Reviews of the 2023 Sibert Award Winners


Seen and Unseen: What Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake, and Ansel Adams’s Photographs Reveal About the Japanese American Incarceration
by Elizabeth Partridge; illus. by Lauren Tamaki
Intermediate, Middle School    Chronicle    132 pp.    g
10/22    978-1-4521-6510-3    $21.99

Numerous books have been written about the forced removal and imprisonment of Japanese Americans during WWII, but what sets this one apart is Partridge’s focus on how three different photographers visually documented their experiences in one camp: Manzanar. Dorothea Lange, already known for her body of work during the Great Depression, took pictures for the War Relocation Authority from March to July 1942; her empathy and awareness of injustice are apparent, but many of her photos were impounded by the army. Photographer Toyo Miyatake was himself imprisoned in Manzanar from 1942–1945; he smuggled camera parts in and was able to take candid shots of people in the community as well as a few photos of forbidden things like the guard towers. Ansel Adams, famed for photographing the natural beauty of California’s landscapes, came to Manzanar in fall 1943. He wanted his photos to show the prisoners as hard-working, cheerful, and resilient in preparation for their eventual release; but they suggest an overly idealized view. The other significant feature of this book is how the design incorporates the black-and-white photographs so organically that it often feels like an extended picture book. Tamaki’s ink and watercolor illustrations create a cohesive whole that encompasses both the text and historical artifacts, while extending and deepening the visceral qualities of the narrative. Extensive back matter covers, among other things, biographical vignettes; careful source notes and photo credits; and essays on citizenship, civil liberties, the model minority myth, and the use of terminology to describe the camps. JONATHAN HUNT

From the September/October 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Honor Books

Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement
by Angela Joy; illus. by Janelle Washington
Primary, Intermediate    Roaring Brook    64 pp.    g
8/22    978-1-250-22095-0    $19.99

This powerful picture-book biography reverently portrays the life of Mamie Till-Mobley (1921–2003), whose defiant act of bravery following the 1955 murder of her son, Emmett, brought a spiritual essence to — and helped ignite — the civil rights movement. Joy’s (Black Is a Rainbow Color, rev. 1/20) lyrical free-verse narrative opens on August 31, 1955, when “the sheriff set out to dig a grave…to hide the crime in the mud of Mississippi…But Mamie did the harder thing. She said, ‘No. You send my son home.’” The text then goes back to Mamie’s childhood outside of Chicago, where the family moved from Mississippi during the Great Migration. She excelled in school, graduating at the top of her class, and later married Louis Till. They had a baby, Emmett, whose bout with polio left him with a stutter. One summer, relatives invited Emmett to spend time with them in Mississippi. Mamie said no, fearful of the Jim Crow South. Although she finally agreed, still, “Sometimes a mother gets a feeling, an ache deep down in her soul — a warning.” The heart of the story is what happens following Emmett’s brutal murder. Mamie’s resolve not to let her son be forgotten leads her to a crusade of social justice and advocacy — not only for Emmett but for “sons and daughters still living.” Washington’s dramatic paper-cut art, featuring bold black-and-white silhouettes and figures on brown backgrounds with blue, brown, and red tissue-paper accents, perfectly captures the courage and dignity of the subject. Rich back matter includes author and illustrator notes, a playlist, a timeline, and a bibliography. PAULETTA BROWN BRACY

From the September/October 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


A Seed GrowsA Seed Grows
by Antoinette Portis; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Porter/Holiday    40 pp.    g
6/22    978-0-8234-4892-0    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-0-8234-5307-8    $11.99

With her latest science-focused picture book, Portis (Hey, Water!, rev. 3/19) continues to introduce very young readers and listeners to the wonders of nature. Here she details the life cycle of a sunflower in ten sequential steps. Each left-hand page features a single phrase (“a seed falls” / “and settles in the soil”), with the ­facing page showing a bright, uncluttered ­illustration mirroring the action. The story’s climax — the blossoming of a flower — is shown in a gorgeous vertical spread that lifts up to announce this glorious event. The patterned text creates an internal rhythm pleasant to hear, while the single phrases on each line help emergent readers focus on both the flow and meaning of the words. Key words (seed, soil, sun, rain) are color coded to the accompanying illustration, thus reinforcing the use of context clues. The narrative concludes with birds dispersing the seeds from our flower and beginning the process anew. Back matter consists of a pictorial life cycle of the sunflower, truncating the steps from the text to present a helpful visual capture of the book’s information. An accompanying diagram of the parts of a sunflower may require adult guidance, as may two charts: one showing the parts of a seed and the other listing what seeds need to sprout. A bibliography completes the book. Clear, engaging, beautiful, and perfectly pitched to its young audience — simply brilliant. BETTY CARTER

From the May/June 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Sweet Justice: Georgia Gilmore and the Montgomery Bus Boycott
by Mara Rockliff; illus. by R. Gregory Christie
Primary, Intermediate    Random House Studio/Random    40 pp.    g
1/22    978-1-5247-2064-3    $18.99
Library ed.  978-1-5247-2065-0    $21.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5247-2066-7    $11.99

Rockliff and Christie focus their story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott on a little-heralded — yet integral — member of the movement, culinary whiz Georgia Gilmore (1920–1990). Once the boycott began, Gilmore and her “Club from Nowhere” (so dubbed to help members avoid retaliatory action) sold baked goods and donated their earnings to the cause. Although Gilmore did, in fact, lose her job after testifying at Dr. King’s trial following his arrest for organizing the boycott, she was able to succeed when he encouraged her to start her own catering business. Gilmore’s home became a place for members of the movement to gather not just to eat good food but to hash out matters relevant to the boycott. Rockliff repeats certain phrases to great effect (“Summer heated up…The boycotters trudged on. Fall passed…The boycotters plodded on”) and nods to Gilmore’s mouthwatering menu offerings (“The empty buses made city officials hotter than Georgia’s collard greens with pepper sauce”). Christie’s vivid, painterly illustrations bring the 1950s setting to life and show Gilmore’s importance to the cause; she is pictured in nearly every spread, cooking, baking, bringing money to a boycott strategy meeting, and more. Appended with an “After the Boycott” page, which focuses on Gilmore’s later life; an author’s note on sources; and a source list. Pair with Romito and Freeman’s Pies from Nowhere (rev. 11/18). SAM BLOOM

From the January/February 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


The Tower of Life: How Yaffa Eliach Rebuilt Her Town in Stories and Photographs
by Chana Stiefel; illus. by Susan Gal
Primary    Scholastic    40 pp.
10/22    9781338225891    $18.99



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