Every time I visit, there are NEW kidlit titles, too. I so look forward to checking out the NEW nonfiction titles, especially the biographies! It's because I love how kidlit writers use narrative nonfiction to tell their subjects' stories. Kid-friendly facts told in kid-friendly ways equals, to me, a most-delightful read. The text is sometimes lyrical, oftentimes musical, and always informational. And the art! How I love the way publishers marry text and illustrations to bring to life individuals who may have lived over a hundred years ago!
Instead of keeping all this love to myself, I thought I'd share four NEW titles that I checked out during my last library visit. If your library doesn't own copies, I would highly recommend they buy them--NEW.
Jump Back, Paul: The Life & Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar
I love the narrator's voice of this title. You'll feel like you're sitting at the feet of a kind great-grandmother who is telling you her family's story. I love how Dunbar's poems are carefully placed within the text in order to complete the historical narrative. (Reading Dunbar's poems aloud is a delight!) It is encouraging and inspiring to learn of Dunbar's determination to accomplish his goal of becoming a published poet, and attaining it with distinction. It is an added bonus to discover that Dunbar and the Wright brothers went to school together, helped each other out, and were friends. The illustrations, too, perfectly capture Dunbar's emotions. JUMP BACK, PAUL is a magnificent biography for middle-grade readers.
"Well, graduation time came round, and Paul's class asked him to write words for the song they would sing at the ceremony. Those boys and girls had been going to school most of their lives, but now they had to go out and start finding their own way. Don't you think they were a mite scared? And maybe a little sad? Paul had the same feelings as the rest of them. How was he going to put all that in a song? He decided to compare himself and his friends to little boats just beginning their first voyage."
Growing Up Pedro
To be honest, I'm not a baseball fan. Nonetheless, I love this picture-book biography because of how Tavares weaves throughout the story the brotherly bond that existed between Pedro Martinez and his older brother, Ramón. It is a narrative thread that makes for an emotional telling and some touching illustrations, too. Pedro is younger than Ramón. He is smaller. And at first, he can't play baseball as well as Ramón. But Pedro looks up to his big brother, and his big brother wants him to succeed. He even teaches Pedro all he knows about being a great pitcher. He lets him tag along whenever he is practicing or trying out or playing. Soon, both brothers are pitching in the major leagues. Both are exceptional at what they do. Even when Pedro and Ramón have to pitch against each other on opposing teams, they cheer each other on. After all, that's what brothers who love each other do! GROWING UP PEDRO is a great picture-book biography that kids are sure to love!
"During games, they sit together in the dug out. They coach each other. With his brother by his side, Pedro is better that ever."
The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch
I don't recall hearing the name of John Roy Lynch before reading this beautifully-illustrated picture-book biography. I learned that John Roy had an Irish father, and that when his father died he willed to him, his mother and his brother all that he owned. He gave them their legal freedom. It was heartbreaking to learn that his father's "friend" did not do as his father wished. Instead, he cheated John Roy's family out of their rightful freedom and sold them away from their home. It was exciting to learn that during Reconstruction the townspeople of Natchez, Mississippi elected John Roy to be their Justice of the Peace and later their Congressman. John Roy was hoping that, with slavery abolished, a time of liberty and justice would prevail for all. But of course, the time of Reconstruction was short-lived. His hope did not materialize. I do not love reliving this time period, but I do love learning about individuals like John Roy who managed to hold onto hope even when the promise of it flickered like an oil lamp about to burn out. And of course, I love the illustrations of this book! Tate knows how to illuminate hope on every page of THE AMAZING AGE OF JOHN ROY LYNCH.
"For John Roy, true emancipation came the summer he turned sixteen. It did not come from the president's pen, or even from the arrival of two hundred blue-clad men on horseback. It came instead when he sold a chicken for a dime to a Yankee soldier and bought himself a boat ride across the river back to Natchez."
Imagine a little New Orleans fellow finding himself a beat-up old trombone, one so big he falls beneath the size of it while trying to play. But there's nothing small about his determination. He teaches himself to play that horn. After all, he wants to join his big brother's band! Never mind how young, how small, how short he is. Soon, he is playing his big brother's songs. What's not to love about that image? He even forms his own band with other little guys, never mind that most of them don't have real instruments. They just make their own. He sleeps with his trombone, no doubt dreaming of the music he and his friends will make in the morning. And when he attends a Bo Diddley concert with his mom, he gets right up there on that stage and starts to play! It's a delightful thing when a kid like Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews recognizes what he is passionate about. And Collier's illustrations for this book are truly amazing! His collages remind me of the instruments that Troy and his friends made using a hodge-podge of materials to create music. I love that this story is told by none other than Trombone "Shorty" himself, who is still making music with his trombone today. TROMBONE SHORTY is nothing short of a delightful read!
"The crowd passed me overhead until I was standing on the stage next to Bo Diddley himself! I walked right up to the microphone and held my trombone high up in the air, ready to blow!
"What do you want to play?" Bo DIddley asked.
"FOLLOW ME," I said.