The Brothers Kennedy: John, Robert, Edward

The Brothers KennedyThe Brothers Kennedy: John, Robert, Edward. Written by Kathleen Krull. Illustrated by Amy June Bates. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2010. 40 pages. Publisher recommends for ages 4-8. ISBN: 9781416991588.

The Brothers Kennedy captures the magic and tragedy of Joseph Kennedy’s sons. The first part of the book features a chapter each on the childhood and young adulthood of Joe, John, Robert and Edward. Each brother is different, but each has a strong sense of competitiveness, of the importance of public service, of compassion and of fairness.

The second part of the book addresses the hope represented by John and Robert and Edward, and the tragic loss of hope with the deaths of Joe and John and Robert. It also looks at Edward’s the long career in the Senate, carrying forward the vision of the Kennedy’s. John and Robert both work for civil rights for African-Americans. Edward was present when Barack Obama was nominated by the Democratic Party to be its presidential candidate.

The book doesn’t present a complete picture of the Kennedy brothers. There is no mention of Chappaquiddick or of the famous womanizing of the Kennedy men. It doesn’t address the intricacies of John’s policies as president. There’s no need for a complete picture in this book, in fact it would be inappropriate for the target age group. This is a book that presents the magic of the Kennedys to a new generation.

The illustrations are outstanding. My favorite is an illustration of John as he wins the presidency and is inaugurated. All but one of the illustrations contain boys and young men full of energy. Towards the end of the book is an illustration of Edward sitting on the stage as Barack Obama accepts the Democratic presidential nomination. He is old and ill in this illustration, an elder statesman who has lived see what he worked so hard to bring about.

There are extensive notes at the end of the book, as well as a timeline and a list of sources.

I worry that kids in school today don’t have the same feeling about the Kennedys that I do. It’s a feeling that’s hard to put into words, but Kathleen Krull and Amy June Bates capture it in their words and illustrations.

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What Was the March on Washington?

What Was the March on WashingtonWhat Was the March on Washington? Written by Kathleen Krull. Illustrated by Tim Tomkinson. Grosset & Dunlap, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2013. 128 pages. Publisher recommends for ages 8 to 12. ISBN: 9780448462875.

I was five years old on August 28, 1963. I remember that my brother and I stayed with neighbors while my parents rode on a school bus from New Jersey to Washington DC. My brother, who was almost two, cried all night long and kept me awake. I was forced to eat a tomato at dinner. My parents came home and talked about how hard it was to sleep on a school bus and how hot it was in Washington. I thought they had done something very important by going to the March. I knew they enjoyed the camaraderie of the day, but they never told me anything about the speakers or the singers.

In reading “What Was the March on Washington?” I found out much more about the March. I now know about the meticulous planning that went into the March. I know about the people, 250,000 people arriving on bus after bus and train after train. I know the path the March took. I’ve always known that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech at the March. But now I know all the other speakers and singers, and I know that Dr. King stopped reading from his speech and started speaking from his heart when he began talking about his dream.

Krull presents all this information very clearly. She starts by describing the racism that existed in this country at that time, and also the key events of the Civil Rights struggle before the March. After that she explains the extensive preparation for the March, undertaken by Randolph and by Bayard Rustin. She talks at length about the March itself, and then addresses the time after the March: the death of JFK, the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the death of Dr. King.

In the middle of the book are 16 pages of black-and-white photos. The book has many black-and-white drawings, mostly of the people involved. It helps to have those images in one’s mind when reading about the people. At the end there’s a timeline and a bibliography.

The book is fun to read, and I’m so glad to know more about what my parents saw and heard while I was gagging on a tomato.

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What Was The Boston Tea Party?

What Was The Boston Tea PartyWhat Was the Boston Tea Party? Written by Kathleen Krull. Illustrated by Lauren Mortimer. Cover illustration by James Bennett. Grosset & Dunlap, An Imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2013. 128 pages. Publisher recommends for ages 8-12.  ISBN: 9780448462882.

I learned about the Boston Tea Party in elementary school many years ago. Now I only remember that a bunch of people in Boston got mad at the British and dumped a lot of tea in the Boston harbor.

In “What Was the Boston Tea Party?” one can almost hear the drumbeat of events starting at the end of the French and Indian War and leading to the Boston Tea Party. To begin with, the British, who had never levied direct taxes against the colonists, demanded the colonists pay for the French and Indian war and levied the Stamp Tax to collect payment. As soon as the Stamp Tax ended, due to universal protest among the colonists, the Townshend Acts passed. In order to keep the colonists in line, British troops were sent to Boston. However, this only enraged the colonists further.  British troops had previously only been used to protect the colonists, not police them. One event like this followed another. Kathleen Krull makes clear, by marching through each of these events, that the Boston Tea Party was inevitable. And the Boston Tea Party was, she says “one of the most powerful protests ever, rocking the world and in time leading to the birth of a whole new country.”

