Honoring African American Women and Girls, Past and Present

Recently published books celebrating African American women and girls highlight their important contributions to the arts, activism, literacy, politics, science, and other fields too numerous to name.

Recently published books celebrating African American women highlight their important contributions to the arts, activism, literacy, politics, science, and other fields too numerous to name. The nonfiction titles below include a range of formats for K-grade 12.

redstarBARTON, Chris. What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?: The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. illus. by Ekua Holmes. 48p. chron. further reading. S. & S./Beach Lane. Sept. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481465618.
Gr 3-6–In a timely yet subtle call-to-action, Barton exemplifies the importance and power of using one’s innate gifts and interests to affect positive change. Throughout this supremely accessible picture book biography, readers are asked to consider: “What do you do with a voice like that?” A voice that causes “folks to sit right up, stand up straight, and take notice.” Well, if you’re Barbara Jordan, you put it to good use. And if you’re Barton and Holmes, you create an extraordinary book to ensure that her voice is not forgotten. Everything succeeds in this collaborative effort to accurately reflect the power of Jordan’s voice and the impact she made on those she worked with and for, from the oversize trim to the large, succinct text punctuated with complimentary colors, to the hefty paper weight and extended length. Without compromising coherence, Barton keeps the narrative closely aligned with his theme and provides a detailed time line at the end for those who desire more information about Jordan’s personal and professional life. Holmes’s mixed media collage illustrations will make readers sit up and take notice, too. With her signature use of bold colors and rich textures, Holmes brings Jordan and her remarkable story to life through portrait-style images that reflect the significance of her leadership and honor the integrity that characterizes her legacy. VERDICT An essential purchase for nonfiction collections.–Lynn Van Auken, Oak Bluffs School, MA

BECKER, Helaine. Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13. illus. by Dow Phumiruk. 40p. bibliog. Holt. Jun. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250137524.
Gr 1-3–Featuring engaging text and captivating illustrations, this picture book introduces the amazing life of mathematician Katherine Johnson to young readers. Becker captures the drive and determination of Johnson through well-written text and a few puns; for instance, the phrase “You can count on me” is repeated by Johnson and once by her father. The narrative details both Johnson’s joyful childhood and her fury at segregated public schools; however, in discussing the challenges Johnson faced at NASA, Becker mainly focuses on sexism. The text doesn’t mention segregation at NASA, but it is portrayed in the illustrations. Becker compellingly conveys Johnson’s reputation for accuracy and her ­critical ­leadership role supporting many NASA programs, including Friendship 7, Apollo 11, Apollo 12, and Apollo 13. John Glenn would not fly until Johnson had signed off on the numbers for his trip. Phumiruk’s renderings help to elucidate scientific principles and bring the story to life. In addition, the images of blackboards teeming with mathematical equations that appear on the endpapers add to the book’s appeal. The work concludes with additional in-depth information about Johnson’s life along with a list of sources. VERDICT Sure to inspire a new generation of mathematicians. A solid addition to biography collections.–Maren Ostergard, King County Library System, Issaquah, WA

redstarBOYCE, Jo Ann Allen & Debbie Levy. This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality. 320p. bibliog. chron. notes. photos. Bloomsbury. Jan. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781681198521.
Gr 4-8–This evocatively told, carefully researched memoir-in-verse is the story of a group of 12 teenagers from Clinton, TN, who, in 1956, were among the first black students to pave the way for school integration. Free verse and formal poetry, along with newspaper headlines, snippets of legislation, and other primary sources about national and local history are mixed with Boyce’s first-person narrative. The book opens with an overview of life in segregated Clinton and the national events leading up to the desegregation of Clinton High. The rest of the work follows the four months in the fall of 1956 when Boyce and the other 11 teens attended Clinton High. They faced angry white mobs outside the school, constant harassment from white classmates, and a hostile principal who viewed integration as a legal choice rather than a moral one. The book includes an introduction and epilogue, authors’ notes, brief biographies of the involved students, photographs, a time line, and a bibliography. The writing invites readers to cheer on Boyce for her optimism and her stubbornness in the face of racism, without singling her out as a solitary hero. This story adeptly shows readers that, like the Clinton Twelve, they too can be part of something greater than themselves. VERDICT A must-buy for tweens and teens, especially where novels-in-verse are popular.–Erica Ruscio, formerly at Rockport Public Library, MA

