Review: Annette Feels Free

Annette Feels Free: The True Story of Annette Kellerman, World-Class Swimmer, Fashion Pioneer, and Real-Life Mermaid by Katherine Mazeika is an inspiring picture book biography of a woman who is often overlooked despite her trailblazing accomplishments in sports, dance, film, and design.

Author/Illustrator: Katie Mazeika
Publisher: Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schuster)
Published: September 13, 2022
Format: Picture Book

Following Annette Kellerman’s fascinating life, from her childhood in Australia to her many globe-trotting careers, Annette Feels Free provides young readers with a wonderful role model of an independent and determined young woman.

When Annette fell ill as a child, her legs became weak and she required braces to walk. Annette could no longer dance with her braces until she found swimming. In the water, Annette was free to kick, swim, and dance. She became a strong swimmer, and eventually, her legs were strong enough to walk without braces. But Annette would not stop swimming.

She competed across the globe, even racing against men. She performed dives and dances in the water in front of hundreds of people. She even swam in the English Channel!

Annette was free in the water, except that she couldn’t wear the same streamlined swimming suits as the men she raced against. The full skirt and pantaloons she swam in were restricting, so Annette made her own swimsuit. Everyone took notice, and Annette was even brought to court, but she won. Because of Annette, women and girls everywhere are allowed to swim in whatever makes them feel comfortable!

Annette Kellerman’s story is absolutely fascinating, and Katie Mazeika has paired it with wonderful illustrations. I love the way the water is captured on every page, allowing readers to feel the freedom it brought Annette.

Educators, don’t miss out on the free curriculum guide provided on Katie Mazeika’s website at katiemazeika.com. With discussion questions and multiple activities for students, this free resource makes this a fabulous addition to any classroom library.

Annette Feels Free officially releases tomorrow (September 13, 2022) but you can preorder your copy today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

I’m so sorry to say that I had never heard of Annette Kellerman before reading Annette Feels Free, but I won’t be forgetting her story anytime soon. Thank you so much to Beach Lane Books and Blue Slip Media for sharing a review copy of Annette Feels Free with me. I’m so thrilled to be able to share Annette’s inspiring story with you all today!

About The Author/Illustrator:

Katherine Mazeika is an author, illustrator, and designer with a BFA from the Columbus College of Art and Design. When she isn’t in the studio, she likes to spend time at the theater, in her garden, or getting lost in a good book. She lives in Ohio with her husband, two kids (Lillian and Jack), and two dogs.

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Review: Over and Under the Waves

Today I want to share the latest addition to one of my favorite non-fiction series! Over and Under the Waves by Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal is a stunning picture book that shares the biodiversity of California’s kelp forests through a story about one family’s day on the waves.

Title: Over and Under The Waves
Author: Kate Messner
Illustrator: Christopher Silas Neal
Published: September 13, 2022
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Format: Picture Book

Following one family as they spend the afternoon kayaking in Monterey Bay, Over and Under The Waves introduces young readers to the wide range of animals that call the kelp forests home, from the smallest acorn barnacles to huge humpback whales.

Like the rest of the Over and Under series, Over and Under the Waves seamlessly transports readers into another environment. Kate Messner’s text pairs perfectly with Christopher Silas Neal’s illustrations, drawing the reader deeper into the story and the kelp forest. With the perfect combination of education and entertainment, I can’t recommend this one enough!

With backmatter including an Author’s Note, additional facts about the variety of species mentioned, and suggestions for further reading, Over and Under the Waves is a must-have for classroom and school libraries.

Over and Under the Waves officially releases next week (September 13, 2022) but you can preorder your copy today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Thank you so much to Chronicle Books for providing me with a review copy of Over and Under the Waves! I know my own little one will be fascinated with this book for years to come!

About The Author:

Kate Messner is the award-winning author of Over and Under the Snow, Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, Over and Under the Pond, Over and Under the Rainforest, Over and Under the Canyon, How to Read a Story, and The Brilliant Deep, as well as more than a dozen other books for young readers. Kate lives on Lake Champlain with her family. When she’s not writing, she loves spending time outside—cross-country skiing, hiking, swimming, and digging in her gardens.

About The Illustrator:

Christopher Silas Neal is the award-winning artist of Over and Under the Snow, Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, Over and Under the Pond, Over and Under the Rainforest, and Over and Under the Canyon. His work has been published in a variety of books and magazines and featured on television. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn.

