Coming out in February 2017, Waiting for Pumpsie, written by Barry Wittenstein and illustrated by London Ladd, is the story of an African American boy in the 1950s who longs for his favorite team, the Red Sox, to add an African American player to their team at least. Promising minor league player Pumpsie Green seems like his greatest hope. Publishers Weekly recently reviewed this upcoming picture book. They praise the book for both accurately portraying racism and including moments of hope and triumph, writing that, “Although Wittenstein and Ladd never sugarcoat instances of racial prejudice, the story’s moments of triumph sound the loudest notes.” They also praise, “Ladd’s…expressive, dramatically framed acrylics.” The full review can be found online here. Waiting for Pumpsie can be preordered online here.
Muhammad Ali: A Champion is Born, written by Gene Barretta and illustrated by Frank Morrison, tells the story of how a young Muhammad Ali – then called Cassius Clay – got his start in boxing when he began working out after his bike was stolen. It comes out this January, but is already receiving praise from Publishers Weekly. They compliment the extensive historical information included by Ali and write that, “Working in acrylic, Morrison…creates visceral, dynamic action shots.” The full review can be read here. Muhammad Ali can be pre-ordered online here.
The Legendary Miss Lena Horne, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Liz Zunon, isn’t coming out until early 2017, but it’s already receiving a lot of buzz, and here’s another great new review from Publishers Weekly! The Legendary Miss Lena Horne tells the true story of groundbreaking actress, singer, and civil rights activist Lena Horne. Publishers Weekly praised it for its use of source material and its portrayal of Horne’s struggles, and write that, “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.” The full review can be found here. Miss Lena Horne can be pre-ordered online here.
Coming out this upcoming January, The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist, written by Cynthia Levinson and illustrated by Vanessa B Newton, tells the story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, the youngest marcher known to be arrested in the Birmingham civil rights protests of the 1960s. This new picture book has received great reviews from both Publishers Weekly and The School Library Journal. Publishers Weekly praised the picture book’s portrayal of the bravery of the marchers and wrote, “Newton’s bright, digitally assembled collages adeptly highlight the danger of the situation…while emphasizing the power of the marchers’ collective efforts to push back against injustice.” Read the full review here. The School Library Journal commented on The Youngest Marcher‘s detailed inclusion of source material about the marches and praised the way that Vanessa’s illustrations worked to show the contrast between an idealized expectation of marches and the actual discomfort of the experience, writing that, “Digital collage illustrations show a young, pigtailed Audrey and her family mostly smiling and happy leading up to the march…Pictures and words combine to depict the discomfort of Hendricks’s actual experience.” You can preorder The Youngest Marcher online here.
The Horn Book, a site that publishes information and recommendations about books for children and young adults, included Frederick’s Journey: The Life of Frederick Douglass, on a list of recommended picture book biographies. Frederick’s Journey, written by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by London Ladd, is a biography of the life of famous American abolitionist Frederick Douglass. The Horn Book praises the book’s ability to synthesize Douglass’s complex life into the short form of a picture book, and writes that London’s illusrations, “alternate between moments of violence and times of reflection — all resulting in a portrait that is fiery yet dignified.” To see the full review and the Horn Book’s other recommended biographies, check out their site here. You can order Frederick’s Journey online here.
The National Public Radio (NPR) put out a list of books chosen by their staff as being the best of 2016. Included in the children’s section is Don’t Call Me Grandma, written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and illustrated by Liz Zunon, and The Opposite Zoo by Il Sung Na. Don’t Call Me Grandma is the story of a young girl’s relationship with her prickly but fascinating grandma. NPR praised the fact that this story presents an unconventional and more fully realized version of a grandmother than most childrens’ literature. They describe Liz’s illustrations as “genius.” The Opposite Zoo teaches children about opposites through the medium of a whimsical, brightly colored zoo after it closes for the night. They describe the picture book as “spacious” and inviting. Congratulations, Il Sung and Liz! The full list of recommended books can be found on NPR’s site here. You can purchase Don’t Call Me Grandma here and The Opposite Zoo here.