Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution. (Rob Sanders)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution., written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Jamey Christoph, the first picture book about the Stonewall Uprising.

Told from the point of view of the Stonewall Inn itself, the building(s), built in 1840s as two separate stables, describe their colorful history throughout the years: converted from stable houses to a bakery, then a restaurant, all as the surrounding Greenwich Village of NYC became known as a place of inclusivity. In the 60’s, the building found itself host to the Stonewall Inn, a club for the then-mostly-underground LGBTQ+ community. It was a place where gay, lesbian, trans, and other members of community could go to be who they were with the people they loved. However, its patrons were systematically harassed by police, who would raid the club frequently. That is, until the night of June 28, 1969, when an act of civil disobedience grew into movement that would define a community forever.

FIFTY. YEARS. That’s how long it took to get a picture book about the Stonewall Uprising, and how wonderful it is that this is the result. The choice to narrate from the buildings’ point of view is inspired – it allows for broad point of view of events that still feels personal and warm, and Sanders manages to endow its narrative with empathy and affection. Christoph’s illustrations are equally lovely, showing a diverse range of the LGBTQ+ community and capturing scenes of protest and revolution in sweeping grandeur. I’m a little disappointed that trans women of color – who are frequently cited as firebrand figures in the uprising – are not covered more (the inciting figure is shown to be a blond woman, likely Stormé DeLarverie, though she is not mentioned by name); however, their contribution is alluded to, both in the text and in the backmatter, which features information on Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera specifically. The length is fine, and JJ was fascinated by the illustrations. Overall, this is a pretty incredible book to finally introduce a watershed moment to little readers. Baby Bookworm approved!

Up In The Leaves: The True Story Of The Central Park Treehouses (Shira Boss)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Up In The Leaves: The True Story Of The Central Park Treehouses, written by Shira Boss and illustrated by Jamey Christoph, a sweet story of a boy’s creativity and love of trees shaping his destiny.

Bob had never been a huge fan of the city life: the noise, the traffic, the crowds. So after school, he would head straight to Central Park and climb up into the trees, where the air was clearer and quieter, and he could be by himself in the middle of a bustling city. At 13, Bob salvaged some scrap supplies and built a small treehouse where he could go to be alone, but the park officials found it and tore it down. As the years went by, Bob continued to build treehouses, each more elaborate than the last, often inviting up friends or spending nights gazing at the stars. Finally, as a young man, he was caught in the red-handed in his latest structure, and told to come down and face the consequences. But as Bob descended his treetop palace, he found not a punishment, but a welcome surprise waiting for him.

What a delightful little true story! Bob’s understanding of trees as well as his incredible tree-climbing skills eventually earned him a job as an arborist. It’s a nice lesson in how being ourselves and following our passions can guide us to what we are meant for. There is some flouting of authority and some questionable life-planning near the end (Bob was living in the treehouses part-time and had no plans for his future – he lucks into his job path due to the impressed park workers recommending it to him), but the intention is that of inspiring dreamers to find their field. The illustrations are lovely, creating a realistic yet wondrous world of Bob’s treehouses and the feelings they inspired in him. The length is fine, and JJ enjoyed it, so this one’s Baby Bookworm approved!

PS – You can enter to win a copy of this book on our Facebook page!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Gordon Parks: How The Photographer Captured Black And White America (Carole Boston Weatherford)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Gordon Parks: How The Photographer Captured Black And White America, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Jamey Christoph.

Gordon Parks nearly left this world as swiftly as he came into it; the doctor who delivered him saved him from stillbirth. And while his entrance into life was dramatic, being born into the US in 1912 limited his prospects – his white teacher memorably told her all-black classroom that they would be “nothing but waiters and porters”. Gordon was not satisfied with the status quo. Seeing a moving photo essay on Dust Bowl migrants, he bought a camera for $7.50 – the best purchase he ever made. From there, Gordon’s talent was obvious, and he was hired by magazines, companies, and the US government. Gordon used his work to document the unfair treatment of black Americans. He would go in to write books, compose music, and direct films – and it all started with a $7.50 camera and a talent that could not be denied.

Very interesting! Parks is someone who feels like he should be a household name, but is often overlooked in the discussion of great photographers (I encourage you to check out his work, he was astoundingly ahead of his time). While he is possibly best-known for his film Shaft, I like that this story focuses on his early life and work, showing how he overcame prejudice to follow his dreams and abilities, then turned around to use to that opportunity to bring awareness to the struggles of others. The text is great, moving swiftly while still exploring what Gordon’s life and work was like. The art is wonderful too, creating defined, vibrant characters and environments while also interpreting Park’s photos for young readers. As I mentioned, there is a stillbirth shown on the first page, and while Parks survives, it may take some explaining for younger bookworms. The length is fine, and JJ really liked this one. We recommend it, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!