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Review: Choosing Brave : How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement

Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement by Angela Joy and Janelle Washington is a stunning picture book biography that captures a difficult lesson in American history for young readers in a remarkably age-appropriate way. Choosing Brave follows the life of Mamie Till-Mobley, who was the mother of Emmett Till. Emmett Till was a young Black boy who was murdered after he allegedly whistled at a white woman in Mississippi in 1955. Mamie Till-Mobley’s response to this tragedy ignited the Civil Rights Movement and caused her to become The Mother of The Movement.

Title: Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and
Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement

Author: Angela Joy
Illustrator: Janelle Washington
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan Kids)
Published: September 6, 2022
Format: Picture Book

Choosing Brave documents Mamie’s childhood in which her family moved from Mississippi to Illinois during the Great Migration and follows along as she excels at school and graduates at the top of her class. Mamie becomes what many considered an “old maid” when she is unmarried at 18, so she is pressured to marry Louis Till. They have a little boy named Emmett shortly before Louis joins the army and leaves Mamie a widow at the age of 23.

Emmett is raised by Mamie and her mother, who cares for him while Mamie works. When he contracted polio as a child, Emmett recovered but developed a stutter. Mamie taught him a trick to help – by whistling, Emmett could take a moment to stop and get the words out. When he was 14, Emmett Till traveled to visit family in Mississippi, where his body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River a little over a week after he arrived.

Since 1955, there have been many versions of the events that lead to the murder of Emmett Till. As someone who writes non-fiction, I know the challenges this kind of historical ambiguity can create for authors, but Angela Joy handles it flawlessly. She addresses the shifting story, but holds fast to the facts.

Even more impressive to me is the way that Choosing Brave handles the murder of Emmett Till in an age-appropriate way. When I say age-appropriate, I don’t mean that it is skipped over or minimized in any way. Angela Joy does not shy away from the brutality and injustice of Emmett Till’s murder, but directly addresses horrible truths that are too often left out of history books with poetic text. The juxtaposition of the beautiful lyrical language with the horrible act of violence is absolutely haunting.

The illustrations by debut illustrator Janelle Washington are absolute perfection. The paper-cut illustrations are so unique and incredibly moving on every single spread.

Choosing Brave captures the bravery, resilience, and grace of Mamie Till-Mobley, who shared her unimaginable grief and pain with the world. She bared her soul to the country and turned a tragedy into a movement for change. I have a feeling this book is going to win a lot of awards this year, and I cannot recommend it enough.

With extensive backmatter, including an author’s note, illustrator’s note, soundtrack, glossary, and timeline of the events of Emmett Till’s death (including the passing of The Emmett Till Antilynching Act in 2022) Choosing Brave is an absolute must-have for classrooms. I believe this is especially true for the classrooms of white children whose ancestors’ brutality and hatred are so often hidden from them “for their own good”.

It will be officially released next week (September 6, 2022), but you can preorder today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Thank you so much to Roaring Brooks Press and Macmillan Kids for sending me a review copy of Choosing Brave. I am honored to share Mamie Till-Mobley’s and Emmett Till’s stories today.

About The Author:

Before graduating from the University of Minnesota, Angela Joy attended NYU and Spelman College. Angela then traveled as a background vocalist, also working in television and movie soundtracks. She lives in southern California with her family. To learn more about Angela and her work please visit her website at angelajoyblog.com.

About The Illustrator:

Janelle Washington is a self-taught paper-cut artist from Virginia. She has permanent silhouettes housed at the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, DC, and Downing-Gross Community Arts Center in Newport News, Virginia. Please visit Jannelle’s website washingtoncuts.com for more information about her and her work.

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Review: Fighting for YES!: The Story of Disability Rights Activist Judith Heumann

Today I’m sharing a stunning picture book biography that captures the impact and influence of one of America’s greatest living activists. Fighting for YES!: The Story of Disability Rights Activist Judith Heumann celebrates the life and work of disability rights activist and icon Judith Heumann, highlighting one of her landmark achievements—leading the historic 504 Sit-in in 1977.

