The Barnes & Noble Review
Discover the meaning of pride, struggle, and equality in this extraordinary collection about African-American female freedom fighters. All ten women featured worked hard to battle the evils of racism and knock down any and all obstacles. Their achievements paved the way for future activists and changed the world around them. From Harriet Tubman to Josephine Baker to Rosa Parks, these women are amazing.
In the story of Biddy Mason, we meet a woman born into slavery and passed from owner to owner. When her slavemaster John Smithson travels from Utah to California, Biddy knows she has found her way out. California is a free state where slavery does not exist. Once there, she befriends many free black people who help her petition a judge for her freedom, and she wins. Soon, Biddy is working as a nurse and midwife, saving money and looking toward the future. She becomes one of the first black women to buy a house and land in the United States, and in the process, she helps other blacks to discover the power and freedom of land ownership.
The illustrations accompanying each story are robust and invigorating, a lot like the women they represent. Bright colors and strong brush strokes add to the rich textures. Each portrait exemplifies the work of each woman. For example, the illustration of Biddy Mason depicts her walking through a green field, with a sash full of houses. She pulls them out and scatters them across the field and into the arms of black farmers.
In the introduction, the author explains her desire for the book, and the women featured in it, to reflect something in everyone -- "the fortitude to keep one's eyes on those prizes that will lead to a better world." Young readers are guaranteed to find this both within the book and within themselves.
From the Publisher
"Pinkney (Silent Thunder) presents eloquent portraits of 10 intrepid African-American activists for the causes of abolition, women's rights and civil rights. Exploring these individuals' childhoods as well as their accomplishments as adults, the author smoothly distills biographical information so as to hold the attention of young readers. Her selection of subjects includes the prominent (Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and Shirley Chisholm) as well as such lesser-knowns as Fannie Lou Hamer, an indefatigable campaigner for African-Americans' right to vote. Pinkney's writing is spiced with colloquialisms ("She didn't shy back for nobody," she says of Sojourner Truth) and useful imagery (describing this same crusader's delivery of her renowned "Ain't I a woman?" speech, the author notes, "She was the only black woman in the place, and when she stepped to the pulpit, some folks looked at her like she was a stain on their purest linens"). Featuring creatively skewed perspective and proportion, Alcorn's (I, Too, Sing America) oil paintings offer allegorical interpretations of his subjects' lives." Publishers Weekly
"Engaging text and glorious art are combined in this collection of sketches celebrating the contributions of 10 women who moved forward the cause of civil rights in America. Following a preface that describes her own family roots in the civil rights movement and their influence on her, Pinkney presents her heroines chronologically, from Sojourner Truth to Shirley Chisholm, in verbal portraits that capture the subjects' spirit and personalities amid biographical highlights. Blending straightforward narrative with a lively storytelling style, the author balances the hardships and racial injustice that these women faced against their faith, strength of character, and determination. They include Harriet Tubman, Mary McLeod Bethune, and Rosa Parks, as well as Biddy Mason, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Ella Josephine Baker, Dorothy Irene Height, and Fannie Lou Hamer. The book includes many quotes, incidents, and details that lead readers down their personal paths to historical recognition. However, it is Alcorn's vibrant, inspired oil paintings that make this book a standout. A full-page stylized portrait appears opposite the first page of each story; it is filled with symbolic details that are elucidated in the text. A brilliant example is a larger-than-life Harriet Tubman balanced on one knee over a railroad track with arms diagonally outstretched, bridgelike, as tiny travelers make their way up the steep height toward the freedom star. Smaller paintings appear within the stories, carrying the message further. Line, color, and canvas texture give the pictures depth and dynamism, vastly enriching the reading experience. This excellent collection is a must for every library." School Library Journal