Lizzie Murphy grew up in the early twentieth century in a baseball-loving family. Lizzie was both eager to play and savvy, bargaining her way onto her brother’s team. By fifteen, she was playing on two amateur teams. At eighteen, she set out to earn a living playing baseball, despite her mother’s concern. “But it’s what I do best,” Lizzie replied. To the manager of the semi-pro team who signed her, as a woman Lizzie was a novelty who would bring more people into the stadium to see the game. But Lizzie was a good player and she demanded to be paid the same as her male teammates. Not long after, her mother gave her a jersey with her name across the front.
Vaunda Micheaux Nelson revisits the topic of Lewis Michaux and the National Memorial African Bookstore that were the subject of her singular young adult novel No Crystal Stair, here introducing her great uncle and his Harlem store in a picture book told in the engaging fictionalized voice of Lewis Michaux’s son. Young Louie shares the history of the store, which his father could not get a bank loan to open because the banker believed “Black people don’t read.” And he shares a sense of the vibrant, vivid gathering place the store is, with its “zillion books” by Black people—African Americans, Africans—and others who aren’t white.
“While you turn the pages of this book, the world doesn’t stop…” A picture book that begins and ends with an awareness of the book itself as both physical object and source of engagement also launches reader’s and listeners on a journey around the world, offering glimpses of things happening at the same moment in time. A boat tossed by a storm in the Baltic Sea, passengers stuck on an elevator in New York City, a soccer ball flying toward a window in Greece, a man resting on a bench in Tokyo, a thief entering a home (perhaps his own, it’s playfully noted) in Pescara, Italy.
An informative and deeply moving chronicle of Hurricane Katrina opens as “a swirl of unremarkable wind leaves African and breezes toward the Americas. It draws energy from the warm Atlantic water and grows in size.” As he did in The Great American Dust Bowl, Don Brown offers a factual account that makes brilliant use of the graphic novel form both to provide information and to underscore the human impact and toll of a disaster. As the storm builds and unleashes its power, it wreaks havoc—on levees and on neighborhood and on people, so many people.
Sanitary engineer and chemist George Soper functioned as a “germ detective” in the early 20th century. After a typhoid outbreak in Ithaca, New York, in 1903 infected local residents and Cornell University students, Soper tracked the contamination source to a creek and recommended better practices in outhouse siting and maintenance, as well as construction of a city water filtration plant. When six members of the Thompson family of New York City fell ill with typhoid in the summer of 1906, the family hired Soper. Through a meticulous process of elimination Soper determined that a cook, Mary Mallon, was the most likely source of the bacteria.
A history of the Stonewall riots sets the scene with a vibrant description of west Greenwich Village in 1969. That summer, the Stonewall Inn was a place to drink and to dance and for gays, lesbians, cross-dressers and transgenders, a place to be free and open. Everyone knew police raids happened, but the raid on June 28 was different, with its aim to shut the Mafia-run bar down. And it was different because this time bar patrons, who were so often disrespected and closeted outside places like the Stonewall, pushed back. Stonewall customers and their supporters took control against the police, who hadn’t planned on the crowd getting so angry and who didn’t know the warren of streets in the neighborhood as well as those who lived or hung out there.
As a child, Mary Nohl helped her father build a house along the shore of Lake Michigan just north of Milwaukee and was “happiest when her hands were busy making, building, creating things.” Mary grew up to travel all over the world and was captivated by the art in the places she visited. When she came back home to the house she’d helped build, she began to collect found objects on the beach, with the help of her dogs Sassafras and Basil. The things she gathered were part of something bigger—a creature she could see her in imagination and soon set about bringing into being.
Millo Castro Zaldarriaga was born in Cuba in the 1920s and grew up attuned to the rhythms in the world around her, and inside her. She dreamed of drumming, but only boys and men learned how to play at that time. She dared to drum anyway, “tall conga drums / small bongo drums / and big, round, silvery / moon-bright timbales … Her hands seemed to fly / as they rippled / rapped / and pounded / all the rhythms / of her drum dreams.” Her father said no when her sisters asked ten-year-old Millo to join their band. Only boys should play drums, he said. But Millo couldn’t silence the sounds.
Robbie Robertson’s rise to fame as a founding member of The Band, and writer of some of the iconic songs of the late 1960s and early 1970s, is chronicled by his son Sebastian in a substantial and engaging picture book biography. From the time he was a young child visiting his Mohawk relatives on the Six Nations Reservation in Canada, Robertson was immersed in “rhythm, melodies, and storytelling.” And from the time he got his first guitar, he spent hours practicing. “On the reservation, eleven-year-old Robbie had surpassed the adults as the best guitarist.”