Monday, September 29, 2014

Always an Olivia

Always an Olivia: A Remarkable Family History by Carolivia Herron, illustrated by Jeremy Tugeau (Kar-Ben Publishing, 2012)

This really is a remarkable true family history of the author's.  Her ancestor Sarah was a Jew who lived in Venice, Italy after her family escaped from Spain and Portugal during the Spanish Inquisition.  One day in the early 1800s, she is kidnapped by pirates to be ransomed off in North Africa.  However, another captive (who she eventually marries) helps the two of them escape and take a ship to America.  They are dropped off at the Georgia Sea Islands, home of the Geechee (or Gullah) people, free American Americans.  Their family eventually intermarries with the Geechees, but their descendents never forget their Jewish roots, always lighting candles on Sabbath.

There is an interesting article about the author's family history here.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Snow White and Rose Red

Snow White and Rose Red adapted by Kallie George, illustrated by Kelly Vivanco (Simply Read Books, 2014)

I've been a fan of Kelly Vivanco's illustrations for a while now so I was happy to see her first book published this year.  I used to be rather enchanted by this Grimm tale when I was a kid, too, so it was nice to see her take on it.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Mumbet's Declaration of Independence

Mumbet's Declaration of Independence by Gretchen Woelfe, illustrated by Alix Delinois (Carolrhoda Books, 2014)

Based on a true story, this book is about Elizabeth "Mumbet" Freeman.  She was a slave in 18th century Massachusetts who, with the help of a lawyer, fought for her rights based on the Massachusetts Constitution assertion that "All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights."  Amazingly, she won, and gained her freedom.  The court decision led to Massachusetts declaring slavery unconstitutional in 1783. 

It's a shame that her story isn't written about in history textbooks (that I've seen).  I became familiar with Mumbet when my mom was researching our family history.  My several-times great-grandfather Pieter Hogeboom bought Mumbet and another slave named Lizzy (portrayed in this book as her daughter, although it's not known for sure) and later gave her to his daughter Hannah when she married Colonel John Ashley.  Hannah was cruel to her slaves, a famous scene portrayed below, showing her about to strike Lizzy with a hot coal shovel, before Mumbet steps in to protect her. Not a great claim to fame for me, but Hannah Ashley's not a direct ancestor, so it's not quite as bad, I guess?

If you'd like to learn more about Mumbet, there is also a great video from the PBS show Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. where he investigates Kyra Sedgwick's ancestry, which includes the lawyer Theodore Sedgwich who helped Mumbet gain her freedom and who she later lived with and worked forYou can view that here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cinnamon Baby

Cinnamon Baby by Nicole Winstanley, illustrated by Janice Nadeau (Kids Can Press, 2011)

This is a really cute book about a woman named Miriam who owns a bakery and makes wonderful breads, her speciality being cinnamon bread.  When Sebastian tries her bread, he ends up buying it every day for a year, then asking Miriam to marry him. Soon they have a baby who is the most beautiful and sweet smelling baby.  However, soon the baby starts to cry and won't stop.  The parents don't know what to do, until Miriam has the idea to bake her cinnamon bread, the smell of which causes the baby to stop crying and smile and fall asleep.  Apparently the story was inspired by the author's daughter, who was soothed to sleep by the smell of cinnamon when she was a baby.  

The illustrations are fun and sweet, and of course I love that they feature a multiracial family.