Saturday, December 01, 2018

Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town Reviews

Deepest thanks for these wonderful reviews of our new book!


A little girl and her family join the Kansas land rush.
The cover welcomes readers into this story about Dede Patton and her family. Both of Dede’s parents work extra jobs, and Dede shines shoes at the train station, all in hopes of paying off their sharecropping debt so they can move west. But no matter how much they work, they don’t make enough (context on the sharecropping economy is provided in a note). An act of providence changes their fortunes when honest Dede returns a customer’s wallet and receives a monetary reward. Though not remarked upon, the fact that without this windfall the Pattons might never have realized their dream is chilling. The lovely, warm watercolor illustrations highlight the beauty of the prairie, particularly the wide expanse of grass and sky. In Kansas, the Pattons stake their land claim, but winter is harsh. Thankfully, when food and fuel run low, Ni-u-kon-ska (Osage) neighbors lend aid. Eventually more people arrive, African-American like the Pattons; their settlement becomes a town, and the Pattons’ dream of holding the deed for their land is realized. The closing note acknowledges the displacement of the Ni-u-kon-ska people—another opportunity for exploration. That the many all-black settlements on the prairie have been whitewashed out of U.S. history makes this book an important one.
Visually charming, enjoyable, and educational. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-8075-2535-7
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Whitman
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2018

Growing up in the South during the 1870s, Dede dreams that someday she and her parents can stop sharecropping and start farming their own land. With hard work, long hours, and a bit of luck, they gather enough money to move to Kansas and claim “land for colored folks” near Nicodemus, a new town on the prairie. Treated kindly by their neighbors, they spend several years fencing, planting, and harvesting in order to prove their claim on the land. When they succeed, their community gathers to celebrate outside their dugout home. An appended note comments on sharecropping, the Exodusters, the forced removal of Native Americans from the Great Plains, and the history of Nicodemus. LaFaye, whose novel Worth (2004) won the Scott O’Dell Award, lets Dede tell her story and grounds it in engaging period details of her everyday experiences. In a series of emotionally resonant pencil-and-watercolor illustrations, Tadgell clearly expresses the aspirations, labors, and emotions of the main characters. An appealing picture book exploring a part of pioneer history that deserves to be more widely known.
Online: 11/28/2018
Print: 12/1/2018

Forward Reviews

In this story inspired by the many African American pioneers who forged new communities in the Midwest following the Civil War, young Dede’s hardworking family leaves behind a life of indentured servitude for the promise of free farmland in the heart of the prairie. The historic town of Nicodemus, Kansas, springs to life through expressive artwork done in softly fluid lines and hues, conveying all of the hope and joy of the movement.
Reviewed by Pallas Gates McCorquodale

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the author for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Astronaut Annie!


What does Annie want to be?
As career day approaches, Annie wants to keep her job choice secret until her family sees her presentation at school. Readers will figure it out, however, through the title and clues Tadgell incorporates into the illustrations. Family members make guesses about her ambitions that are tied to their own passions, although her brother watches as she completes her costume in a bedroom with a Mae Jemison poster, starry d├ęcor, and a telescope. There’s a celebratory mood at the culminating presentation, where Annie says she wants to “soar high through the air” like her basketball-playing mother, “explore faraway places” like her hiker dad, and “be brave and bold” like her baker grandmother (this feels forced, but oven mitts are part of her astronaut costume) so “the whole world will hear my exciting stories” like her reporter grandfather. Annie jumps off a chair to “BLAST OFF” in a small illustration superimposed on a larger picture depicting her floating in space with a reddish ground below. It’s unclear if Annie imagines this scene or if it’s her future-self exploring Mars, but either scenario fits the aspirational story. Backmatter provides further reading suggestions and information about the moon and four women astronauts, one of whom is Jemison. Annie and her family are all black.
A solid, small step for diversifying STEM stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 6th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-88448-523-0
Page count: 36pp
Publisher: Tilbury House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2018