Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford: Poet Weatherford tells in a series of poems the true Job-like story of Henry Brown, a slave who shipped himself in a wooden box to freedom. Heart-wrenching details and evocative language power the narrative: “My parents, brothers, sisters, and I / Flung apart as if dandelion puffs.” Masters betray their promises to Brown, yet Weatherford shows his hope: “The good Lord anchored me and Nancy in the Word.” After a harrowing 27 hours, the box arrives at the train station in Philadelphia: “Hours pass, and no one greets me. I pray this crate will not be my coffin.”
The Village Blacksmith by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, illustrated by G. Brian Karas: Longfellow’s poem begins: “Under a spreading chestnut tree / The village smithy stands.” Karas sets the poem in modern times with mixed-media illustrations depicting a blacksmith with a pickup truck. He wears modern eye protection. The illustrations highlight the poem’s themes: honest work, worship, and community. On three pages he’s at church. Others show him at his forge: “Week out, week in, from morn till night, / You can hear his bellows blow; / You can hear him swing his heavy sledge, / With measured beat and slow, / Like a sexton ringing the old kirk chimes / When the evening sun is low.”
A Ben of All Trades by Michael J. Rosen: Starting with snippets from Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, Rosen imagines details and dialogue to depict the creative mind of young Ben Franklin. Though he’s at the age to become an apprentice, Ben gets bored doing one thing all day long. His father seeks out different trades for Ben: candle making, joining, boot making, and woodworking. He finally settles on printer—a perfect fit. Matt Tavares’ realistic illustrations show the world in which young Franklin grew up.
Jefferson Measures a Moose by Mara Rockliff: This book is about two things: Jefferson’s love of numbers and the French scientist Buffon, who believed Europe superior to America, especially when it came to the size of its animals. Jefferson heard Buffon’s bluster and wanted to prove him wrong. Illustrations in the style of Punch drawings capture the humor in Jefferson’s quest to find a large animal—a moose—to send to France. Could the moose change Buffon’s mind? Rockliff ends on this note: “Some people have a hard time saying ‘I was wrong.’ Some people would rather DIE. That’s what happened to Buffon.”