Impeccably honors its subject.

TWENTY-ONE STEPS

GUARDING THE TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER

An up-close look at the sentinels who protect and honor America’s fallen.

“I am an Unknown. I am one of many.” Instantly personal, instantly heart-rending. The unnamed, unknown soldier in the tomb at Arlington National Cemetery tells this story. World War I took not only the lives of many, but, tragically, their identities as well. “Nameless and faceless” heroes were impossible to reunite with loved ones. Families were unable to properly mourn. In 1921, one soldier was chosen to represent the Unknowns. Gottesfeld’s text, spare and shining, gently gives the backstory. But it is the unexpected footsteps—21 to be exact—of the soldier who stands guard and 21 seconds of silence that resound loudly and purely. “With each step, my war was over.” Forearms are kept at 90-degree angles. Hat brims are two finger widths above the eye. The precision of dress and deliberate, smooth actions of the Tomb Guards emanate honor and respect, but the first-person narration shows a personal perspective. A 24-hour guard gives comfort and companionship. “From that moment, I have never been alone again.” Tavares’ magisterial art soars, awash in opposing forces: shadowed but luminous, soaked in both melancholy and reverence. All sentinels (“men and women of every race, religion, and creed”) take this honor seriously, expressed in the “Sentinel’s Creed” reproduced in the frontmatter. The fallen who have died nameless deserve the very best. This is it.

Impeccably honors its subject. (afterword) (Informational picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0148-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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A reasonably solid grounding in constitutional rights, their flexibility, lacunae, and hard-won corrections, despite a few...

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT FREEDOM

Shamir offers an investigation of the foundations of freedoms in the United States via its founding documents, as well as movements and individuals who had great impacts on shaping and reshaping those institutions.

The opening pages of this picture book get off to a wobbly start with comments such as “You know that feeling you get…when you see a wide open field that you can run through without worrying about traffic or cars? That’s freedom.” But as the book progresses, Shamir slowly steadies the craft toward that wide-open field of freedom. She notes the many obvious-to-us-now exclusivities that the founding political documents embodied—that the entitled, white, male authors did not extend freedom to enslaved African-Americans, Native Americans, and women—and encourages readers to learn to exercise vigilance and foresight. The gradual inclusion of these left-behind people paints a modestly rosy picture of their circumstances today, and the text seems to give up on explaining how Native Americans continue to be left behind. Still, a vital part of what makes freedom daunting is its constant motion, and that is ably expressed. Numerous boxed tidbits give substance to the bigger political picture. Who were the abolitionists and the suffragists, what were the Montgomery bus boycott and the “Uprising of 20,000”? Faulkner’s artwork conveys settings and emotions quite well, and his drawing of Ruby Bridges is about as darling as it gets. A helpful timeline and bibliography appear as endnotes.

A reasonably solid grounding in constitutional rights, their flexibility, lacunae, and hard-won corrections, despite a few misfires. (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-54728-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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Forceful and exhilarating.

V IS FOR VOTING

An alphabet picture book that presents the ideal of a democratic society.

Seeing its standard ABC formula—“A is for…” etc.—and a rhyming text, readers may be inclined to think that nothing substantial is in the offing. They would be wrong. If ever an alphabet book packed a punch, this one is it. Leaving no effort to empower unturned, the text goes from, well, A to Z with an energetic propulsion that will educate readers to become informed, engaged citizens. Exhortations (“Z is for zeal. Please bring yours!”), nods to bastions of a democratic society (“F for a free press to find facts and share”), and celebrations of diversity (“D is for difference—our strength and our beauty”) share space with history (“S is for suffrage”) and critical thinking (“R is for represent. They work for me!”). They all combine to deliver a timely message of citizen empowerment. This lively activist theme is visually echoed by bold, full-color illustrations depicting a diversity of humans whose skin colors range from white to all shades of brown and include, prominently and frequently, a woman in a hijab. The people in the illustrations often face directly forward, engaging—almost confronting—readers. Many historical figures are illustrated, and the backmatter both names them and encourages readers to learn more on their own. Backmatter also gives suggestions to young readers for contributing to voter empowerment and includes a voting rights timeline.

Forceful and exhilarating. (Informational picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-23125-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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