‘Sweet Dreams, Sarah’ and ‘Martin & Ann’

REVIEW: Ridge Writers on Books


Creston Books has a particular flair with biographies for preteens and early teens. The people portrayed tend toward figures who don’t often appear on most school reading lists but, arguably, should. Yet at the opposite extreme, their new “Martin & Anne” innovates not in the choice of subjects but instead, in bringing two together in an illuminating and unexpected way.

Demonstrating the first approach, “Sweet Dreams, Sarah” (by Vivian Kirkfield, art by Chris Ewald, ages 7-14, hardcover, 32 pages, 2019 $17.99), tells the story of Sarah Goode. A slave before the Civil War, she dreamed of freedom, a family, and having her own business. Emancipation enabled her to move to Chicago, marry, and sell furniture alongside her husband. One day, she had the idea of building a desk that would open into a bed for customers who had cramped, one-room apartments. It took trial and error, but finally she had a wonderful invention. She filed for a patent and waited months and months, only to hear, “Denied.” But nevertheless – as the saying goes – she persisted. The result: Patent No. 322,177, July 14, 1885. With it, Sarah launched the success she hoped for and became one of the earliest African-American women to receive a patent. This fine, inspiring little volume concludes with two timelines, one on Sarah Goode and the other, “Black Women Patent Holders,” and a brief discussion of patents.

“Martin & Anne” (by Nancy Churnin, illus. Yevgenia Nayberg, ages 8-14, hardcover, 24 pages, 2019, $17.99) begins in the year 1929 with two births an ocean apart. One child, Martin Luther King, grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. The other, Anne Frank, entered the world in Frankfurt, Germany. Both experienced widespread prejudice, Martin for the color of his skin and Anne for her religion. Author Churnin shows the connection between Martin’s role in the Civil Rights Movement and Anne’s beloved journal, “The Diary of a Young Girl.” In the process, we see how these two accomplished so much during their time on earth until killed by hatred. Today their words live forever, advancing their shared dream that “one day all babies would be seen as beautiful. As all babies are.”

Both books celebrate unforgettable human beings who had big dreams.

This monthly column is written by members of Ridge Writers, the East Sierra Branch of the California Writers Club. Meetings are held the first Thursday of each month at Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church.

Story First Published: 2019-03-15