DADDY PLAYED THE BLUES

One family’s journey from Mississippi to Chicago in 1936, as recalled by the now-grown daughter, interweaves the history of the Great Migration and African-American blues heritage.

Cassie’s narrative begins as the family loads the car with all they own. Uncle Vernon’s up front with Daddy and Mama, and Cassie and two brothers ride in back, Daddy’s acoustic-guitar case across their laps. The family settles on Chicago’s South Side; the men work in the stockyards and play the blues every chance they get. Cassie’s narration seesaws between family scenes and insertions that feel contrived: a definition of the blues, particular blues lyrics, and name-dropped musicians. Oddest is a double-page spread that introduces musician Robert Johnson’s legendary devil’s bargain at a crossroads—without context. “Sometimes…I would fall asleep with the sound of the music in my ears, dreaming about Robert Johnson waiting at the crossroads for the devil to come.” The song is quoted above a sleeping Cassie. Opposite, a horned devil looms huge above Johnson in a red sky. Children not frightened by the image will surely be bewildered. The digital paintings resemble woodcuts. Garland’s signature use of squat, foreshortened figures effectively trivializes the adults, especially when contrasted with depictions of famous blues players, seemingly distilled from photos. In a lengthy author’s note, Garland provides historical background but conflates personal reminiscences with the musical history and celebrates the white rockers who appropriated the blues.

Skip. (song credits, map, thumbnail biographies) (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-88448-588-9

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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Rappaport makes this long struggle palpable and relevant, while Faulkner adds a winning mix of gravitas and high spirits.

ELIZABETH STARTED ALL THE TROUBLE

Rappaport examines the salient successes and raw setbacks along the 144-year-long road between the nation’s birth and women’s suffrage.

This lively yet forthright narrative pivots on a reality that should startle modern kids: women’s right to vote was only achieved in 1920, 72 years after Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York. Indeed, time’s passage figures as a textual motif, connecting across decades such determined women as Stanton, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucy Stone. They spoke tirelessly, marched, organized, and got arrested. Rappaport includes events such as 1913’s Women’s Suffrage Parade in Washington, D.C., but doesn’t shy from divisive periods like the Civil War. Faulkner’s meticulously researched gouache-and-ink illustrations often infuse scenes with humor by playing with size and perspective. As Stanton and Lucretia Mott sail into London in 1840 for the World Anti-Slavery Conference, Faulkner depicts the two women as giants on the ship’s upper deck. On the opposite page, as they learn they’ll be barred as delegates, they’re painted in miniature, dwarfed yet unflappable beneath a gallery full of disapproving men. A final double-page spread mingles such modern stars as Shirley Chisholm and Sonia Sotomayor amid the historical leaders.

Rappaport makes this long struggle palpable and relevant, while Faulkner adds a winning mix of gravitas and high spirits. (biographical thumbnails, chronology, sources, websites, further reading, author’s note) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7868-5142-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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The runt of the litter of print titles and websites covering the topic.

PRESIDENT ADAMS' ALLIGATOR

This tally of presidential pets reads like a school report (for all that the author is a journalist for Fox Business Network) and isn’t helped by its suite of amateurish illustrations.

Barnes frames the story with a teacher talking to her class and closes it with quizzes and a write-on “ballot.” Presidents from Washington to Obama—each paired to mentions of birds, dogs, livestock, wild animals and other White House co-residents—parade past in a rough, usually undated mix of chronological order and topical groupings. The text is laid out in monotonous blocks over thinly colored scenes that pose awkwardly rendered figures against White House floors or green lawns. In evident recognition that the presidents might be hard to tell apart, on some (but not enough) pages they carry identifying banners. The animals aren’t so differentiated; an unnamed goat that William Henry Harrison is pulling along with his cow Sukey in one picture looks a lot like one that belonged to Benjamin Harrison, and in some collective views, it’s hard to tell which animals go with which first family.

The runt of the litter of print titles and websites covering the topic. (bibliography, notes for adult readers) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-62157-035-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Patriot Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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