Review by New York Times Review
"Somewhere in Brooklyn," begins this incandescent biography, the winner of the 2017 Caldecott Medal, "a little boy dreams of being a famous artist." Basquiat died in 1988 at just 27, but he left a vibrant legacy that Steptoe, painting and collaging on salvaged wood pieces from Basquiat's own hunting grounds, conveys to a new generation. Steptoe's words, too, go straight for the heart, redeeming often harsh facts of the artist's life by focusing on how both his strength and his pain powered his art. MUHAMMAD ALI A Champion Is Born By Gene Barretta. Illustrated by Frank Morrison. 40 pp. Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins. $17.99. (Picture book; ages 4 to 8) "He owed it all to a stolen bicycle," Barretta writes in this playful, dynamic look at the champion's quest for greatness. We see how one childhood incident - the young Cassius Clay reported the theft to a police officer, who invited him to learn to box - set the stage for a long career. There are highlights of his boxing fame, later years and racial-justice and humanitarian work. Morrison ("The Quickest Kid in Clarksville") gives the art a joyful zing and a serious yet eminently kid-friendly vibe. THE LEGENDARY MISS LENA HORNE By Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon. 32 pp. Atheneum. $17.99. (Picture book; ages 5 to 9) The veteran biographer Weatherford stirringly tells Lena Horne's extraordinary story - her birth into a high-achieving black family; her itinerant childhood; the showbiz career she built while enduring Jim Crow and Hollywood racism; her place in the civil rights movement; the ways "music saved her" to the end. Zunon ("Don't Call Me Grandma") plays with shadow and light to suggest the hidden depths of a very public life. The book's sizzling clarity recalls Horne's own voice. THE YoUNGEST MARCHER By Cynthia Levinson. Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton. 32 pp. Atheneum. $17.99. (Picture book; ages 5 to 9) It's one of the more shocking and little-known stories of the civil rights movement: In 1963, the City of Birmingham jailed hundreds of kids for joining the Children's March. Among them was 7-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks, taken from her family to spend a week behind bars, eating "oily grits" and sleeping on a bare mattress. Levinson and Newton keep her story bright and snappy, emphasizing the girl's eagerness to make a difference and her proud place in her community. FREDERICK DOUGLASS The Lion Who Wrote History By Walter Dean Myers. Illustrated by Floyd Cooper. 40 pp. Harper/HarperCollins. $17.99. (Picture book; ages 5 to 9) Douglass's life story has a magisterial glow in this posthumous work from the esteemed Myers. (It stands taller than most picture books, a fitting design decision.) Myers's words pointedly convey the centrality of reading and "careful decisions" to Douglass's struggle for freedom and his later public work, offering an anchor to children trying to comprehend the cruelties of American slavery. Cooper's realistic, slightly smudged art feels equally consequential, balancing dignity and emotion.
Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [January 1, 2017]
Review by Booklist Review
*Starred Review* Young readers may not know Lena Horne, but the captivating cover illustration of the singer will draw them into this exceptionally handsome book. Once inside, they will learn about both the life of Horne as well as the hardships that came with a show-biz career for African Americans in the 1930s, '40s, and beyond. Horne's family included a college dean, a hustler father, a vaudevillian mother, and a strict grandmother who intermittently raised her to achieve. But during the Depression, her mother moved her onstage, where she was soon singing with the likes of Cab Calloway. No matter how successful her career, however, there was segregation, humiliation, and, especially in Hollywood, roadblocks. She was a staunch civil rights advocate in the face of racism and blacklisting, an aspect of her life that is often overlooked. Weatherford's informative yet succinct text is juxtaposed against a happily oversize picture-book format that allows enough room for Zunon's impressive oil-paint-and-collage artwork. From the subtle expressions on Lena's face to the impressive two-page spread of her singing in front of a massive throng at the March on Washington, the art is inviting yet thoughtful. An author's note and discography for future fans gives the book a voice that will carry even farther.--Cooper, Ilene Copyright 2016 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Weatherford (Freedom in Congo Square) and Zunon (Don't Call Me Grandma) vibrantly capture the setbacks and triumphs of African-American performer Lena Horne, tracing her rise from a Brooklyn childhood to a singer and actress who faced persistent racism. Quotations from Horne and others provide sharp insight into her struggles ("They don't give us a chance very often, and when they do, we have to take it," Count Basie told her), and Zunon's warm-hued, multi-textured oil-and-collage images emphasize the determination of a woman who found her voice on stage as singer, actor, and activist. Ages 4-8. Author's agent: Rubin Pfeffer, Rubin Pfeffer Content. Illustrator's agent: Lori Nowicki, Painted Words. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by School Library Journal Review
Gr 3-5-A lyrical biography from award-winning author Weatherford (Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement). The narrative follows Horne throughout her life and highlights her talent, activism, career highs and lows, love of reading, and lifelong dedication to civil rights. While the format is that of a picture book, the text, which alternates between short phrases and longer narrative paragraphs, may require a sophisticated reader. Complex concepts (studio contracts, blacklisting, lynching) are neither glossed over nor extensively addressed. Where this volume truly shines, though, is in its straightforward but multifaceted approach to the complicated realities of Horne's stardom, from segregated venues to skin-darkening makeup, contract negotiations to civil rights rallies and parenting. Weatherford celebrates Horne for her skill and for changing the game for those to come ("Because Lena refused/to darken rear doors,/black stars now gleam/on red carpets"). Zunon's paint and collage illustrations fill the pages with rich colors and remain true to the glamor of Horne's performances. Occasional text boxes featuring song titles or quotations work to varying success. Back matter includes an author's note about Weatherford's own connection with Horne and a list of further reading (however, the two print suggestions are written for older students). VERDICT Though it will likely need some selling on the part of librarians, this is a carefully crafted offering for thoughtful readers interested in the intersection of music, stardom, and civil rights.-Katya Schapiro, Brooklyn Public Library © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review
Despite a difficult childhood and the entertainment industry's racism, the actress, singer, and performer Lena Horne rose to Hollywood stardom and became a vocal civil rights advocate. Weatherford straightforwardly but persistently emphasizes the injustices Horne faced, celebrating her triumphs in the face of them. Zunon's evocative illustrations, in cut-paper collage and oil paint, take readers back in time to Horne's era. Reading list, websites. Bib. (c) Copyright 2017. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Twentieth-century racism tried hard to deny this great performer her voiceand failed.Born into a distinguished African-American family, Horne was enrolled as an NAACP member at a young age. Despite her grandmother's wishes but at her mother's urging, she began to perform at the Cotton Club with Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway. She also appeared on Broadway with the Noble Sissle Society Orchestra. More performances followedalong with racism. When Hollywood called, Horne hoped to fight some of that racism "by refusing to play / maids and mammies." The films Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather featured her stellar performances, but there was little else. Horne never forgot her roots, though, and sang for black troops during World War II. She also sang at the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963. On TV, Kermit the Frog was one of her partners. Recognition, honors, and awards were showered on Horne, who left a strong legacy. "Because Lena refused / to darken rear doors, / black stars now gleam / on red carpets / and reap box-office gold." Weatherford's writing is succinct and inspirational. Zunon's oil paint and cut-paper-collage illustrations are more than a match for Horne's dynamic onstage presence. Their dramatic design showcases a woman of great beauty and extraordinary talent. A memorable life dedicated to music and civil rights, presented with commensurate style. (bibliography, further reading, listening, and viewing) (Picture book/biography. 7-10) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.