redstarCLINE-RANSOME, Lesa. Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams. illus. by James E. Ransome. 48p. bibliog. further reading. notes. S. & S. Jul. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481476843.
Gr 3-5–This lovingly crafted picture book biography centers on the incredible bond between Venus and Serena Williams and one of their signature accomplishments: being the first two sisters in tennis history to rank numbers one and two in the world. Beginning with their early childhood, Cline-Ransome highlights the siblings’ hard work and dedication to each other and their goals. From pre-dawn practices as preschoolers in the Compton neighborhood of Los Angeles, to Serena’s first victory over Venus in the 2002 French Open nearly 20 years later, this story of their single-minded focus and unwavering family support will inspire readers to achieve greatness regardless of the odds. The collage artwork, done in cut paper, pencil, and acrylic paints, is expansive and filled with vibrant colors and emotions. Fans of tennis will be in for a treat as Cline-Ransome recounts the Williams’s matches with thrilling detail. This powerful narrative will most appeal to independent readers. Back matter includes an afterword that chronicles the duo’s accomplishments and challenges from 2002 to 2011. VERDICT An important selection for biography and sports collections.–Lynn Van Auken, Oak Bluffs School, Oak Bluffs, MA

redstarDIAS, Marley. Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You. 208p. charts. further reading. photos. Scholastic. Jan. 2018. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781338136890.
Gr 5 Up–Dias pens an eminently readable and nuanced personal narrative of her #1000BlackGirlsBooks campaign and her tips, tools, and strategies for effecting positive change in the representation of Black girls in children’s literature and beyond. The work opens with Dias’s poignant recollection of how Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming raised questions about why the award-winning title, and other selections by Black authors, weren’t a part of her school’s assigned reading. Dias’s effervescent personality and style shine as she discusses her family, love of sushi, trip to Ghana, relationship to social media, and more—never underestimating the audience (“For the record, just this once, let me say: Hard things come and go, but it seems like racism always stays. There, I said it. And I’m doing all I can to change it.”). The text encourages readers to find and pursue their interests, provides valuable advice on activism (including how charity and activism are not the same thing), and strongly recommends reading for knowledge and pleasure. Dias’s beloved list of 1,000 books is included at the end. The eye-catching photos, empowering pull quotes, and bright pastel page borders make for a thoughtful design and will have readers returning to the book again and again. VERDICT An invaluable selection for any public and school library collection.–Jess Gafkowitz, Brooklyn Public Library

redstarDUNBAR, Erica Armstrong & Kathleen van Cleve. Never Caught, the Story of Ona Judge: George and Martha Washington’s Courageous Slave Who Dared To Run Away. 256p. chron. maps. S. & S./Aladdin. Jan. 2019. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781534416178.
Gr 5 Up–This young readers edition of Dunbar’s National Book Award–nominated title details the account of Ona Judge, who ran away from the household of George and Martha Washington. Born into slavery at Mount Vernon, Judge began working directly for Martha Washington by the age of 10. When the Washingtons left Mount Vernon for George’s political career, Judge was chosen to make the trip north, visiting and eventually living in Pennsylvania and New York. Away from the sheltered world of Virginia, Judge encountered free black people for the first time and learned about laws such as the Gradual Abolition Act in Pennsylvania. The Washingtons went to great lengths to prevent those they enslaved from benefitting from this law. In May of 1796, then 22-year-old Judge walked out of the Washington’s mansion in Philadelphia and onto the deck of a ship that would take her to New Hampshire. Although she was never able to live comfortably, she refused to go back to a life of slavery—no matter how determined George and Martha Washington were to reenslave her. This well-written story has been skillfully reconstructed from the sparse historical record available and delicately adapted for middle schoolers. Dunbar and van Cleve effectively and consistently convey the realities of being enslaved—and invite readers to empathize with Judge. VERDICT A brilliant work of U.S. history. Recommended for all collections.–Kristy Pasquariello, Westwood Public Library, MA