I thought the Boston Tea Party was a chaotic event. Not so! It was very well planned and well-orchestrated and it was quiet. It was also a nonviolent event and is thus significant to the nonviolent political movements that followed.

The book spends a bit of time after the Boston Tea Party explaining the events between the tea party, in 1773, and the beginning of the Revolutionary War in 1775.

In the middle of the book there are 16 pages of photographs and photos of paintings including portraits of leaders of the Revolutionary War and pictures that record well known events such as an engraving by Paul Revere of the Boston Massacre.

The illustrations are pen and ink with details that add to the story.

In the back of the book there is a timeline of the Boston Tea Party as well as a timeline of the world. There is a bibliography which includes both books and websites. Unfortunately, there is no index.

I am so glad to know the context of the Boston Tea Party. It enhances my appreciation of the generation of Americans that included our founding fathers.

 Nonfiction Monday

A Kids’ Guide to America’s Bill of Rights: Curfews, Censorship, and the 100-Pound Giant

A kids guide to Americas Bill of RightsA Kids’ Guide to America’s Bill of Rights: Curfews, Censorship, and the 100-Pound Giant.  Written by Kathleen Krull.  Illustrated by Anna Divito.  HarperCollins, 1999.  240 pages.  Publisher recommends for ages 8-12.  ISBN: 9780380974979.

A Kids’ Guide to America’s Bill of Rights begins with an overview of the Bill of Rights, the first 10 Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The overview is followed by three chapters about the First Amendment and then includes one chapter about each subsequent Amendment.  Each chapter contains the wording of the Amendment, examples to clarify the Amendment, an idea of which rights the authors of the Bill of Rights intended to protect, and a discussion of Supreme Court cases involving the Amendment.  Where it is appropriate, Krull compares rights in other countries to the rights guaranteed by the particular Amendment she is discussing.  Also where appropriate, Krull discusses the impact of the particular Amendment on kids.

Some of the Amendments, for instance the Eighth Amendment which protects against cruel and unusual punishment, bring up difficult subjects such as capital punishment. Krull deals with these subjects in a very straightforward way, neither shirking from them nor overdramatizing them.

Krull’s political leanings are clear. When discussing the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to bear arms, Krull lists multiple organizations that support gun control. She also lists the National Rifle Association, which opposes gun control, but she does not list any other organizations that oppose gun control. Some bias is also clear in her text. I did not feel her bias compromised her clarity in discussing each Amendment.  However, kids from liberal families might be more comfortable with this book than kids from conservative families.

The illustrations add humor and echo points raised by the text.

The book was published in 1999.  I’d love to see a post 9/11 version of the book.

This book is written with a great deal of reverence for the Bill of Rights. As Krull says in the last sentence of the book “But most people, especially newly arrived immigrants from other countries, will agree: Through the freedom it protects, the Bill of Rights has contributed towards making the United States unlike any other nation on earth.”

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull.  Illustrated by Yuyi Morales.  Harcourt, Inc. 2003.  48 pages.  Publisher recommends for grades 1-3. ISBN: 9780152014377.

Cesar Chavez was born in Arizona in 1927.  He lived an idyllic life there until the drought came in 1937.  His family moved to California to become migrant workers.  Chavez was appalled by the poor working conditions, very low pay, long hours without rest or access to clean drinking water or bathrooms.  In his early 20s, Chavez devoted himself to a lifelong fight for the rights of farm workers.  The fight, in Chavez view, had to be non-violent.

Nonviolence is a powerful tool in seeking political change. Chavez was strongly influenced by the work of Mahatma Gandhi in India and Martin Luther King Jr. in the United States. Chavez convinced farm workers to use the nonviolent technique of boycotting picking grapes for one of the many grape growers in the Central Valley.  He publicized his cause by marching from Delano in the Central Valley of California to Sacramento, the capital of California. When he began, only 67 other people marched with him. By the time he arrived in Sacramento, more than 300 miles away, 10,000 people were marching with him.  In the middle of the March, the grape company gave in to the boycotting farm workers and signed a contract with them.  This was the first contract for farm workers in the United States.

The illustrations are rounded and flowing in rich, deep colors. They capture the emotions of the story, from the idyllic life in Arizona to the excitement when the marchers reached Sacramento.

The last two pages of the book are called “Author’s Note” and give some adult level background about the life and work of Cesar Chavez.

This book is listed as a biography of Cesar Chavez, but it is also a vivid story about the power of nonviolence in seeking change.