News & Reviews

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.

Updated: Jul 17

Georgia Gilmore and the Montgomery Bus Boycott



Random House Studio

(pub.1.11.2022) 40 pages

Author: Mara Rockliff

Illustrator: R. Gregory Christie

Character: Georgia Gilmore


"Georgia Gilmore was cooking when she heard the news. Mrs. Rosa Parks had been arrested--pulled off a city bus and thrown in jail all because she wouldn't let a white man take her seat. To protest, the radio urged everyone to stay off city buses for one day: December 5, 1955. Throughout the boycott--at Holt Street Baptist Church meetings led by a young minister named Martin Luther King, Jr.--and throughout the struggle for justice, Georgia served up her mouth-watering fried chicken, her spicy collard greens, and her sweet potato pie, eventually selling them to raise money to help the cause.

Tantalizing taste:

" The empty buses made city officials hotter than Georgia's collard greens with pepper sauce. They didn't like to lose those bus fares, but they didn't want to change.

They sent out the police to ticket anyone who gave the boycotters a lift. People were arrested just for standing on the corner, waiting for a ride. Georgia made more pound cakes and banana puddings to help pay their fares."

And something more: The After the Boycott section explains that "Today, everyone has heard of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. But the fight for justice and equality has never been the work of a few famous people. It was - and is - the work of thousands of courageous and persistent individuals like Georgia Gilmore. Although they might be in the 'Club from Nowhere,' they are heroes too."

"You cannot be afraid if you want to accomplish anything. You got to have the willing, the spirit, and above, all, you got to have the get-up."

- Georgia Gilmore

Where to find Jeanne Walker Harvey books

Jeanne has reviewed over 170 picture book biographies here and

previously on her blog  titled  TRUE TALES