HALFMANN, Janet. Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Granderson and Her Secret School. illus. by London Ladd. 40p. bibliog. notes. Lee & Low. Feb. 2018. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781620141632.
Gr 2-4–A winning tribute to Lilly Ann Granderson, the Midnight Teacher. Granderson, who was enslaved, secretly learned to read and write as a child and passed on this dear knowledge to hundreds of other enslaved people despite the great risks. To avoid the notice and suspicion of white masters and patrollers, she hosted her school in the middle of the night. Halfmann’s narrative follows Granderson’s life pre– and post–Civil War, including Granderson’s involvement in educating newly freed black people in the South. In the afterword, Halfmann delves further into this hero’s legacy: her grandchildren and great-grandchild would go on to become college grads, U.S. congressmen, and more. Ladd’s illustrations, rendered in acrylic and colored pencil, are realistic and done in an earthy palette of sandy browns and rich greens. Ladd adroitly conveys the tone of the narrative with dioramalike scenes and uses perspective to add intensity. VERDICT A top choice for any library serving elementary school–aged children.–Shira ­Pilarski, Farmington ­Community Library, MI

HANCOCKS, Helen. Ella Queen of Jazz. illus. by Helen Hancocks. 32p. Frances Lincoln. Feb. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781847809186.
K-Gr 2–This bold picture book chronicles Ella Fitzgerald’s early rise to stardom and centers on her friendship with Marilyn Monroe. The value of camaraderie and the determination of these two women are the running themes in this narrative. Hancocks explores how their relationship was beneficial for both parties; Monroe opening doors for Fitzgerald to sing at clubs, and Fitzgerald training Monroe to sing in movies. The gouache illustrations are bright with patterns that evoke the stylized advertising posters of the 1950s. Language reminiscent of the period (“the biggest joint in town”) is peppered throughout, though it is often exceedingly vague (“some folks didn’t want her singing in their club”). A biographical summary of Fitzgerald’s and Monroe’s lives is presented at the end of the book with a photograph of them together. VERDICT Part biography, part exaltation of the power of friendship, this title should do well in most collections.–Jessica Cline, New York Public Library

redstarHARRISON, Vashti. Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History. illus. by Vashti Harrison. 96p. filmog. further reading. notes. websites. Little, Brown. Dec. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316475112.
K-Gr 4–An artist’s social media sensation is lovingly brought to life in this standout title. Initially a personal project for Black History Month, Harrison’s collection highlights 40 notable black women throughout U.S. history. Each entry includes two to three paragraphs of biographical text, opposite which nearly identical figures (most are drawn facing forward with cherubic smiles and closed eyes) hold center stage of their full-page portrait, framed by simple yet clever backgrounds that contextualize their achievements. Audre Lorde, for example, stands before muted brown bookshelves—keen eyes will discern that the books displayed feature her poetry and prose. Leadership is embraced in forms past and present and across various disciplines; renowned abolitionists Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth are joined by Air Force General Marcelite J. Harris and filmmaker Julie Dash. A concluding “More Little Leaders” segment addresses the difficulty of selecting 40 women to represent a historical legacy and offers miniature renditions of additional icons, including Gabby Douglas, Lorraine Hansberry, and the Williams sisters. Useful back matter provides multimedia sources for inevitably curious readers. The amount of information included makes this book ideal for budding researchers or for small groups, although the heartwarming digital images will garner a younger audience, too—kids of all ages will love poring over Harrison’s tender artwork. VERDICT Beautifully designed and chock-full of information, this is a fantastic survey of black women who made and continue to make history. A must-have for youth nonfiction collections.–Ashleigh ­Williams, School Library Journal

HEARTH, Amy Hill. Streetcar to Justice: How Elizabeth Jennings Won the Right To Ride in New York. 144p. bibliog. chron. further reading. notes. photos. reprods. websites. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780062673602.
Gr 4-7–Hearth sets the stage in this middle grade biography with Elizabeth Jennings hoping to arrive on time at the First Colored American Congregational Church, where she was an organist, before pulling back to explain just what New York City looked, smelled, and operated like in 1854. Weaving together historical background with a portrait of Jennings, Hearth has created a compelling account of the court case Jennings vs. Third Avenue Railroad Company—an early landmark case in desegregating New York City transit. The engaging narrative is supported by plentiful archival maps, photos, and reproductions of primary source documents, such as handwritten reports and newspaper clippings. Sidebars also provide important historical context. The back matter is impressively long—including a six-page bibliography of websites, books, newspapers, journals and reports; extensive chapter and illustration notes; and more, making this a superb mentor text. VERDICT Hearth brings the story of Elizabeth Jennings to vivid life in an eminently readable book.–Brenda Kahn, Tenakill Middle School, Closter, NJ

