An amazing life effectively condensed into picture-book form, this makes a nice introduction to the greatest.

MUHAMMAD ALI

From the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

This brief biographical sketch of the late boxer Muhammad Ali highlights his sports personality and activism.

Cassius was confident from a young age, this book tells readers. When someone stole his bike, he told a police officer he wanted to face the thief. The officer suggested Cassius take boxing classes, and he did. With speed as his secret weapon, he dominated the junior boxing scene, winning an Olympic gold medal in Rome. From there, he went on to train for the world heavyweight championship. “To tease his opponents, Cassius often used rhymes, describing how he was going to win. Some thought it was trash-talk, but it sounded like poetry…and it worked!” Dedicated spreads show Ali’s victory against Sonny Liston, his speaking up for African-Americans’ rights, his conversion to Islam and name change, his conscientious objection to the Vietnam War and the professional consequences he suffered because of it, his amazing comeback, and his charity work toward the end of his life. Playful, stylized cartoon illustrations of people with curved limbs and round lips center Ali, often pictured as an oversized figure, surrounded by scenes that influenced him and groups representing the many people he influenced.

An amazing life effectively condensed into picture-book form, this makes a nice introduction to the greatest. (historical note, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78603-331-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston...

BEFORE SHE WAS HARRIET

A memorable, lyrical reverse-chronological walk through the life of an American icon.

In free verse, Cline-Ransome narrates the life of Harriet Tubman, starting and ending with a train ride Tubman takes as an old woman. “But before wrinkles formed / and her eyes failed,” Tubman could walk tirelessly under a starlit sky. Cline-Ransome then describes the array of roles Tubman played throughout her life, including suffragist, abolitionist, Union spy, and conductor on the Underground Railroad. By framing the story around a literal train ride, the Ransomes juxtapose the privilege of traveling by rail against Harriet’s earlier modes of travel, when she repeatedly ran for her life. Racism still abounds, however, for she rides in a segregated train. While the text introduces readers to the details of Tubman’s life, Ransome’s use of watercolor—such a striking departure from his oil illustrations in many of his other picture books—reveals Tubman’s humanity, determination, drive, and hope. Ransome’s lavishly detailed and expansive double-page spreads situate young readers in each time and place as the text takes them further into the past.

A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston Weatherford and Kadir Nelson’s Moses (2006). (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2047-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments.

SUPERHEROES ARE EVERYWHERE

The junior senator from California introduces family and friends as everyday superheroes.

The endpapers are covered with cascades of, mostly, early childhood snapshots (“This is me contemplating the future”—caregivers of toddlers will recognize that abstracted look). In between, Harris introduces heroes in her life who have shaped her character: her mom and dad, whose superpowers were, respectively, to make her feel special and brave; an older neighbor known for her kindness; grandparents in India and Jamaica who “[stood] up for what’s right” (albeit in unspecified ways); other relatives and a teacher who opened her awareness to a wider world; and finally iconic figures such as Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley who “protected people by using the power of words and ideas” and whose examples inspired her to become a lawyer. “Heroes are…YOU!” she concludes, closing with a bulleted Hero Code and a timeline of her legal and political career that ends with her 2017 swearing-in as senator. In group scenes, some of the figures in the bright, simplistic digital illustrations have Asian features, some are in wheelchairs, nearly all are people of color. Almost all are smiling or grinning. Roe provides everyone identified as a role model with a cape and poses the author, who is seen at different ages wearing an identifying heart pin or decoration, next to each.

Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments. (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984837-49-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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