A beautiful book that tells a truth that needs to be told.

HARLEM HELLFIGHTERS

A rare look at how music made a positive contribution to World War I.

This picture book makes a striking first impression, opening with a double-page spread of sketched snapshots of 24 African-American soldiers that echo those in Shaun Tan’s The Arrival (2007). Each soldier, whether serious or smiling, gazes out at readers to introduce a story about all the ways the country for which they willingly fought still systematically discriminates against them even during wartime. Like these seemingly disconnected portraits at the beginning, episodic vignettes tell the story of how James “Big Jim” Reese Europe used music to motivate his troops under nearly insurmountable conditions; how the Harlem Hellfighters were often relegated to menial, “grunt work” jobs instead of being sent into battle, and how lynchings persisted at home despite their war efforts abroad. In the story’s most haunting image, the ship on which the soldiers sail passes through the ghostly images of slaves wearing neck shackles, reminding readers that the Middle Passage still affected these black men in 1917. The narrative gaps and Lewis’ focus on so many different individuals and situations make this a work that packs an emotional rather than an informational punch; it’s best when used to supplement a more extensive study of the Harlem Hellfighters.

A beautiful book that tells a truth that needs to be told. (bibliography, notes) (Informational picture book. 10-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-56846-246-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Creative Editions/Creative Company

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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A beautiful, powerful reflection on a tragic history.

ON THE HORIZON

In spare verse, Lowry reflects on moments in her childhood, including the bombings of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. 

When she was a child, Lowry played at Waikiki Beach with her grandmother while her father filmed. In the old home movie, the USS Arizona appears through the mist on the horizon. Looking back at her childhood in Hawaii and then Japan, Lowry reflects on the bombings that began and ended a war and how they affected and connected everyone involved. In Part 1, she shares the lives and actions of sailors at Pearl Harbor. Part 2 is stories of civilians in Hiroshima affected by the bombing. Part 3 presents her own experience as an American in Japan shortly after the war ended. The poems bring the haunting human scale of war to the forefront, like the Christmas cards a sailor sent days before he died or the 4-year-old who was buried with his red tricycle after Hiroshima. All the personal stories—of sailors, civilians, and Lowry herself—are grounding. There is heartbreak and hope, reminding readers to reflect on the past to create a more peaceful future. Lowry uses a variety of poetry styles, identifying some, such as triolet and haiku. Pak’s graphite illustrations are like still shots of history, adding to the emotion and somber feeling. He includes some sailors of color among the mostly white U.S. forces; Lowry is white.

A beautiful, powerful reflection on a tragic history. (author’s note, bibliography) (Memoir/poetry. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-12940-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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An intimate novel that beautifully confronts grief and loss.

RED, WHITE, AND WHOLE

It’s 1983, and 13-year-old Indian American Reha feels caught between two worlds.

Monday through Friday, she goes to a school where she stands out for not being White but where she has a weekday best friend, Rachel, and does English projects with potential crush Pete. On the weekends, she’s with her other best friend, Sunita (Sunny for short), at gatherings hosted by her Indian community. Reha feels frustrated that her parents refuse to acknowledge her Americanness and insist on raising her with Indian values and habits. Then, on the night of the middle school dance, her mother is admitted to the hospital, and Reha’s world is split in two again: this time, between hospital and home. Suddenly she must learn not just how to be both Indian and American, but also how to live with her mother’s leukemia diagnosis. The sections dealing with Reha’s immigrant identity rely on oft-told themes about the overprotectiveness of immigrant parents and lack the nuance found in later pages. Reha’s story of her evolving relationships with her parents, however, feels layered and real, and the scenes in which Reha must grapple with the possible loss of a parent are beautifully and sensitively rendered. The sophistication of the text makes it a valuable and thought-provoking read even for those older than the protagonist.

An intimate novel that beautifully confronts grief and loss. (Verse novel. 11-15)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-304742-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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