Title: Fighting for YES!: The Story of Disability Rights Activist Judith Heumann
Author: Maryann Cocca-Leffler
Illustrator: Vivien Mildenberger
Publisher: Abrams Books For Young Readers
Published: August 9, 2022
Format: Picture Book

Beginning with her childhood in New York, Fighting For Yes! highlights the many ways the world often told Judy “No”. As a child, she was turned away from multiple schools because she used a wheelchair. Though her family never treated her differently, the world held different expectations for her, and those expectations often meant she was not allowed to participate in the same activities as other kids her age.

Naturally, Judy turned to activism in her adult years. She spoke out against the unfair treatment of people with disabilities and the lack of accessibility at her university. When the New York Board of Education told Judy she couldn’t be a teacher because she used a wheelchair, she had finally had enough of the “No”s. She decided to sue the Board of Education, bringing the first disability civil rights case to a federal court. She contacted the media and rallied support for her cause. Because Judy fought back, she finally got a “Yes” instead of a “No”. She won her case and the New York Board of Education could no longer discriminate against teachers with disabilities.

But this wasn’t Judy’s major accomplishment. She went on to become an advocate for the disabled community, leading and founding organizations like Disabled In Action and The American Coalition of Citizens With Disabilities. It was with the support of this community of activists that Judy and her fellow demonstrators were able to successfully organize a sit-in lasting twenty-four days to pressure Congress to sign Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 – an amendment that paved the way for the American Disabilities Act.

Fighting For Yes! wonderfully captures the fighting spirit of a woman who changed our country for the better, but I absolutely love the way it highlights the ways we can all fight for one another. Judy was a wheelchair user, but her activism didn’t stop at wheelchair access. She wanted to include ALL disabled people in her activism. This kind of inclusion is so necessary in every fight, and I love that Fighting For Yes! shares it with young readers.

Fighting for Yes! would make a wonderful addition to classroom and school libraries. The back matter contains an educational Author’s Note, as well as a note from Judith Heumann herself, giving young readers a personal look into her reflections on her achievements.

Though Fighting For Yes! officially releases next week (August 9, 2022), you can preorder your copy today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Thank you so much to Abrams Books For Young Readers for sharing this inspiring picture book biography with me. I am so honored to be able to share Judith’s story with my readers today!

About The Author:

Maryann Cocca-Leffler is an award-winning author and illustrator of more than 65 books for children, including The Power of Yet and We Want to Go to School! The Fight for Disability Rights. She lives and works in Portland, Maine. Visit her at http://www.maryanncoccaleffler.com. 

About The Illustrator:

Vivien Mildenberger is the illustrator of a number of books for children, including All in a Drop and The Voice that Won the Vote. She lives on a lovely farm just outside of Nashville, where she works on her illustrations, pottery, and other general magic-making.

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Review: Kind Like Marsha

Today I’m sharing a book that I’m certain will be on my list of favorites for 2022. Kind Like Marsha: Learning From LGBTQ+ Leaders by Sarah Prager and Cheryl “Ras” Thuesday is a fantastic book that fills a huge hole in the picture book market.

Title: Kind Like Marsha: Learning From LGBTQ+ Leaders
Author: Sarah Prager
Illustrator: Cheryl “Ras” Thuesday
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Published: August 2, 2022
Format: Picture Book

Kind Like Marsha is a picture book biography collection that shares the accomplishments of LGBTQ+ leaders throughout history for readers ages 4-8. I’ve seen lots of picture book biography collections with biographical information in the backmatter, but Kind Like Marsha is the first one I’ve seen that presents biographical information upfront in an approachable way for the youngest readers.

Beginning with Marsha P. Johnson, a trans woman whose activism supported LGBTQ+ youth in her community in New York, each spread has a portrait on the left and a biography on the right. The biography includes the subject’s name, dates, one sentence explaining their accomplishment, a quote from the subject, and the lesson we can all learn from them. I absolutely adore this format because it is SO approachable. Nonfiction can feel intimidating for so many young readers, but Sarah Prager has laid the information out in a way that invites young readers in.

The illustrations by Cheryl “Ras” Thuesday pair perfectly with the biographies, not just giving the reader a face to put with each name, but capturing each leader’s work in such a beautiful way.

Kind Like Marsha officially releases on August 2nd, and I can’t recommend it enough! You can pick up a copy wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Thank you so much to Running Press Kids for sharing this amazing book with me. I can’t wait to read this one over and over to my little one.

