Books by Celeste Davidson Mannis

JULIA MORGAN BUILT A CASTLE by Celeste Davidson Mannis
Released: Oct. 1, 2006

The daughter of an engineer and the cousin of architect Pierre LeBrun, Julia Morgan was fascinated with how buildings worked from an early age. She graduated with an engineering degree from Berkeley in 1895, the only woman in her class, then went to France where she sketched and studied and worked at gaining admission to the École des Beaux-Arts (which made her take the entrance exam three times). She came back to California and had a successful career, most famously spending more than 20 years designing and building Hearst Castle (San Simeon). She did battle with tycoon William Randolph Hearst as he changed his mind and his priorities. The text is straightforward and a little dry, betraying little of the will it must have taken for Morgan to forge the career she wanted. Hyman's soft but brilliant colors capture light, space and structure wonderfully but are less successful with figures and faces. Still, an interesting subject for a young biography, one who is not represented anywhere else for this age reader. (author's note, San Simeon facts, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 8-11)Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 2006

The wondrous natural world of Monterey Bay includes a huge submarine canyon and kelp forest bordered by ever-changing sand hills, tide pools and welcoming estuary. This inviting introduction works on two levels. Quiet alliterative text accompanies gorgeous color photographs illustrating the beauty of the bay and its intriguing occupants for lap-sitting listeners the age of the children pictured on the title page and at the beginning and end. Sidebars add additional text and photographs—captioned in notes at the end—for an older child or the adult reader. (These notes would be more useful if the pages were numbered.) In words and pictures the author-illustrator presents a selection of the marine mammals, invertebrates and seabirds young visitors might encounter. Important concepts, including keystone species, erosion by wind and waves and the uniqueness of different habitats, are embedded in the well-written text. The attractive format and judicious selection make this an excellent choice for nature lovers in any part of the country. (Picture book/nonfiction. 4-10)Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2003

Queen Elizabeth I makes her way through the English countryside on one of her summer "progresses," attended by an entourage that includes two traitors. Arranged alphabetically, Elizabeth's travels are narrated, as in so many alphabet books these days, on two levels. The alphabet letters introduce short, doggerel verse, while accompanying text boxes provide fuller information about the goings-on. This split-personality organization conveys too little information for those whose attention spans limit the experience to the alphabet portion of the narrative. "I is for intrigue, / and shadowy strangers," will be nothing short of baffling to this set, although older children will learn that "[m]any plots were aimed at Queen Elizabeth during her reign." Ibatoulline seems able to adapt his style to anything, here rendering lush, detailed oils that recall the Northern European masters of the Renaissance. The traitors, however, although they are introduced in the "A" spread, do not figure enough throughout the rest of the illustrations to build a satisfying tension before the climax. A potentially lovely and interesting effort, but both text and illustrations just miss the mark. (Picture book/nonfiction. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

In her picture book debut, Mannis uses the underlying structure of a little girl in a Japanese garden as the theme for a lyrical counting book with arresting illustrations by Hartung (One Dark Night, 2001, etc.). The author uses haiku as her format to count elements of the garden: one leaf, two carved temple dogs, three bonsai trees, and so on, up to ten lanterns lighting the way into the garden at twilight. The final double-page spread shows all the previously counted items integrated into the idyllic garden, with the little girl catching the leaf that eluded her grasp on the first page. The thoughtful design includes a full-page illustration on the left-hand pages, the appropriate numeral and the haiku in large type on the right-hand pages, and a related textual note in smaller type at the bottom of the page. This format imparts additional information about Japanese gardens and culture without intruding on the effectiveness of the haiku. Hartung's delicate illustrations with varying perspectives effectively complement the haiku and add touches of visual humor throughout. Just as each element of a Japanese garden contributes to a calming, satisfying whole, the elements of this work—poetry, subtly integrated additional text, illustration, design, and even the endpapers—all meld together into a lovely whole that both entertains as successful poetry and educates as an introduction to several aspects of ancient Japanese culture. Teachers in elementary school classrooms will find this volume useful when studying Japan or the haiku format. (author's note) (Picture book/poetry. 4-10)Read full book review >