Booklist starred (April 1, 2015 (Vol. 111, No. 15))
Grades 3-5. The fascinating story of John Roy Lynch’s life from slavery to his election to the U.S. House of Representatives at age 25, gets a stirring treatment here. Barton has a lot of territory to cover, from slavery to the Civil War to Reconstruction and beyond, along with Lynch’s personal journey. Because of this, the information at times seems clipped, though it’s consistently incisive. The complete time line at the end of the book helps fill in the gaps, and the story generates interest that will encourage additional research. Tate’s often expansive illustrations emphasize important incidents in the text. A reference to harsh laws passed by whites is coupled with a dramatic two-page spread of whipping, a potential lynching, and lots of angry white faces in the foreground, fists clenched. A small African American boy covers his eyes at the scene. A scene of the horrors of a school burning shows praying figures overshadowed by masked attackers with burning torches. The emphasis in other illustrations is on faces, full of emotion, which adds to the power of the telling, and the rich, soft tones of Tate’s palette welcome the eye to linger. Pair with Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence, by Gretchen Woelfle (2014), for another story of a unique and relatively unknown figure in African American history.