About The Author:

Sarah Prager is the author of Queer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World and Rainbow Revolutionaries: 50 LGBTQ+ People Who Made History. She came out as lesbian when she was fourteen and feels grateful for her extended LGBTQ+ family and loves telling the stories of our shared history. She’s written for the New York TimesNational GeographicThe Atlantic, and many other publications about LGBTQ+ topics. Sarah lives with her wife and two children in Massachusetts.

About The Illustrator:

Cheryl “Ras” Thuesday is an illustrator originally from London and who grew up in New Jersey. Her illustrations are heavily influenced by her Caribbean and Asian heritage and she’s created artwork for various worldwide publications and companies. Cheryl lives in the Tri State area.

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Review: The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything

Today is National Astronomy Day, and I can’t think of a better title to celebrate with than The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything: The Story of Maria Mitchell by Laura Alary and Ellen Rooney. This lovely picture book biography chronicles the life of Maria Mitchell, the first professional female astronomer in the United States.

Title: The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything: The Story of Maria Mitchell
Author: Laura Alary
Illustrator: Ellen Rooney
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Published: May 3, 2022 Format: Picture Book

Starting in her childhood in Nantucket, The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything really highlights Maria’s curiosity and determination. As a young child, she learned to use her astronomer father’s tools and begins scanning the night sky for herself. When the King of Denmark offers a prize to the first person to find a comet, Maria was determined to win it, and she did! I don’t want to spoil the fun by telling you all of her accomplishments, so I will just say this discovery opened lots of doors for Maria that were not open to women in the early 18oo’s.

The illustrations by Ellen Rooney are absolutely delightful. I love the way she captures the starry night skies, and the texture on every page is amazing.

The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything is another great picture book biography of a trailblazing woman in STEM, making it a great selection for school and classroom libraries. I love that it encourages children to wonder, and specifically to ask questions. It’s such an important part of learning and growing at any age, and I feel like we don’t encourage questions enough, especially outside of the classroom.

You can pick up your own copy today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Thank you so much to Kids Can Press for sharing this inspiring picture book biography with me!

About The Author:

Laura Alary believes in writing stories that make us bigger on the inside. She is constantly reading and wondering and learning so that she can keep up with all the questions her children ask — especially about science and life on Earth. She grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and currently lives in Toronto with her three children.

About The Illustrator:

Ellen Rooney is an illustrator, designer and artist. She’s originally from Massachusetts, but now lives in the southern Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. She loves graphic shapes, textured color, printmaking, drawing outdoors, painting — and her hidden art powers are released when cutting up paper!

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Flashback Friday: Anna Strong: A Spy During the American Revolution

Continuing of celebration of Women’s History Month, I want to share another picture book biography with you all for Flashback Friday. Published back in 2020, Anna Strong: A Spy During The American Revolution by Sarah Glenn Marsh and Sarah Green tells the fascinating tale of Anna Strong, a woman who is strongly believed to have been one of Washington’s spies during the American Revolution.

Title: Anna Strong: A Spy During The American Revolution
Author: Sarah Glenn Marsh
Illustrator: Sarah Green
Publisher: Abrams Books For Young Readers
Published: March 3, 2020
Format: Picture Book

This slice of life picture book biography begins when George Washington and Major Benjamin Tallmadge begin recruiting a new group of spies called the Culper Ring. Being married to an American soldier, but surrounded by Loyalist relatives, Anna was perfectly positioned to be a spy for America. She and her husband, Selah, both learned Tallmadge’s secret code and began passing information to Washington. Anna continued to inform Washington after her husband was arrested and imprisoned on a ship, eventually devising her own code using clothes hanging on the clothesline.

Though Anna Strong’s identity was so well protected there is no documentation of her participation in the Culper Ring, there are many hints and nods to Anna’s true identity, which is further detailed in the back matter.

The illustrations by Sarah Green are absolutely lovely. I love the juxtaposition of the almost whimsical style of illustration paired with the drama and tension of Anna’s story.

Anna Strong: A Spy During the American Revolution would be a great selection for classrooms and school libraries, proving especially effective in highlighting the undertold stories of women creating change during a time period when they held little to no authority.

