Lee & Low Books
Copy received from the publisher
Becoming an actor is one good way to irritate your family, and in the early 1800s, Ira's father would really rather he become a minister. Ira loves the stage, however, and is especially fond of Shakespeare. Since he is free, he is able to work for the African Grove theater in New York, but has a close call with slave traders who want to buy him. Frustrated by his limited possibilities, and not wanting to go to ministry college, Ira goes to London. There, he manages to find roles after working very hard to perfect his craft, and he was also able to share the story of the plight of African Americans in the US.
This is a great biography about a very renowned actor who is hardly known today. Armnad does a great job at constructing believable scenes from his life as they most likely happened. The illustrations by Cooper are dramatic, and yet tinged with a sepia-toned sadness. Like many picture book biographies, this is really for older children, due to the length and challenging text, but would be great to share with younger classes as well.
I am not surprised that Lee & Low Books were able to herald an African American "celebrity figure" from history in a respectful and informative way!
Calkhoven, Laurie. Women Who Changed the World: 50 Amazing Americans
December 29th 2015 by Scholastic Paperback Nonfiction
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central
Starting with Pocahontas and continuing through Margaret Bourke-White and Misty Copeland, this brightly illustrated book introduces readers to fast facts about women who have made contributions in many fields. A photograph, if one exists, is accompanied by basic biographical information, and a larger illustration of each woman is shown alongside further descriptions of her work and accolades. There are also sidebars with statistics or other interesting facts.
This would be a great resource to have if children have to chose people to research for a project, since the information is brief yet complete. There is also a two page list of additional women at the end of the book, as well as a glossary of terms.
There is always room for books that introduce students to historical personages, like or Chin-Lee's Amelia to Zora or Schatz's Rad American Women from A to Z. This Scholastic paperback would have been my daughter's first choice if it had been included in a book club flyer! There is, however, still room for other corporate biographies of lesser known women-- most of my students have heard of Amelia Earhart, but few know of Frances Perkins or Clare Booth Luce.
Miller, Pat Zietlow. The Quickest Kid in Clarksville
9 February 2016, Chronicle Books
Copy received from the publisher
Alta is looking forward to seeing her idol, Wilma Rudolph, in a parade in her hometown of Clarksville, Tennessee. Alta is a runner herself, and when she meets Charmaine, she starts to doubt herself. Not only is Charmaine a fast runner as well, but she has new tennis shoes, while Alta's are worn out. Alta thinks about the challenges that Wilma faced on her way to the Olympics, and doesn't let Charmaine's superior attitude get to her. When the girls need to work together to get a banner to the parade site, they realize that it's more fun to be friends than to fight.
While I knew about Rudolph's athletic accomplishments, I hadn't thought much about her impact on young girls at the time. A note in the back mentions that when Clarksville wanted to honor Rudolph's accomplishments with a parade, she refused to attend unless the event were not segregated. This was unusual for the time, so the illustration showing black and white faces cheering on their hometown hero together is very effective.
Period details abound in the illustrations, and I love that the children are shown wearing brightly colored clothing against gray and tan, rather run down buildings. The faces of the characters are very expressive, as are the postures the girls strike when quarreling. While I thought that this book would be a biography of Rudolph, I was charmed to find another story entirely. This would be a good read aloud for Black History Month, and could spark some conversations about working together.