Review of Claudette Colvin and Harriet Tubman

Claudette Colvin [She Persisted]
by Lesa Cline-Ransome; illus. by Gillian Flint
Primary, Intermediate    Philomel    80 pp.    g
2/21    978-0-593-11583-1    $14.99
Paper ed.  978-0-593-11584-8    $5.99
e-book ed.  978-0-593-11585-5    $5.99

Harriet Tubman [She Persisted]
by Andrea Davis Pinkney; illus. by Gillian Flint
Primary, Intermediate    Philomel    80 pp.    g
1/21     978-0-593-11565-7     $14.99
Paper ed.  978-0-593-11566-4    $5.99
e-book ed.  978-0-593-11567-1    $5.99

A note from Chelsea Clinton (author of the picture-book series off which this new chapter-book series was spun) opens each title. Clinton describes partnering with a “sisterhood of writers” to bring readers “inspiring and empowering” chapter-book biographies: “I wanted young girls — and young boys, too — to see women who worked hard to live their dreams.” Cline-Ransome and Pinkney present the stories of their subjects, Claudette Colvin and Harriet Tubman, respectively, through engaging and informative narratives that include detail beyond the actions for which they are most famous. Colvin, the teenage activist who defied bus segregation laws nine months before Rosa Parks, is shown grieving her sister’s untimely death. Tubman, abolitionist and renowned conductor on the Underground Railroad, had an unhappy marriage. The inclusion of these challenges paints deeper portraits of the women and showcases how they persisted through multiple hardships (though Colvin’s pregnancy as a teenager is not mentioned). In both books, the text succeeds in being simultaneously utilitarian and lyrical, with abundant figurative language and some direct quotations bringing scenes to life. The books build up context by addressing topics such as enslavement and Jim Crow laws so that readers have background knowledge to clearly comprehend Tubman’s and Colvin’s actions. Short chapters, wide margins, and emotive illustrations (seen as sketches) function to support middle-grade nonfiction chapter-book readers. Back matter includes references as well as a list of suggested actions labeled “How You Can Persist.”

From the March/April 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Elisa Gall

Elisa Gall is a teacher-librarian at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. 

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