From School Library Journal
Grade 7-10 -Shetterly introduces 50 esteemed Americans through their portraits and quotes. Some-Helen Keller, Muhammad Ali, Eleanor Roosevelt, etc.-will be familiar to most readers, but historian Howard Zinn and peace activists Samantha Smith and Kathy Kelly will likely be new to them. Some quotes make more sense than others. Henry David Thoreau said, "The law will never make men free; it is men who have got to make the law free." How true. Molly Ivins says, "The best way to get the sons of bitches is to make people laugh at them." Uh, maybe sometimes. A few, taken out of context, hold little meaning. Dorothea Lange opined, "This is what we did. How did it happen? How could we?" At least one quote will have readers grabbing for the dictionary. Emma Goldman stated, "The greatest bulwark of capitalism is militarism." Fortunately, brief biographies are appended, helping to clarify many of the quotes. There is neither rhyme nor reason to the order of the individuals, as it is neither chronological nor alphabetical. Shetterly's fine illustrations, mostly somber, are fully realized. They go hand in hand with the quotes to acknowledge what the person was (or is) all about. This lovely portrayal will probably find its best use in enhancing civics classes. Because of its picture-book appearance, students might not gravitate to it on their own.-Anne Chapman Callaghan, Racine Public Library, WI
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Gr. 9-12. This heartfelt book, a series of portraits (now a traveling exhibit), grew out of soul-searching after 9/11; it is both striking and highly personal. A New England fine artist and illustrator, Shetterly painted 50 people he greatly admires--freedom fighters, activists, and patriots all--who demonstrate political and social principles that foster "the fundamental dignity and equal worth of every individual." Each bordered portrait, set against a plain colored background that enhances the painting's bright highlights and dark hues, is accompanied by a few words of identification and a quote from the person. Subjects are varied. Readers will know Sojourner Truth, Mark Twain, and, perhaps, Molly Ivins; but most won't have a clue about Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, or Amy Goodman--odd, unexpected choices for a YA book. Teens can find out more in thumbnail profiles at the back, but they won't be as lucky with the quotes; only a few are sourced--a real missed opportunity. The book may inspire artists or encourage discussions on activism in America, past and present, but it is best suited to large collections. Stephanie ZvirinCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved