument visited by 2 million people each year. (Picture book/biography 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-2095-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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STANDING ON HER SHOULDERS

Clark-Robinson celebrates the ways in which women have opened doors for the girls and women coming after them.

Two women, one elderly and one younger, sit a girl down with tea and photographs to tell her stories of how “our mothers and all those who’ve gone before, / paved a freer path and opened a wider door.” The walls of this Black family’s home are covered in framed photographs of diverse historical and contemporary women who made their marks in the worlds of art, sports, politics, and more. As the women encourage the girl to “speak [the] names” of those who came before and recognize that they stand on the shoulders of those women, the art transitions from their home to full spreads showing the heroes in action. Toward the end, as the text repeats praise for the women leaders, the art shows the family framing a photograph of themselves and hanging it on the wall, placing them in the line of strong women as the question is posed to the girl: “Who will stand on YOURS?” Many of the icons in the images will be recognizable to informed readers, overlaying the text’s general message onto specific examples of excellence. Backmatter provides a sentence introducing each figure beneath her portrait, offering an opportunity for readers to “speak their names.” Though perhaps overly hopeful in its depiction of women’s unity across racial lines, this book achieves the effect of an intergenerational embrace. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-16-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

Uplifting. (author’s note, illustrator’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-35800-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Successful neither as biography nor sermon.

I AM ABRAHAM LINCOLN

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

Our 16th president is presented as an activist for human and civil rights.

Lincoln resembles a doll with an oversized head as he strides through a first-person narrative that stretches the limits of credulity and usefulness. From childhood, Abe, bearded and sporting a stovepipe hat, loves to read, write and look out for animals. He stands up to bullies, noting that “the hardest fights don’t reveal a winner—but they do reveal character.” He sees slaves, and the sight haunts him. When the Civil War begins, he calls it a struggle to end slavery. Not accurate. The text further calls the Gettysburg ceremonies a “big event” designed to “reenergize” Union supporters and states that the Emancipation Proclamation “freed all those people.” Not accurate. The account concludes with a homily to “speak louder then you’ve ever spoken before,” as Lincoln holds the Proclamation in his hands. Eliopoulos’ comic-style digital art uses speech bubbles for conversational asides. A double-page spread depicts Lincoln, Confederate soldiers, Union soldiers, white folk and African-American folk walking arm in arm: an anachronistic reference to civil rights–era protest marches? An unsourced quotation from Lincoln may not actually be Lincoln’s words.

Successful neither as biography nor sermon. (photographs, archival illustration) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8037-4083-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2013

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