Review of Saving American Beach: The Biography of African American Environmentalist MaVynee Betsch

Saving American Beach: The Biography of African American Environmentalist MaVynee Betsch
by Heidi Tyline King; illus. by Ekua Holmes
Primary, Intermediate    Putnam    40 pp.    g
4/21    978-1-101-99629-4    $17.99

American Beach in northeast Florida is now a protected part of the National Park Service, but it began as a private beach bought by African American millionaire Abraham Lincoln Lewis in 1935 to allow Black people a respite from segregated beaches (where “there was even a rope in the ocean” to keep the races separate). It was a childhood haven for future opera singer (and Lewis’s great-granddaughter) MaVynee Betsch, who found a second career in saving the beach, which fell into neglect after civil rights gains had made it redundant. Author and illustrator work in exceptional harmony here to bring MaVynee and the beach to life, with Holmes depicting in acrylic and collage the beauty of the “ocean paradise where [­Lewis’s] family and other black people could swim, picnic, and build sandcastles.” Even later, when MaVynee returns to the now-abandoned beach, nursing her own depression, Holmes finds beauty in the sadness, using the long horizontals of the spreads to glorious and poignant effect. Author and illustrator notes along with sources provide and point to further information about MaVynee Betsch.

From the July/August 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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