News & Reviews

Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly

Sews Her Way to Freedom



Holiday House

(pub.11.9.2021) 48 pages

Author: Connie Schofield-Morrison

Illustrator: Elizabeth Zunon

Character: Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly


"An awe-inspiring African American woman! A talented seamstress, born a slave, bought freedom for herself and her son.

Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley was born in 1818, enslaved to a Virginian plantation owner. As a teenager, Lizzy was sent to work as the only slave on a small plantation, where the work was endless, and the masters treated her with unspeakable cruelty. A new master, learning Lizzy could sew, sent her to work for a tailor, who paid the master, not Lizzy, for Lizzy's work.

The beautiful gowns that Lizzy created were displayed in the tailor's window and soon attracted the attention of the wealthiest women in Virginia. Among them was Mrs. Jefferson Davis who also introduced Lizzy to Mary Todd Lincoln. Though Lizzy first had to borrow money from her wealthy patrons to buy her freedom, once she was free, she was able to earn money of her own and pay them all back."

Tantalizing taste:

" When Lizzy delivered the dress on the night of the party, Mrs. Lincoln insisted she didn't have enough time and refused to dress and join her guests. Her sister and her cousin were finally able to persuade Mrs Lincoln to let Lizzy dress her.

Laughing and quoting poetry, the president entered the room, threw himself on the couch, and said,

'I declare, you look charming in that dress.

Mrs. Keckly has met with great success.''

Mrs. Lincoln's dress was much admired at the party, and Lizzy became the First Lady's regular dressmaker, sewing at least fifteen dresses over the next two season ... stitch by stitch."

And something more: I'm always so thrilled to see more incredible illustrations by the talented Elizabeth Zunon (who illustrated our book, My Hands Sing the Blues - Romare Bearden's Childhood Journey). And I couldn't agree more with these Starred Reviews:

"The illustrations are a remarkable collage of painted scenes that are combined with decorative paper, fabric, lace, ribbon, braid trim, and intricate embroidery. This creates a three-dimensional presentation that brings to life the creativity and craftsmanship of Lizzy’s dresses... An essential purchase that will strengthen all biography collections."—School Library Journal, Starred Review

"Schofield-Morrison fashions a poignant tribute... Elizabeth Zunon’s breathtaking and masterful mixed-media illustrations—incorporating oil, paint, fabric, ribbon, paper, embroidery, and appliqué—beautifully capture the artistry of Keckly’s dresses. A dazzling picture book cut through with the thread and thrum of an inspiring but unsung life."—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

the life & art of CORITA KENT



Enchanted Lion Books

(pub.9.7.2021) 80 pages

Author: Matthew Burgess

Illustrator:Kara Kramer

Character: Corita Kent


"Corita Kent (1918–1986) lived a remarkable life as an artist, educator, nun, and activist. Unapologetically holding true to herself and her beliefs, Corita spread a powerful message of love, hope, and justice with her work, as it evolved from figurative and religious art, to serigraphs incorporating the sacred and the ordinary, to a sparser, more introspective style.

This timely story will draw readers into the life of a singular woman whose work and commitment invite us all to seek joy in the everyday, to observe the world with open eyes, and to question and see beyond the existing frameworks of society."

Tantalizing taste:

" As an art teacher, Corita was serious about PLAY. She believed the best work is done when play and work are one.

She even created a new word: PLORK

In one assignment, Corita asked her students to cut a small window into a piece of cardboard to make a FINDER.

Together, they walked down Hollywood Boulevard to a gas station, car wash, and supermarket. She wanted her students to look at ordinary things until the little details came alive.

Pretend you are a microscope

'New ideas are bursting all around and all this comes into YOU and is changed by YOU.'"

And something more: Matthew Burgess, in the Author's Note, explains that "Like Keith Haring, another one of my artistic heroes, Corita believed that art is for everyone...Corita also believed that every person possesses creative potential, and as a teacher myself, I wholeheartedly agree."

Kara Kramer, in the Illustrator's Note, shares that "... I'm deeply grateful for this experience to collaborate with Claudia [at Enchanged Lion] and Matthew, and I like to think Corita, too, who seemed to be in the very air around me, especially in the beginning of this process. I remember walking my dog one day in Brooklyn and stopping because right there at my feet was a bag of popcorn, with the words 'fresh and hot,' printed in red, and a bird close by eating the crumbs. It felt likeg Corita was winking at me, reminding me to 'Go Slow,' and notice the WONDER happenin right before my eyes."

Educator, Feminist, and Anti-Lynching Civil Rights Leader



Henry Holt and Company

GODWINBOOKS (pub.1.4.2022) 48 pages

Author: Michelle Duster

Illustrator: Laura Freeman

Character: Ida B. Wells


"Ida B. Wells was an educator, journalist, feminist, businesswoman, newspaper owner, public speaker, suffragist, civil rights activist, and women’s club leader.

She was a founder of the NAACP, the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, the Alpha Suffrage Club, and the Negro Fellowship League.

She wrote, spoke, and traveled, challenging the racist and sexist norms of her time.

Faced with criticism and threats to her life, she never gave up.

This is her extraordinary true story, as told by her great-granddaughter Michelle Duster and beautifully brought to life by Coretta Scott King Award Honoree artist Laura Freeman."

Tantalizing taste:

" One day in 1884, when Ida was in her early twenties, she was riding a train when the conductor asked her to move rom the 'ladies' car' to the 'colored car,' which doubled as the smoking car. She refused and was thrown off the train.

Rather than cower to the powers that be, she wrote about the incident in the newspaper and sued the Chesapeake, Ohio & Southwestern Railroad. She won the case and was awarded $500, even though it was appealed all the way to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Almost two and a half years later, the ruling was overturned in favor of the railroad, and Ida B. Wells was accused of harassing the company."

And something more: Michelle Duster, author of Ida B. Wells, Voice of Truth, worked tirelessly with a committee for over thirteen years to develop a monument in honor of her great-grandmother. The monument was installed in 2021 and located on the land where the Ida B. Wells Homes public housing community once stood in Chicago.

Where to find Jeanne Walker Harvey books

Jeanne has reviewed over 170 picture book biographies here and

previously on her blog  titled  TRUE TALES