Review Detail

A Must Read Biography
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Learning Value
The first sentence of this book sets the stage for Douglass' impact on history: "This is the story of how one man's careful decisions and many accomplishments not only made his own life better but in many ways changed the history of America." This is a great lesson for children of all ages to learn, especially since Douglass was such a great example of a man taking charge of his own destiny.

Douglass was a bright child, and learned to read after the wife of his owner saw him paying close attention to the lessons she was teaching her own children.These lessons came to a halt quickly after they were discovered, but Douglass was smart enough to know that if reading made him unfit to be a slave, then the best thing he could do was to learn to read! Douglass also stood up to another owner and was sent to do back breaking work at a shipyard, but used his wiles to work his way to the north and to freedom. There, he educated himself and made alliances with people who could help him improve his own situation as well as the situation of African Americans.
Good Points
This picture book tells Douglass' story succinctly but completely, and Cooper's illustrations are reason enough for the larger format of this book. The text is sophisticated enough for middle grade readers, but short and simple enough that this could be read aloud even to younger children. Myers' years of writing experience show clearly in his beautiful and motivational depiction of this influential leader.

Cooper has illustrated such an impressive range of biographies, from Satchmo to Langston Hughes to Michael Jordan, that there should be some sort of curated collection of his work. He has done other picture books, on a wide variety of topics relating to Civil Rights and African American history. His pictures are always warm and evocative, adding new layers to whatever text they accompany.

Myers must have left a significant number of works unfinished at his death, and it is a gift to see a new title from him. Readers who enjoy picture book biographies or who are looking to gather information on the early civil rights activities will enjoy and learn a lot from The Lion Who Wrote History.
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