redstarMEADOWS, Michelle. Brave Ballerina: The Story of Janet Collins. illus. by Ebony Glenn. 32p. bibliog. photos. websites. Holt. Jan. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250127730.
PreS-Gr 2–Young dancers will find inspiration in the first picture book biography written about groundbreaking dancer Janet Collins. In tidy four-line stanzas, Meadows tells Collins’s life story, describing her path to stardom as the first black prima ballerina to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House. Each page begins in a similar fashion, setting the scene and continuing in rhyming verse. (“This is the audience, lined up in rows, cheering her on as she danced on her toes.”) Though the format is constrictive, there is not an awkward word or rhythm to be found. Collins’s story is told masterfully, with additional background information in an author’s note. Glenn (Mommy’s Khimar) fills each page with the strength and beauty of dance, focusing on the graceful movement of Collins and her emotive expressions. VERDICT This book radiates with the joy of dance. A first purchase for most collections.–Clara Hendricks, Cambridge Public Library, MA

redstarMOYER, Naomi M. Black Women Who Dared. illus. by Naomi M. Moyer. 24p. Second Story. Sept. 2018. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781772600711.
Gr 4-8–The importance of collectives is central to this illustrated nonfiction work, dedicated to communities within transnational (mostly Canadian) black history. Moyer focuses on grassroots organizations, ranging from the international Black Cross Nurses group in the early 20th century to the more recent creation of Blockorama, which makes “a space for the black LGBTTI2QQ community within Toronto’s Pride Parade.” This record of long-lasting communities emphasizes the results of cooperation over hero narratives. When Moyer introduces individuals, she highlights how they facilitate networks, like Rosa Pryor, the first female black business owner in Vancouver, who used her restaurant to build a social hub, or border-crossing Mary Miles Bibb’s support of black journalists and readers through her 19th-century newspaper. It is a testament to the book’s strength that after reading each profile, readers will want to know more; librarians would be wise to have a list of further reading handy. Each spread features bold stylized illustrations that mix photorealistic drawings with inventive linework, silhouettes, and eye-catching complementary blocks of color. VERDICT This is a must-have for Canadian classrooms and libraries, and an important addition for U.S. collections as well.–Katherine Magyarody, Texas A&M University, College Station

redstarMUHAMMAD, Ibtihaj. Proud: Living My American Dream. 240p. glossary. Little, Brown. Jul. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316477000.
Gr 6 Up–Fencer and Olympic medalist Muhammad pens an eminently readable account of her childhood through her win at the 2016 Rio Olympics in this must-have memoir. Opening with an all-too familiar scene, she recalls how a substitute teacher refused to properly pronounce her name, an episode that the Olympian uses to elucidate her motivations behind writing this text: “I wanted to chronicle my quest to challenge society’s limited perceptions of what a Muslim woman, a black woman, or an athlete can be.” In this regard, and many others, Muhammad excels. Her steadfast trust in herself and the guidance of her family and her faith shine throughout. Muhammad’s retelling of her early home life, her qualification for the 2016 Olympics, and of blessings big and small are passages filled with love and awe. The writing is concise, and the replays of Muhammad’s matches are riveting. Teen athletes, especially those playing in sports perceived as white, will relate to and value Muhammad’s keen perspective on manipulative coaches, college and scholarship applications, racist and Islamophobic abuse from teammates, and the challenge of balancing practice, classwork, and personal academic interests. An epilogue discusses her role in creating the nonprofit Athletes for Impact and underlines the importance of defining one’s identity for oneself and embracing one’s dreams. VERDICT A first purchase for YA nonfiction collections.–Della Farrell, School Library Journal

redstarPIPPINS, Andrea. Young, Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present. illus. by Jamia Wilson. 64p. glossary. photos. Wide Eyed Editions. Feb. 2018. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781786031587.
Gr 3 Up–With a title that references the late Lorraine Hansberry’s phrase “young, gifted and black,” this exuberant collected biography is one readers won’t want to miss. Students are invited to explore one and two-page vignettes of 52 compelling figures in black culture worldwide. Each profile recounts their beginnings and marvelous feats as scientists, writers, athletes, artists, or activists, both past and present. Exquisitely designed, each illustrated portrait is thickly outlined, colored digitally, and illuminated by irradiating forms that resemble papel picado. Each written entry follows a precise format: a clear definition of the person in a larger sans-serif font; the same but smaller font for the text; a bold handwriting font for a highlighted quote; and an outlined, all-caps font for the inventive titles given to each, such as “Conductor” for Harriet Tubman, “Soul-Singing Superstar” for Solange, and “Chess Grandmaster” for Maurice Ashley. There is not a chronology or categories. There is a back matter and a “Hall of Fame” photo album–like index of black-and-white headshots, each framed with a name banner and page number. In the preface, New York–based activist author Wilson and illustrator Pippins pinpoint the importance of telling stories of black success with the adage that “if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” VERDICT Share this book widely across generations as a launching point for more discoveries.–Sara Lissa Paulson, City-As-School High School, New York City

