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School Library Journal
Gr 1-4- This picture-book biography deals with a transformative moment in the life of Phillis Wheatley, the first African American to publish a book of poetry. In 1772, 18 members of the intelligentsia from the Massachusetts Bay Colony (including the governor) gathered to question the 17-year-old slave to ascertain the authorship of the poems she claimed were her own. An epilogue explains that no record remains of what transpired, but a document signed by those present was published with her collection of poems the following year. Clinton imagines Wheatley's thoughts as she proceeded through Boston, flashing back to her nights of intense preparation; childhood studies of English, Latin, Greek, and the Bible with the children of her master; and her arrival on a slave ship at age seven. Qualls's uncluttered acrylic and collage compositions employ strong diagonal lines, swirling ribbons of thought, and a combination of opaque images and outlined, transparent figures over washes of color to create visual interest. A warm sienna, contrasted with cool blues, grays, and browns, dominates the artist's palette. A formal tone, an occasional quaint turn of phrase, and a typeface with an irregular impression create the flavor of a time past. Clinton and Qualls offer an elegant introduction to an important individual, albeit without including any samples of Wheatley's poetry or a bibliography. Readers interested in more will appreciate Robin Doak's Phillis Wheatley (Compass Point, 2005) and Catherine Clinton's A Poem of Her Own (Abrams, 2003).-Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public LibraryCopyright 2008 Reed Business Information.