Impressive complexity put artfully and respectfully within the grasps of young readers.



Beautiful and a little sad: the complex, brilliant, flawed nature of the third U.S. president.

Kalman’s rich, impressionist colors and lively lines offer glimpses: Monticello; the chamber where the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia; portraits of Jefferson’s wife and of Sally Hemings. The image of Jefferson on horseback riding along a lane at Monticello, redbud in bloom, seems both immediate and long past. Kalman’s poetic presentation conveys succinctly what a longer text might: Jefferson was a lover of books, an autodidact and an aesthete. His house was both functional and beautiful. His personal life was layered with sadness: Only two of six legitimate children survived past childhood; his wife died young. Kalman doesn’t speculate on the source of Jefferson’s passion for the ideals of democracy and liberty yet conveys clearly his contribution to the growing nation as founding father and president. But this intriguing man was a slave owner and father to children whose mother and aunts were severely oppressed. Kalman’s intimate address to listeners and readers works well here: A charming, earlier narrative acknowledgment that peas have their appeal (as they did for Jefferson the gardener) gives way to the thorny personal realization that someone admired fails profoundly to meet expectations: “Our hearts are broken,” is stated flatly next to a ledger of payments to enslaved residents of Monticello.

Impressive complexity put artfully and respectfully within the grasps of young readers. (Picture book/biography. 7-11)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-24040-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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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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