redstarRHUDAY-PERKOVICH, Olugbmisola. Someday Is Now: Clara Luper and the 1958 Oklahoma City Sit-ins. illus. by Jade Johnson. 32p. glossary. photos. Seagrass. Aug. 2018. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781633224988.
Gr 3-5–This nonfiction picture book follows Clara Luper from her childhood to her mentorship of students in nonviolent resistance during the 1950s and 60s. As an Oklahoma City school teacher, Luper wrote a play for her pupils, who then toured cross-country with her and witnessed the contrast between the integrated Northern cities they visited and the still segregated Southern cities they performed in, and were subsequently motivated to affect positive change in their communities back home, including sit-ins. Rhuday-Perkovich’s decision to include Luper’s struggle between wanting to keep her students safe and wanting them to act humanizes this civil rights hero, and makes her choices more relatable and meaningful, as does the author’s powerful word choice in describing the abusive drugstore customers not as anonymous bullies, but as spitting mothers and screaming fathers. This reminder that the struggle for equality is just as much mental as physical adds a welcome profundity. Johnson has illustrated the narrative in a tableau style, with a bold yellow- and blue-based color palette. The focal points are the expressive outsized faces of the cast of characters, who are all carefully posed. Unembellished backgrounds in muted tones make these characters (and several “whites only” signs) stand out all the more boldly. Back matter includes a brief biography of Luper and explains the four steps of nonviolent resistance depicted in the book. VERDICT Rhuday-Perkovich powerfully teaches young readers that standing up sometimes means standing out. A top addition to nonfiction collections.–Lauren Younger, Nicholson ­Memorial Library, Garland, TX

ROMITO, Dee. Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus ­Boycott. illus. by Laura Freeman. 40p. little bee. Nov. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781499807202.
K-Gr 3–Romito retells the life story of Georgia Gilmore, a woman whose pies and delicious homemade cooking helped sustain the Montgomery bus boycott. Nicknamed “the Club from Nowhere,” Gilmore along with a team of women risked their jobs to build a network wherein people from the community could financially aid the boycott through the purchase of her pies (Gilmore donated her profits to the Montgomery Improvement Association). The book ends with the Supreme Court decision that segregation on buses is unconstitutional and Gilmore is shown continuing to bake—as the fight for civil rights would wage on. The text emphasizes for young readers how important Gilmore’s contributions were to the civil rights movement, including her work with Martin Luther King Jr. and her testimony in court on discrimination on buses. Bold and richly colored illustrations give life to Gilmore and her iconic pies. The detailed back matter, which includes Gilmore’s recipe for homemade pound cake, makes this picture book a well-rounded nonfiction read. VERDICT A winning addition to libraries that serve young readers.–Molly ­Dettmann, Norman North High School, OK

SCHMIDT, Gary D. So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth’s Long Walk Toward Freedom. illus. by Daniel Minter. 48p. bibliog. Roaring Brook. Sept. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781626728721.
Gr 1-4–Focusing on the impact of slavery on Sojourner Truth’s life and her ongoing fight to end the institution, Schmidt and Minter choose a lyrical and evocative approach to her story. Readers learn about the hardships and cruelty she endured under various masters before her walk to freedom and her legal battle to regain custody of her son. Schmidt incorporates the woman’s own words as he recounts her anti-slavery speeches to crowds and her meeting with President Lincoln as she walked thousands of miles to advocate for freedom. Minter’s illustrations, arresting at first glance, grow deeper and more compelling with repeated viewing. The vertical panels incorporate images such as ships crossing the ocean and slave collars. Equally striking are recurrent motifs of leaves, roots, and trees in depictions of events from Sojourner’s life. Shadowy figures of people from the past, present, and future tie her struggle from the particular to the universal. Because the book omits important events such as her 1851 women’s rights speech and minimizes the religious motivation for her activism and preaching, readers should also have access to other introductory biographies such as Andrea Davis Pinkney’s Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride, Ann Turner’s My Name Is Truth, and Anne Rockwell’s Only Passing Through. VERDICT Outstanding illustrations make this a noteworthy addition to most libraries, but collections need to keep other books about Sojourner Truth to present multiple facets of her significant achievements.–Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University Library, Mankato

