A reverent introduction to a trailblazing performer.



In the first picture-book biography of Madame Saqui, readers meet the talented, persevering French tightrope walker who defied gravity.

Marguerite-Antoinette Lalanne and her family flip and tumble onstage in late-18th-century Paris. Marguerite longs to dance on a tightrope, like her parents. But political upheaval in revolutionary-era France drives the family to the countryside, where, secretly, Marguerite takes ropewalking lessons. When her parents see her perform, they decide to return to circus life. After Marguerite marries, performing as Madame Saqui in her husband’s family circus, she heads back to Paris, becoming its “darling” and Napoleon’s favored acrobat. An inspirational tone — emphasizing the setbacks Saqui faced, her strong-willed spirit, and her daring feats (including ropewalking between the towers of Notre Dame de Paris)—pervades the story: “And she never fell,” readers learn on the final page, as an elderly Saqui ropewalks in her 70s. Green’s muted, stylized illustrations feature dramatic moments, as when Saqui, clad in a flowing white dress, dances across a tightrope as fireworks and stars twinkle in the Parisian sky. Saqui and most characters are white, but there is some diversity among other performers. Where readers fall on the complex legacy of Napoleon (warmonger or French hero?) may color their feelings about the book’s tone; as he “waged war across Europe, Madame Saqui reenacted his battles.” Italicized French words are sporadically incorporated into the text.

A reverent introduction to a trailblazing performer. (glossary) (Picture book. 6-12)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-57997-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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A substantive and affirming addition to any collection.


An impressive array of names, events, and concepts from Black history are introduced in this alphabet book for early-elementary readers.

From A for anthem (“a banner of song / that wraps us in hope, lets us know we belong”) to Z for zenith (“the top of that mountain King said we would reach”), this picture book is a journey through episodes, ideas, and personalities that represent a wide range of Black experiences. Some spreads celebrate readers themselves, like B for beautiful (“I’m talking to you!”); others celebrate accomplishments, such as E for explore (Matthew Henson, Mae Jemison), or experiences, like G for the Great Migration. The rhyming verses are light on the tongue, making the reading smooth and soothing. The brightly colored, folk art–style illustrations offer vibrant scenes of historical and contemporary Black life, with common people and famous people represented in turn. Whether reading straight through and poring over each page or flipping about to look at the refreshing scenes full of brown and black faces, readers will feel pride and admiration for the resilience and achievements of Black people and a call to participate in the “unfinished…American tale.” Endnotes clarify terms and figures, and a resource list includes child-friendly books, websites, museums, and poems.

A substantive and affirming addition to any collection. (Informational picture book. 6-11)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5235-0749-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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A measured corrective to pervasive myths about what is often referred to as the “first Thanksgiving.”

Contextualizing them within a Native perspective, Newell (Passamaquoddy) touches on the all-too-familiar elements of the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving and its origins and the history of English colonization in the territory now known as New England. In addition to the voyage and landfall of the Mayflower, readers learn about the Doctrine of Discovery that arrogated the lands of non-Christian peoples to European settlers; earlier encounters between the Indigenous peoples of the region and Europeans; and the Great Dying of 1616-1619, which emptied the village of Patuxet by 1620. Short, two- to six-page chapters alternate between the story of the English settlers and exploring the complex political makeup of the region and the culture, agriculture, and technology of the Wampanoag—all before covering the evolution of the holiday. Refreshingly, the lens Newell offers is a Native one, describing how the Wampanoag and other Native peoples received the English rather than the other way around. Key words ranging from estuary to discover are printed in boldface in the narrative and defined in a closing glossary. Nelson (a member of the Leech Lake Band of Minnesota Chippewa) contributes soft line-and-color illustrations of the proceedings. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Essential. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-72637-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Scholastic Nonfiction

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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