Reviews for Maritcha : A Nineteenth-Century American Girl


Booklist Reviews 2005 February #1
/*Starred Review*/ Gr. 4-7. "Born free in a nation stained by slavery, where free blacks had few rights and rare respect, here was a girl determined to rise, to amount to something." In this captivating biography, Bolden introduces Maritcha Reymond Lyon, born in the mid-1800s into a family of free blacks in Manhattan. Lyon found fame as a teenager in Providence, Rhode Island, when she sued the state to gain admission to the all-white high school--the only high school in town. Bolden's succinct text focuses on Lyon's growing-up, and the attractive spreads feature well-chosen archival photographs and engravings that offer a fascinating glimpse of Lyon's world of "New York City's striving class of blacks." Lyon had a distinguished family, and Bolden shows how its members inspired her to succeed against formidable odds, even when she felt that "the iron had entered my soul." Bolden supplements quotes from Lyon's accounts with extensive research and enthralling detail, and the result is both an inspirational portrait of an individual and a piercing history about blacks in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries--subjects rarely covered in books for youth. An author's note describes Lyon's adult achievements and lends insight into Bolden's research. Notes and a selected bibliography conclude this powerful volume. ((Reviewed February 1, 2005)) Copyright 2005 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2005 Fall
Illustrated with a fine array of photos and prints, this handsome album offers a spirited social history through the childhood story of Maritcha Remond Lyons, a freeborn black woman who produced a memoir late in life. While many actual details are unknown, Bolden speculates carefully in piecing together the history of Maritcha's family. Bib. Copyright 2005 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2005 #1
This handsome album expands on the early life of a girl first introduced to readers in Bolden's Tell All the Children Our Story: Memories and Mementos of Being Young and Black in America (rev. 3/02). Although life in lower Manhattan in the 1850s, with its emphasis on church and family, seemed ordinary for Maritcha Remond Lyons and the other freeborn blacks in her community, eventually events took an ugly turn for great numbers of them. Bolden draws on a typewritten memoir Maritcha produced late in life and a fine array of photographs, prints, and documents to tell her story. While many actual details are unknown, Bolden speculates carefully in piecing together the history of this family who provided care to some thousand of their "traveling brethren" journeying the Underground Railroad. The reader doesn't get much personal sense of the young Maritcha, but Bolden offers a spirited social history, and the story takes a riveting turn when the Lyons home is ravaged during the 1863 draft riots in New York. After the family's relocation to Providence, Rhode Island, sixteen-year-old Maritcha made her own case to the state legislature to become the first black student to attend the city's white high school. The account ends with her graduation, but the concluding author's note adds a bit about Maritcha's later career as a teacher. Other added materials include endnotes, a bibliography of adult sources, illustration credits, and historical maps used as endpapers. Copyright 2005 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2004 December #2
A serious-looking 12-year-old girl looks out at the reader from a sepia-toned cover photograph: The "American Girl" of the subtitle was African-American, a member of New York's black middle class. Piecing together her unpublished memoir and contemporary accounts of life in mid-19th-century New York, Bolden tells Maritcha Rémond Lyons's story. Her father was an activist on the local level and had formed relationships with many of the prominent African-Americans in New York, giving the young Maritcha a bounty of role models. After the New York City Draft Riots, the Lyons family moved to Providence, where a determined Maritcha became the first African-American to graduate from Providence High School. Lavish illustrations from the period embellish the tale, which excels in its focus on the telling detail: Lost in the riots were "Maritcha's poplin, organdie, and French calico dresses; six muslin skirts, [and] a pair of kid gloves. . . . " Although Maritcha comes across as something of a stuffed shirt--her prose is distinctly Victorian in flavor--her story provides a valuable glimpse into a history largely forgotten. (notes, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus 2004 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Media Connection Reviews 2006 January