SHETTERLY, Margot Lee with Winifred Conkling. Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race. illus. by Laura Freeman. 40p. chron. diags. glossary. HarperCollins/Harper. Jan. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062742469.
K-Gr 2–Shetterly introduces young readers to the inspirational and groundbreaking stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, and their once-hidden contributions to science, aeronautics, and space exploration. Shetterly expertly puts these women’s achievements in their historical context: segregation, blatant sexism and racism in the workplace, the civil rights movement, and the space race. Despite the challenges these women faced, they persisted, worked hard, and put a man on the moon. In this picture book take, the text, at times, reads a bit clinical and it’s occasionally difficult to distinguish one woman’s characteristics from another’s while reading. This is remedied with the handy time line of short profiles in the back matter. Freeman’s full-color illustrations are stunning and chock-full of details, incorporating diagrams, mathematical formulas, and space motifs throughout (including the women’s clothing and jewelry), enhancing the whole book. VERDICT An essential purchase for elementary school and public libraries.–Megan Kilgallen, Packer Collegiate ­Institute, Brooklyn

SLADE, Suzanne. A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon. illus. by Veronica Miller Jamison. 40p. bibliog. chron. photos. Little, Brown. Mar. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316435178.
K-Gr 3–Even as a child, Katherine Johnson loved numbers. She skipped through school, took a job as part of a team of number crunchers called “calculators,” and helped figure out the trajectory of early space flights of the 1960s, even after machine computing became a part of the process. This retelling of Johnson’s achievements focuses on her path as a black female mathematician. The book devotes a spread to the civil rights struggle, illustrating how people were divided about school integration; it also shows that many disagreed about whether women should work at jobs traditionally held by men. Jamison stresses how Johnson’s talent for math broke both barriers. Covering much of the same ground as Helaine Becker’s Counting on Katherine, the text is relatively straightforward and accessible even to listeners not yet ready for the inclusion of incorrect math problems, such as “25 ÷ 5 = 4,” used as examples of how wrong some people’s assumptions were. First-time illustrator Jamison relies on ink, watercolor, marker, and colored pencil to create spreads that emphasize math concepts. Often there’s a faint background of the geometric images and equations shown on the end papers. Back matter includes author and artist notes about their personal connection to the subject, quotes from Johnson herself, and sources and credits. VERDICT Another appealing picture book biography of a successful woman; a strong choice for most collections.–Kathleen Isaacs, Children’s Literature Specialist, Pasadena, MD

redstarWHITE, Arisa & Laura Atkins. Biddy Mason Speaks Up. illus. by Laura Freeman. 112p. bibliog. chron. index. notes. photos. Heyday. Feb. 2019. Tr $18. ISBN 9781597144032.
Gr 8 Up–White and Atkins detail the life of Bridget “Biddy” Mason, a successful nurse and businesswoman who secured freedom for her and her children through legal action, and use her story as a lens through which to examine the experiences of enslaved people in the United States and the history of slavery as an institution. Each chapter begins in verse accompanied by bright illustrations, describing imagined scenes from Mason’s life. (The introduction states that the authors “imagin[ed] Biddy Mason’s life based on all the information and stories we could gather.” The detailed source notes, located in the back matter, indicate where the information was drawn from.) This is followed by factual investigations into key historical moments and daily life throughout the time period. These thoughtfully written sections are well arranged with clear headings, definitions for important terms in the text and in sidebars, captioned historical images, questions for discussion, and time lines. An extensive amount of back matter makes this an enormously useful resource for students. A section at the end titled “Healing Your Community: From Biddy’s Day to Ours” encourages readers to think about injustice in their own communities, and how they might speak up themselves. Readers and those recommending this book should note that the book includes a description of rape and discussion of sexual abuses suffered by enslaved people. VERDICT A first purchase for biography, history, and general nonfiction collections alike.–Darla Salva Cruz, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY

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