You can purchase Anna Strong: A Spy During The American Revolution wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Thank you to Abrams Books for sending me a review copy of this fascinating book. I had never heard of Anna before this book, and I’m so grateful to have learned her story.

About The Author:

Sarah Glenn Marsh obtained her master’s degree in early childhood education with a focus on literacy. She lives near Richmond, Virginia.

About The Illustrator:

Sarah Green is an illustrator and designer based in San Francisco. She illustrated Abrams’s Elizabeth Warren, among other picture books.

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Review: The Faith Of Elijah Cummings (PLUS GIVEAWAY!)

For the last day of Black History Month, I want to share another picture book biography celebrating the life of an icon of Black History. The Faith of Elijah Cummings: The North Star of Equal Justice by Carole Boston Weatherford and Laura Freeman shares the inspiring life story of Elijah Cummings.

Title: The Faith of Elijah Cummings: The North Star of Equal Justice
Author: Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrator: Laura Freeman
Publisher: Random House Kids
Published: January 11, 2022
Format: Picture Book

Beginning with his childhood in South Carolina as a child of sharecroppers, young readers follow Elijah’s journey all the way to the U.S. House of Representatives and the Congressional Black Caucus. Growing up in America in the 50’s, Elijah Cummings was no stranger to discrimination, segregation, or racism, and this picture book does not shy away from those subjects. Instead, Carole Boston Weatherford beautifully highlights Elijah Cumming’s faith and the way it allowed him to persevere and become a warrior for equality and change.

Laura Freeman’s illustrations pair perfectly with Weatherford’s text and bring Elijah’s story to life with every page turn. Fans of Standing on Her Shoulders and The Highest Tribute will be happy to see the familiar way she captures emotion in the faces of her subjects.

As Carole Boston Weatherford’s titles always do, The Faith of Elijah Cummings includes a wonderful backmatter. The timeline and excerpt from the Congressional Black Caucus would make a great addition to history lessons. The Faith of Elijah Cummings is a must have for school and classroom libraries!

You can purchase your copy of The Faith of Elijah Cummings today, wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Thank you so much to Blue Slip Media and Random House Kids for sending me a review copy of this powerful book. I am honored to share Elijah Cummings’ story with readers today.

About The Author:

Carole Boston Weatherford, a two-time NAACP Image Award winner, is the author of the Newbery Honor Book Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom, as well as three Caldecott Honor Books, including Freedom in Congo Square and Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom. She also wrote Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins. Born in Baltimore, she first encountered Elijah Cummings when he was president of the Monumental City Bar Association, an affiliate of the National Bar Association, for which she was publicist. Weatherford teaches at Fayetteville State University, in North Carolina.

About The Illustrator:

Laura Freeman is a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honoree. Her work has been recognized with an NAACP Image Award, reached the New York Times bestseller List, and been honored by the Society of Illustrators, the Georgia Center for the Book, and in the annuals for Communication Arts and American Illustration. In addition to illustrating books, Laura’s art can be found on a wide range of products, from dishes and textiles to greeting cards, and her editorial images are frequently seen in the New York Times and other periodicals. She invites you to visit her website, LFreemanArt.com, to discover more about her.


I am excited to announce that I am giving away a copy of The Faith of Elijah Cummings, along with a copy of Opal Lee and What it Means to be Free by Alice Faye Duncan and Keturah A. Bobo and My First Heroes: Black History by Silver Dolphin Books to help you bring Black history into your reading year round! You can find all the entry details on the Rafflecopter giveaway.

This giveaway is open to US residents only. One lucky winner will be notified via email on March 8, 2022. Good luck and happy reading!

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Review: Ablaze With Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas

Today I want to share another picture book biography with you all, because you know they’re my favorites. Following the life of Alma Thomas, the first Black woman to have her work added to the White House Collection, Ablaze With Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas by Jeanne Walker Harvey and Loveis Wise is a wonderful selection for both Black History Month and Women’s History Month.

Title: Ablaze With Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas
Author: Jeanne Walker Harvey
Illustrator: Loveis Wise
Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s
Published: February 22, 2022
Format: Picture Book

Beginning with Alma’s childhood in Georgia, where her family filled their home with creativity despite the racism they faced, Ablaze With Color follows her story through her successful career as an educator, all the way to the day her art was hung in the Old Family Dining Room of The White House. This stunning picture book biography is a celebration of Alma Thomas’ art, and the beauty and joy she brought to the world.

