Both a bubbly historical account of umbrellas and a lighthearted tale of embracing change.

JONAS HANWAY'S SCURRILOUS, SCANDALOUS, SHOCKINGLY SENSATIONAL UMBRELLA

Rebellion sometimes comes in surprising packages….

Umbrellas are considered perfectly acceptable and commonplace today, but in the 1750s in England—where “On some days, it drizzled. On others, it muzzled. On others, it pelted and showered and spat”—they were considered foolish and ridiculous. “It’s not what we do,” the people of London said, until a man named Jonas Hanway was inspired to keep dry by taking a stand and pulling out his own umbrella, much to the consternation of those around him. Lively and colorful watercolors combine with bouncing onomatopoeia and other wordplay to show the cranky Hanway, a man who disliked change yet hated rain so much he traveled around the world in search of a place where it didn’t exist. When he sees umbrellas in action in Persia, he falls in love. His use of the seemingly frivolous object eventually causes its adoption into genteel English society. This deceptively simple historical selection lightly touches on originality, innovation, xenophobia, and cultural sharing and change while explaining how perception and reality can conflict. In the 18th-century scenes, characters are depicted as white in England and with brown skin in Persia, but a scene of modern London is appropriately diverse (and rainy). Endnotes include a brief history of the umbrella.

Both a bubbly historical account of umbrellas and a lighthearted tale of embracing change. (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62414-885-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Page Street

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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A simple but effective look at a keystone species.

IF YOU TAKE AWAY THE OTTER

Sea otters are the key to healthy kelp forests on the Pacific coast of North America.

There have been several recent titles for older readers about the critical role sea otters play in the coastal Pacific ecosystem. This grand, green version presents it to even younger readers and listeners, using a two-level text and vivid illustrations. Biologist Buhrman-Deever opens as if she were telling a fairy tale: “On the Pacific coast of North America, where the ocean meets the shore, there are forests that have no trees.” The treelike forms are kelp, home to numerous creatures. Two spreads show this lush underwater jungle before its king, the sea otter, is introduced. A delicate balance allows this system to flourish, but there was a time that hunting upset this balance. The writer is careful to blame not the Indigenous peoples who had always hunted the area, but “new people.” In smaller print she explains that Russian explorations spurred the development of an international fur trade. Trueman paints the scene, concentrating on an otter family threatened by formidable harpoons from an abstractly rendered person in a small boat, with a sailing ship in the distance. “People do not always understand at first the changes they cause when they take too much.” Sea urchins take over; a page turn reveals a barren landscape. Happily, the story ends well when hunting stops and the otters return…and with them, the kelp forests.

A simple but effective look at a keystone species. (further information, select bibliography, additional resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8934-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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