Though the Wright brothers both credited their sister Katharine as a partner in their grand enterprise, she seldom emerges from the biographical shadows. Here Yolen (Atalanta and the Arcadian Beast, p. 244, etc.) tries, and fails, to redress this, describing from Katharine’s point of view how the brothers’ early interest in tinkering with machines grew into a nearly full-time, ultimately successful, effort to build ones that flew. But aside from mentioning that she minded the household, and sometimes the store, for Wilbur and Orville, and believed in them, the narrator keeps the spotlight on their achievements, remaining more a reporter than a shaper of events. Burke, too, generally keeps her in the background, or poses her just looking at her brothers or reading a letter from them. Furthermore, though a final scene of Katharine exuberantly spreading her arms on her own first flight in 1909 (over five years after Kitty Hawk—a gap Yolen finds “fascinating,” but never explains) gives his debut a rousing finish, several of his full-page, strong-figured paintings are more individual works than part of a larger whole. In the end, this wastes its unusual angle to tell essentially the same story as Wendie Old’s To Fly (2002) and Elizabeth Van Steenwyck’s One Fine Day (p. 67) and a half-dozen other similar biographies celebrating the centennial. For a better treatment of Katharine’s story, see The Wright Sister, by Richard Maurer (above). (Picture book/biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-316-97159-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2003

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A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering.


An honestly told biography of an important politician whose name every American should know.

Published while the United States has its first African-American president, this story of John Roy Lynch, the first African-American speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, lays bare the long and arduous path black Americans have walked to obtain equality. The title’s first three words—“The Amazing Age”—emphasize how many more freedoms African-Americans had during Reconstruction than for decades afterward. Barton and Tate do not shy away from honest depictions of slavery, floggings, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, or the various means of intimidation that whites employed to prevent blacks from voting and living lives equal to those of whites. Like President Barack Obama, Lynch was of biracial descent; born to an enslaved mother and an Irish father, he did not know hard labor until his slave mistress asked him a question that he answered honestly. Freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, Lynch had a long and varied career that points to his resilience and perseverance. Tate’s bright watercolor illustrations often belie the harshness of what takes place within them; though this sometimes creates a visual conflict, it may also make the book more palatable for young readers unaware of the violence African-Americans have suffered than fully graphic images would. A historical note, timeline, author’s and illustrator’s notes, bibliography and map are appended.

A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering. (Picture book biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5379-0

Page Count: 50

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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