Sure to see—and worthy of—plenty of use, and not just in election years.

THE HOUSE THAT GEORGE BUILT

A simple, well-constructed overview takes a close look at how the magnificent house at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. was built on an empty piece of land with a view of the Potomac.

It was George Washington who conceived of a superb residence for the American President and directed its development over the 11 years it took to build, including surveying, vetting the design and administering the construction from his presidential office to bring the project in on schedule. Slade’s clear description of the steps in the building process accompanies Bond’s amiable edge-to-edge detailed watercolor depictions of the construction site and its busy progress. A cumulative rhyme—“the house that George built”—accompanies the compact, informative text and serves as a place holder and mnemonic to convey the stages of this impressive undertaking. A charming illustration of John and Abigail Adams, standing at last in a great hall not entirely swept of workmen’s tools and stray nails, shows the first of the residents who would leave their mark on this principle residence of democracy. The author’s note and list of some of the improvements made by those in residence over the years (tennis courts for Theodore Roosevelt; a vegetable garden for the Obamas) add to a fascinating first history of the White House.

Sure to see—and worthy of—plenty of use, and not just in election years. (author’s list of sources and suggested resources to learn more) (Informational picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: July 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-58089-262-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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Utterly compelling.

WHEN I WAS EIGHT

The authors of Fatty Legs (2010) distill that moving memoir of an Inuit child’s residential school experience into an even more powerful picture book.

“Brave, clever, and as unyielding” as the sharpening stone for which she’s named, Olemaun convinces her father to send her from their far-north village to the “outsiders’ school.” There, the 8-year-old receives particularly vicious treatment from one of the nuns, who cuts her hair, assigns her endless chores, locks her in a dark basement and gives her ugly red socks that make her the object of other children’s taunts. In her first-person narration, she compares the nun to the Queen in Alice in Wonderland, a story she has heard from her sister and longs to read for herself, subtly reminding readers of the power of literature to help face real life. Grimard portrays this black-cloaked nun with a scowl and a hooked nose, the image of a witch. Her paintings stretch across the gutter and sometimes fill the spreads. Varying perspectives and angles, she brings readers into this unfamiliar world. Opening with a spread showing the child’s home in a vast, frozen landscape, she proceeds to hone in on the painful school details. A final spread shows the triumphant child and her book: “[N]ow I could read.”

Utterly compelling. (Picture book/memoir. 5-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-55451-490-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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A visually striking, compelling recollection.

FROM THE TOPS OF THE TREES

The author recounts a formative childhood experience that continues to inspire her today.

Born to Hmong refugees, Kalia has only ever known the confines of the Ban Vinai refugee camp in Thailand. Even while playing with her cousins, reminders of the hardships of their life are always present. She overhears the aunties sharing their uncertainty and fear of the future. They are a people with no home country and are still trying to find peace. Kalia asks her father why they live behind a gate and wonders what lies beyond the fences that surround the camp. The next day they climb a tall tree, and he shows her the vast expanse around them, from familiar camp landmarks to distant mountains “where the sky meets earth.” This story of resilience and generational hope is told in an expressive, straightforward narrative style. The simplicity of the text adds a level of poignancy that moves readers to reflection. The layered and heavily textured illustrations complement the text while highlighting the humanity of the refugees and providing a quiet dignity to camp life. The militarylike color palette of olive greens, golden yellows, and rich browns reinforces the guarded atmosphere but also represents the transitional period from winter to spring, a time ripe with anticipation and promise.

A visually striking, compelling recollection. (author's note, glossary, map.) (Picture book/memoir. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5415-8130-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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Weatherford and Christie dazzlingly salute African-Americans’ drive to preserve their dignity and pride.

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FREEDOM IN CONGO SQUARE

Count down the days until Sunday, a day for slaves in New Orleans to gather together and remember their African heritage.

In rhyming couplets, Weatherford vividly describes each day of nonstop work under a “dreaded lash” until Sunday, when slaves and free blacks could assemble in Congo Square, now a part of New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong Park and on the National Register of Historic Places. Musicians “drummed ancestral roots alive” on different traditional instruments, and men and women danced. They also exchanged information and sold wares. The poetry is powerful and evocative, providing a strong and emotional window into the world of the slave. Christie’s full-bleed paintings are a moving accompaniment. His elongated figures toil in fields and in houses with bent backs under the watchful eyes of overseers with whips. Then on Sunday, they greet one another and dance with expressively charged spirits. One brilliant double-page spread portrays African masks and instruments with swirling lines of text; it is followed by another with four dancers moving beautifully—almost ethereally—on a vibrant yellow collage background. As the author notes, jazz would soon follow from the music played in Congo Square.

Weatherford and Christie dazzlingly salute African-Americans’ drive to preserve their dignity and pride. (foreword, glossary, author’s note) (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4998-0103-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Bee Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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