PICTURE BOOK REVIEWS: Waiting for Pumpsie/Malala/Princess and the Peas


In 1959 the Boston Red Sox was the last team in the Major Leagues to integrate. But when they call Elijah "Pumpsie" Green up from the minors, Bernard is overjoyed to see a black player on his beloved home team. And, when Pumpsie's first home game is scheduled, Bernard and his family head to Fenway Park. Bernard is proud of Pumpsie and hopeful that this historic event is the start of great change in America. 

This fictionalized account captures the true story of baseball player Pumpsie Green's rise to the major leagues. The story is a snapshot of the Civil Rights Movement and a great discussion starter about the state of race relations in the United States today.


I've been reading a lot about the Civil Rights Movement these days.  It's a rather heavy topic, but an important one.  But one wonders sometimes, how to take about these kinds of issues with younger children.  Books like this one can help.  While the main character is fictionalized, the events at the heart of the story are not.  

Bernard loves his Boston Red Sox.  And he loves the chance to see them play at Fenway Park one time each year.  Even if a white fan tells them to shut up, and a policeman tells them to learn to behave.  In 1959 Boston, racism still exists.  But Bernard's parents encourage him to hope for change, to look forward to the day when a Negro ball player will step up to bat for the Red Sox.  As with many young people, Bernard has a hard time being patient, as do many children.  But when the day finally comes, Bernard, his family, and many others are thrilled to be there.  The beautiful illustrations show the strong emotions that Bernard and his family experience as they wait for the day that someone who looks like them can play for their favorite team.  This book makes for a relatively gentle introduction to racism and the efforts to combat it for the youngest readers as well as an ode to America's favorite pastime.


Malala Yousafzai stood up to the Taliban and fought for the right for all girls to receive an education. When she was just fifteen-years old, the Taliban attempted to kill Malala, but even this did not stop her activism. At age eighteen Malala became the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work to ensure the education of all children around the world.

Malala's courage and conviction will inspire young readers in this beautifully illustrated biography.


Malala Yousafzai is a remarkable young lady, whose story has touched the hearts of many.  As a result there are a number of books available about her, which is great, the world needs to know about people like Malala, who risk so much to fight for what they believe in.  This picture book biography gives a brief introduction to this young Noble Peace Prize winner.  The text works well for younger children (1st and 2nd grade) but also has enough information to intrigue older children as well.  The illustrator clearly thought through what to put in her illustrations that is truthful and yet child appropriate and I believe she succeeded.  Even the scene where Malala gets shot isn't too graphic, but it is a part of the story.  I appreciated how clearly and succinctly the text explains Malala's experiences and beliefs. I absolutely loved the back matter which is full of photographs, quotes, a map of Pakistan, a timeline, and information about the work that Malala continues to dedicate herself to.  This is a fabulous picture book biography about a brave young woman and her cause.  One quote that I particularly loved was as follows: "With guns you can kill terrorists; with education you can kill terrorism."  What profoundly powerful words!  Would that the world would listen to this!


In this adaptation of The Princess and the Pea, Ma Sally cooks the best black-eyed peas in Charleston County, South Carolina. Her son, John, is a highly eligible bachelor, and three local women vie for his hand in marriage by attempting to cook as well as Ma. At the last minute, a surprise contestant named Princess arrives at the door. Princess and John are well-matched, but Princess has her own ideas. When told she has won John's hand, she asks him to scrub the pots and pans before she'll give him an answer. Her answer, it turns out, is that she wants to spend some time getting to know John first. 

Backmatter includes an author's note and a recipe for Princess's Black-eyed Peas.


I can honestly say that I've never read a version of The Princess and the Pea quite like this one, and that's a good thing.  As the author mentions in her author's note at the end of the book, the classic fairy tale doesn't make a whole lot of sense, I mean whose sensitive enough to notice a pea (undoubtedly smashed) under a whole heap of mattresses.  In this version of the story, the author has set the story in the south (I heard a southern accent in my head throughout the whole story, it just seemed to fit) during the 1950s.  Ma Sally's son John wants to get married, but Ma Sally refuses to let him marry just anyone.  In fact, she won't let him marry anyone who can't cook as well as she can.  So she invites any marriageable ladies who wish to try for John to come to her house to cook black-eyed peas.  The three local girls don't do so well, but the new girl in town, Princess, cooks like a dream.  The thing that I especially loved was how Princess doesn't agree to marry John right off, she wants to see what he brings to the table, which I thought was brilliant.  It isn't particularly fair, after all, for her to do all the accommodating.  This book would make for a great book to compare to some of the many classic and fractured versions of the story.


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