Dray, a Pulitzer finalist for At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America, brings his expertise to a younger audience with this eloquent biography of anti-lynching crusader and journalist Ida B. Wells. A narrative peppered with anecdotes guides readers through defining moments of Wells's life, from her 1884 lawsuit against a railroad company whose Jim Crow policies prevented her, a black woman, from riding in the first-class compartment, to her growing career as a newspaper columnist, to the 1892 lynching of her close friend. Alcorn's (Let it Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters) striking, symbol-infused hand-colored prints on creamy vellum get star billing. A large trim size accommodates the stylized illustrations, soaring vignettes in muted hues that portray a statuesque and self-assured Wells. Fluid lines swirl or jut across spreads, establishing a brisk visual pace. In one scene, a hand extended from a fancy sleeve labeled "Whites Only" pushes down an African-American man wearing overalls. In another, Wells the writer drifts from an ink bottle like a genie from a lamp, the spectral-shaped black ink forming her dress. Author notes, a timeline and more enhance this age-appropriate introduction to difficult issues and the woman who educated the world about them. Ages 8-12. (Feb.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Yours for Justice, Ida B. Wells: The Daring Life of a Crusading Journalistby Philip Dray, Stephen Alcorn (Illustrator)
In 1863, when Ida B. Wells was not yet two years old, the Emancipation Proclamation freed her from the bond of slavery. For her family and others like them, it was a time of renewed faith in America's promise of "freedom and justice for all." Blessed with a strong will, an eager mind, and a deep belief in this promise, young Ida never turned away from the challenges she faced. She insisted on holding her family together after the death of her parents. She defied convention and went to court when a railroad company infringed on her rights. And she used her position as a journalist to speak out about injustice. But Ida's greatest challenge arose after one of her friends was lynched. How could one headstrong young woman help free America from the "shadow of lawlessness" that loomed over the country?
Author Philip Dray tells the inspirational story of Ida B. Wells, from her birth into a slave family in Mississippi and her early encounters with racism to her lifelong commitment to end injustice. Award-winning illustrator Stephen Alcorn's remarkable illustrations recreate the tensions that threatened to upend a nation a century ago while paying tribute to a courageous American hero.
"The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them."Ida B. Wells
Gr 1-5- An excellent picture-book biography. Although Wells is well known for her efforts to end the horrific practice of lynching, here defined as "execution outside the law," the text maintains a child-appropriate approach. Wells's anger and frustration are expressed but the crimes are not described. Background notes go into more detail and outline the journalist's advocacy work for equal rights for blacks and women. Alcorn's outstanding illustrations give readers a sense of the woman. She is depicted as well dressed and elegant, an image borne out by the photographs at the end of the book. Flat, watercolor-tinted drawings of expressionistic scenes sometimes float, sometimes sprawl, across the pages in a boldly flowing manner. The perspective is constantly shifting, even among the elements on a single page. While most of the human figures are rounded, white people who are abusing blacks are shown as caricatured shapes full of sharp lines and angles. Sometimes a large white hand pushes down a black person, again emphasizing a lack of humanity. A noose is incorporated into one illustration but there are no pictures of people being hanged. Alcorn's inventive, imaginative artwork softens the violence without minimizing it. Through words and pictures, the book conveys the story of a woman who exhibited admirable fortitude and bravery.-Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA
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My thoughts: A well-done picture book biography for young children that is especially good for teaching the period of history associated with the emancipation proclamation. It will encourage African-Americans to discover their heritage and it will enlighten all children in America's history and those who shaped it. The author generously provides a narrative that is somewhat extensive for a picture book and yet the illustrations are abundant so that young readers and reluctant older readers can learn of Ida B. Wells. The topic is a bit heavy for typical picture book readers and perhaps might be best read to or by older middle elementary age students because the subject of lynching is articulated as well as social injustices. Illustrated using a style somewhat cubist, the colors and actions depicted in the art work tell the story well and fit well with the text. As a freed slaved and crusading journalist she was, as a woman and as an African-American woman, a real pioneer in the field of social injustices and employment of a woman as a teacher and also as a journalist. This is a good book for elementary libraries and would be quite informative for studies on the Emancipation Proclamation. DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Peachtree Publishing to facilitate a review. Opinions are my own and freely given.