News & Reviews

Updated: 4 days ago

Fatima al-Fihri

and the World's Oldest University




(pub.3.1.22) 40 pages

Author: M. O. Yuksel

Illustrator: Mariam Quraishi

Character: Fatima al-Fihri


"Fatima had one wish . . .Fatima al-Fihri loved to learn. She wanted to know everything, like how birds flew, why the sky was blue, and how flowers grew. But more than anything, she wanted a school for all, where anyone could study and become whatever they wanted, like teachers, scientists, and doctors.

As she grew older, Fatima carried her one wish inside her, through good times and bad. Fueled by her faith and her determination, she worked hard to make her one wish come true. For over a thousand years, Fatima’s one wish—her school—served students and scholars from around the globe, and it continues to do so today!."

Tantalizing taste:

"Fatima's faith taught her that charity – sadaqah jariyah – was like planting a single seed from which thousands of wildflowers continuously bloomed. She wondered how she could use the fortune left to her by her father and husband to honor them and to serve the community she so loved.

As she watched more people arrive daily in Fez, she knew what to do. Fez had opened its arms to her, and she wanted to do the same for those in need.

Fatima's wish burned brightly inside her."

And something more: M. O. Yuksel, in the Author's Note, explains that "Fatima al-Fihri played an important role in the advancement education and civilization. She is admired by many for her perseverance, wisdom, and generosity. Almost one 1,200 years have passed, and Al-Qarawiyyin University continues to share the gift of knowledge. Fatima is an inspiration to all, and her rich legacy lives on in the excellence the institution she founded."

From Space-Age Rides to Civil Rights

Sits-Ins with Airman Alton Yates



Beach Lane Books

(Simon & Schuster)

(pub. 1.11.22) 48 pages

Author: Chris Barton

Illustrator: Stefi Walthall

Character: Alton Yates


"Meet activist Alton Yates, an Air Force veteran who dedicated his life to propelling America forward—from space travel to the Civil Rights Movement and beyond—in this inspiring nonfiction picture book.

As a child growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, Alton Yates watched Black veterans return home from fighting for their country, only to have that country turn its back on them. After Alton joined the Air Force and risked his life to make spacecraft and airplane flight safer, he returned home to the same Jim Crow laws.

Alton now had a new mission: To make a stand against Jim Crow."

Tantalizing taste:

"Wouldn't people who had risked their necks for their country be treated better when their service was complete? Wouldn't they at least be able to vote?

Not in Florida. Not in the South. Not under Jim Crow, the name for the system of laws keeping Black people - even veterans - apart from and underneath the whites.

Alton saw sailors and soldiers return from World War II and experience the same disappointment.

Then he saw it happen all over again to those who fought in Korea.

And yet, Alton could hardly wait to join the Air Force."

And something more: The back matter of Moving Forward includes Alton Yates's response to author Chris Barton's question, "What do you hope that people will take from the story of your experiences at Holloman [home of the Aeromedical Field Laboratory] and in 1960?":

"I hope that they will come away with a greater sense of optimism about the future of our country... I would hope that people would see the goodness of the American people... We have our flaws. We have things that sometimes we're not very proud of. But overall, we're still a people who realizes, I think, and appreciates the fact that we have been truly blessed. And that we have an obligation to share those blessings, or the fruit of those blessings, with others..."

Architect of Imagination



NorthSouth Books

(pub.6.7.2022) 40 pages

Author: Susan B. Katz

Illustrator: Linda Schwalbe

Character: Antoni Gaudi


"Colorful mosaics, playful flowing forms, imaginative facades—Barcelona shines with the buildings of Antoni Gaudí. How did the son of a Catalan blacksmith become a world-famous architect? The first years of Gaudí's life were challenging. Because of an illness, young Gaudí couldn’t attend school and was often alone. Many of his days were spent out in nature, which he would later call his great teacher. Even during his training as an architect in Barcelona, his teachers were puzzled, wondering: is he a 'genius or a fool?' Many considered his unusual ideas eccentric, sometimes even crazy. But Gaudí was simply ahead of his time. His buildings are now a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site."

Tantalizing taste:

" Exploring the curvy, cobblestone streets in the village, he watched the world with keen eyes. Gaudi noticed that everything in nature curved: from snails' shells to mountaintops, from a bird's breast to the shadow of tree branches. He began to appreciate the beauty in curved lines. With 'nature as his teacher,'' as he said, Antoni realized that bent did not mean broken."

And something more: The note at the back of the book explains that "To this day, Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia (the Sacred Family) Cathedral is the most visited monument in all of Spain, but because he didn't leave any plans, La Sagrada Cathedral is constantly under construction. Many Catalonian people believe that it will never truly be finished since nobody knows exactly how Gaudi wanted it to be." When I visited the Cathedral years ago, it was surrounded by scaffolding -- interesting to think of work continuing there with "an endless array of marvels," as Gaudi called them.

Where to find Jeanne Walker Harvey books

Jeanne has reviewed over 170 picture book biographies here and

previously on her blog  titled  TRUE TALES