An inspiring saga of a real-life hero.

ROBERT SMALLS

From the Tales of the Talented Tenth series , Vol. 3

An enslaved sailor successfully commandeers a Confederate ship and sails it to freedom.

Robert Smalls was a 23-year-old enslaved deckhand on the Confederate ship the CSS Planter when he devised a plan to emancipate himself and 15 others, including his wife and children. Smalls’ work on the ship allowed him to learn the navigation and codes needed to move through the blockaded waters surrounding Charleston, South Carolina. It was also how he discovered that the Union would accept those fleeing from slavery as contraband. Against military orders, the captain of the ship allowed White crew members to spend the night away from the ship, entrusting it to the Black sailors. Seizing the opportunity, Smalls led a dangerous escape through Confederate checkpoints by acting as the White captain. His daring resulted in the freedom of those aboard and the capture of a ship and arms for the Union. The epilogue gives more examples of Smalls’ efforts to improve the lives of his people after the Civil War, including as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. This graphic depiction of Smalls’ story successfully captures the determination of enslaved people to secure their own freedom. The colorful panels fully express the taut drama of the venture. This is the latest in the Tales of the Talented Tenth series by graphic storyteller Gill, presenting little-known tales from African American history.

An inspiring saga of a real-life hero. (bibliography) (Graphic biography. 10-16)

Pub Date: May 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68275-066-7

Page Count: 158

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats.

50 IMPRESSIVE KIDS AND THEIR AMAZING (AND TRUE!) STORIES

From the They Did What? series

Why should grown-ups get all the historical, scientific, athletic, cinematic, and artistic glory?

Choosing exemplars from both past and present, Mitchell includes but goes well beyond Alexander the Great, Anne Frank, and like usual suspects to introduce a host of lesser-known luminaries. These include Shapur II, who was formally crowned king of Persia before he was born, Indian dancer/professional architect Sheila Sri Prakash, transgender spokesperson Jazz Jennings, inventor Param Jaggi, and an international host of other teen or preteen activists and prodigies. The individual portraits range from one paragraph to several pages in length, and they are interspersed with group tributes to, for instance, the Nazi-resisting “Swingkinder,” the striking New York City newsboys, and the marchers of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade. Mitchell even offers would-be villains a role model in Elagabalus, “boy emperor of Rome,” though she notes that he, at least, came to an awful end: “Then, then! They dumped his remains in the Tiber River, to be nommed by fish for all eternity.” The entries are arranged in no evident order, and though the backmatter includes multiple booklists, a personality quiz, a glossary, and even a quick Braille primer (with Braille jokes to decode), there is no index. Still, for readers whose fires need lighting, there’s motivational kindling on nearly every page.

A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats. (finished illustrations not seen) (Collective biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-14-751813-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Puffin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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A biography worthy of the larger-than-life Virginia Hamilton

VIRGINIA HAMILTON

AMERICA’S STORYTELLER

From the Biographies for Young Readers series

If the children you know think biographies are boring, this one will make them reconsider.

The tapestry of words Rubini weaves together brilliantly portrays the amazing, quirky, shy, frog-loving woman and extraordinary writer who was Virginia Hamilton. Since Hamilton constantly dipped into the well of her own family history for book details, Rubini wisely begins several generations back, with Hamilton’s enslaved great-grandmother Mary Cloud, who smuggled her son from Virginia to Ohio and delivered him to free relatives then disappeared. Descended from a long line of storytellers and “plain out-and-out liars,” Hamilton relied heavily on what she called Rememory, “an exquisitely textured recollection, real or imagined, which is otherwise indescribable.” Rubini traces Hamilton’s evolution from aspiring writer to becoming “the most honored author of children’s literature.” Hamilton received award after award and in 1975 became the first African-American winner of the coveted Newbery Medal. (To date, only three other African-Americans have won the Newbery.) Rubini’s biography entertains and informs in equal measure, and because she writes short paragraphs and highlights challenging words, young readers will find this a quick, accessible, and memorable read. Photographs and book covers punctuate the chapters, as do useful explanations of Hamilton’s historical context and impact. Rich backmatter will also make this a useful classroom text.

A biography worthy of the larger-than-life Virginia Hamilton . (Biography. 10-16)

Pub Date: June 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8214-2268-7

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Ohio Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2017

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