The illustrations by Loveis Wise perfectly capture that beauty and joy. The vibrant colors on every page mirror Alma’s signature style and bring her remarkable story to life.

With substantial backmatter, including an Author’s Note, Illustrator’s Note, and timeline, Ablaze With Color is a must-have for the shelves of classrooms and school libraries.

Ablaze With Color officially released yesterday (February 22, 2022), so you can pick up your copy wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Many thanks to Blue Slip Media and Harper Collins Children’s for sharing a review copy of Ablaze With Color with me. I am so honored to learn about Alma Thomas and share her story today.

About The Author:

Jeanne Walker Harvey has been a longtime docent at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Just like Alma Thomas, Jeanne believes that art brings us joy. Her other picture books include Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines and My Hands Sing the BluesRomare Bearden’s Childhood Journey. Jeanne studied literature and psychology at Stanford University. She lives in Northern California. Visit her online at www.jeanneharvey.com.

About The Illustrator:

Loveis Wise is a nonbinary illustrator and designer from Washington, DC, now based in Los Angeles. They have collaborated and imagined with clients such as the New Yorkerthe New York Times, HarperCollins, Google, Disney Hyperion, and Adobe, to name a few. Their work often speaks to themes of joy, mindfulness, and liberation. 

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Review: Opal Lee and What It Means To Be Free

If you’re looking for a picture book biography to celebrate Black History Month, I have a great selection for you today. Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth by Alice Faye Duncan and Keturah A. Bobo is a beautiful picture book celebrating Opal Lee, a teacher and civil rights activist who led a movement to make Juneteenth a national holiday.

Title: Opal Lee and What it Means To Be Free
Author: Alice Faye Duncan
Illustrator: Keturah A. Bobo
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Published: January 11, 2022
Format: Picture Book

In Opal Lee and What it Means to Be Free, young readers follow along as Miss Opal Lee shares a Juneteenth story. Beginning with the history of Juneteenth, she recounts the stories passed down to her about June 19, 1865, when the enslaved people of Galveston, Texas were finally informed of their freedom two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was passed. Miss Opal Lee shares stories of Juneteenths from her childhood during the Jim Crow era, including the Juneteenth when her family’s Texas home was burned down by angry, racist neighbors.

Even through the discussion of the struggles faced by Black people throughout history, Alice Faye Duncan does a beautiful job of highlighting the joys in Opal Lee’s life and the celebration of freedom that Juneteenth is. As Miss Opal Lee says, “Good and bad work together like the sun and rain.”, and that balance is found throughout the entire book.

The illustrations by New York Times bestselling illustrator Keturah A. Bobo do not disappoint. She brings Opal Lee’s story to life on every page with her familiar style.

The backmatter contains a recipe for Juneteenth Red Punch, a timeline detailing the journey to Juneteenth being signed into law as a federal holiday by Joe Biden (With a 94 year old Opal Lee by his side), and detailed information about Opal Lee’s life, making it a great selection for classrooms, school libraries, and homeschoolers.

You can find your copy of Opal Lee and What it Means to Be Free where books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Thank you so much to Thomas Nelson for sharing this inspiring book with me. I am honored to be able to share Miss Opal Lee’s story with everyone today!

Abouth The Author:

Alice Faye Duncan is a National Board Certified Teacher, who writes for young learners. Memory is her motivation. She writes to help children remember important moments from African American history. Her books are celebrated for vivid imagery and lyrical texts that sound like music. Alice’s most popular titles include A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks; Just Like a Mama; Honey Baby Sugar Child; and Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop, which received a 2019 Coretta Scott King Honor Medal. Alice lives in Memphis, Tennessee, where at a young age, her mother nurtured her writing talent with prayer, poetry books, and praise. Her website is http://www.alicefayeduncan.com.

About The Illustrator:

Keturah A. Bobo is an artist and New York Times bestselling illustrator known for creating vibrant images that are relatable and distinguishable. She is passionate about creating art that inspires, uplifts, and advocates for her community. Keturah has received notable praises for her colorful illustrative style that brings the story to life and resonates with the viewer. She graduated with a BFA from Columbus College of Art and Design and lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her family of entrepreneurs. Visit Keturah online at http://www.keturahariel.com.

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