With the look and feel of a picture book, this fact-filled volume tells the story of a Civil War era girl who was the first African-American to graduate from high school in Providence, Rhode Island. She later became an accomplished educator and spokesperson for the rights of women and African-Americans. Based on her memoirs, the book chronicles her childhood and family life through her education. Full of detailed facts about the every day life of a mid-19th century city child, from daily activities, games, dress, work, family interactions, and school life, its pages include numerous captioned color and b&w period drawings, sketches, portraits, and images of primary documents to help illustrate the time era. The amount of thorough research conducted to create the book is evident by the detailed facts about the family. In the author's note, Bolden writes of her intention to create a book that would accurately depict that period, as well as tell the story of a little known, but important figure in African-American history. Geared toward research students and report writers, the book would fill the need for accurate sources on 19th century life as well as information on a prominent character in African- American history. Serious scholars would appreciate the accuracy and credibility. Notes, bibliography, and credits are provided, but no index. Recommended. Anna Hartle, Integrated Technology Teacher/Librarian, Cincinnati (Ohio) Country Day School © 2006 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2005 January #1
Bolden (The Champ, reviewed above) lucidly relays the illuminating life history of Maritcha R‚mond Lyons, born a free black in 1848 in lower Manhattan. The author draws her biographical sketch primarily from Lyons's unpublished memoir, dated one year before her death in 1929. Bolden uses research about the period to speculate about what chores Maritcha may have performed and games she may have played, and recaps Lyons's descriptions of some of the highlights of her childhood and family history (including her grandmother's memory of the day Frederick Douglass visited the family home) as well as of her role models, including her parents, whose boardinghouse (which catered to black sailors) also served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. One of the strongest sections of the book documents the Draft Riots (protests against a military draft during the Civil War) of July 1868, and the impact of them on Maritcha and other citizens: their home was vandalized and looted, and the family relocated to Rhode Island. There Maritcha successfully petitioned the state legislature for permission to attend Providence High School, from which she was the first black student to graduate. A concluding note summarizes her adult life as a highly respected educator and orator, while elegantly framed family photos and clearly reproduced archival drawings and maps make for a handsome presentation. An illuminating life story. Ages 5-9. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2005 February
Gr 4 Up-Readers met Maritcha R‚mond Lyons in Bolden's Tell All the Children Our Story (Abrams, 2002), in a one-page entry that included an excerpt from her unpublished memoir. The author has now expanded her use of Lyons's memoir, family archival materials, and other primary sources to tell the story of this free black child before, during, and after the Civil War. Maritcha's achievements were extraordinary for her time, gender, and race. During her youth in lower Manhattan, she was exposed to many strong, well-educated adults. Her parents, their friends (some well known), and her own determination carried her through difficult times, including the Draft Riots of 1863, the destruction of the family home and business, and a fight for public education. Strength of family and education were the driving forces in this girl's life. Bolden emphasizes these themes as she skillfully presents interesting facts and a personal view of an often-overlooked segment of history. While the book focuses on Maritcha's childhood, a concluding note discusses her adulthood. (Lyons spent close to 50 years as an educator, including a term as assistant principal of Brooklyn's Public School No. 83.) A number of family documents and photographs are included; period sketches and paintings complete the picture of 19th-century life in New York City. The high quality of writing and the excellent documentation make this a first choice for all collections.-Carolyn Janssen, Children's Learning Center of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2005 October
In 1928, an eighty-year-old retired school official, Maritcha Remond Lyons, left behind an unpublished manuscript, Memories of Yesterdays. Within its neatly typed pages were revelations of a remarkable woman's life and a firsthand account of what it was like to be a free black woman in nineteenth-century America. The author takes this memoir and scraps of research from museums, special collections, and family keepsakes to assemble a fascinating re-creation of Maritcha's life. New York City-born Maritcha and her family ran a boardinghouse, often used as a safe house on the Underground Railroad. Her extended family included a famous actor who used his influence to establish black churches, ignite an early civil rights movement, and bring celebrities like Frederick Douglass into their midst. Although blacks were free, many rights were still restrictive and prejudice was rampant. She recalls having to walk to school because the coaches would not stop for her. When the Civil War draft riots broke out, blacks were sought out, beaten, and their businesses destroyed. Maritcha moved to Providence, Rhode Island, where she became the first black to enter high school after having to address the state legislature for permission. She dedicated the next fifty years to education and women's rights A gifted writer and orator during her lifetime, Maritcha is a worthy topic for women's studies or for a black history profile. This book, with its excellent illustrations, engaging text, and primary resources, is also a pleasure to read.-Kevin Beach Illus. Photos. Biblio. Source Notes. 5Q 3P M Copyright 2005 Voya Reviews.

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