This interesting history lacks nuance and perspective.

LINCOLN CLEARS A PATH

ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S AGRICULTURAL LEGACY

This biography of President Abraham Lincoln focuses on his lasting impact on the use of the land.

Beginning with his family’s creation of a farm out of woodland when he was 7 and ending with the Emancipation Proclamation, the narrative follows Lincoln’s life experiences as farmer, entrepreneur, and self-educated statesman, all the way to the presidency. The support American farmers sent to the troops in the Civil War apparently prompted Lincoln to “clear a path for America’s future” with several acts of legislation: creation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; the Homestead Act, which granted 160 acres to “any citizen or immigrant, farmer or merchant, man or woman, who wanted a fair chance to make it on their own”; and the Pacific Railway Act. The creation of land-grant colleges is also given a full spread; the Emancipation Proclamation is given one page of two sentences. Innerst creates engaging, sepia-toned scenes with watercolor-based artwork, and the design of the spreads, with dark paper and handwritten lettering for quotations from Lincoln’s writings, gives the feel of old documents. Sadly, the story feels dated as well; the brief backmatter mentions of the devastation settlers and the railroads caused to Indigenous nations and ways of life are grossly inadequate; the racist definition of citizens and immigrants is not addressed; and the attempt to include the contradiction of slavery within the ideal of “liberty to all” falls short, as the glorification of Lincoln as land-use innovator causes those who were excluded to fall through the gaps. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 58.5% of actual size.)

This interesting history lacks nuance and perspective. (author’s note, historical facts, websites, selected bibliography) (Informational picture book. 6-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68437-153-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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An empowering choice.

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT ELECTIONS

Shamir and Faulkner take readers on a trip through various moments in U.S. history as they explore the democratic process.

The text begins in 1884, when a young man rides for hours to deliver his local ballot box in the state of Nebraska. The book then jumps in nonlinear fashion from key moment to key moment, explaining its importance: Native Americans were granted citizenship in 1924 (their status as members of sovereign nations goes unmentioned); the emergency number 911 was created in 1968; George Washington was the only presidential candidate ever to run unopposed. The information is divided into general paragraphs that begin with a question and text boxes that supply trivia and provide additional context to the paragraphs. Children’s and teens’ roles are often cited, such as their participation in the civil rights movement and the lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18. The information ranges from national elections to local, expanding on what can be done on a national level and what can occur locally. Along the way, Faulkner includes a diverse mixture of citizens. A range of ethnic groups, minorities, and people of various body sizes and abilities are included, making the book visually welcoming to all readers. An early image depicting a blind woman with both guide dog and cane appears to be the only visual misstep. The backmatter includes a timeline and sources for additional reading.

An empowering choice. (Informational picture book. 7-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-3807-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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A substantive and affirming addition to any collection.

THE ABCS OF BLACK HISTORY

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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