Art lovers of all ages will revel in this vivid, wonderfully affecting book, which is almost as ingenious and memorable as...

CHUCK CLOSE: FACE BOOK

A magnificent interactive "face book" portrait of the artist.

This book grew out of a studio visit/conversation between Close and a dozen Brooklyn fifth graders. Through the kids' simple questions and the artist's forthright answers, readers eavesdrop on the event and witness the ongoing dialogue between an artist and his unforgettable, iconographic work. Close discloses struggles with childhood ill health and severe dyslexia. He tells how his early artistic promise was nurtured by caring parents and teachers and how he adjusted for his prosopagnosia (face blindness) by sketching the faces of his students. He also shares how the steady progress of a rewarding career and warm family life was nearly derailed by his near-total paralysis after the 1998 collapse of a spinal artery. He also discloses the many "hows" of his astonishing technique: how he uses gridded photos to build his faces and how he works from his wheelchair and wields his brush with less-abled hands. Readers witness his discipline and see how he works in a dizzying variety of media. At the book's brilliant center is the irresistible opportunity to "mix 'n' match" various eyes, noses and mouths among 14 of the artist's arresting self-portraits. 

Art lovers of all ages will revel in this vivid, wonderfully affecting book, which is almost as ingenious and memorable as Close himself. (timeline, glossary, list of resources and illustration credits) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0163-4

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

Dozens of spectacular Kellar posters along with a dramatic book design nicely support this well-constructed look at a...

THE AMAZING HARRY KELLAR

GREAT AMERICAN MAGICIAN

A first-rate visual presentation accompanies a fascinating biography of the first dean of the Society of American Magicians, a man Houdini regarded as a mentor.

The son of German immigrant parents, Harry Keller (later Kellar) lived in his hometown of Erie, Penn., only until he was 10, when he hopped aboard a train bound for Cleveland, Ohio, in 1859. He apprenticed to a performing magician a couple of years later. Kellar’s career in magic and illusion led him to South America, England and Australia before he achieved recognition and success in the United States. Kellar’s meticulous attention to detail in the building of his illusions and in the staging of his performances led to his success. Traveling magic shows and established theatrical illusionists were a widespread entertainment in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, incorporating aspects of spiritualism (Kellar demonstrated that he could replicate anything a medium could do) and mechanical wonders like automatons in their performances. Kellar and his team borrowed from other well-known performers, and he worked to polish and improve the illusions to perfection. Few secrets of the illusions are revealed here, but Jarrow makes it clear that it was Kellar’s art that made them seem like real magic.

Dozens of spectacular Kellar posters along with a dramatic book design nicely support this well-constructed look at a consummate showman. (timeline, bibliography, annotated sources) (Biography. 10-14)

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59078-865-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

Loud and clear, the creators show how tuning into everyday sounds can inspire music. Clap, clap, CLAP! (Picture Book. 3-7)

SQUEAK, RUMBLE, WHOMP! WHOMP! WHOMP!

Marsalis and Rogers, who collaborated on the scintillating Jazz ABZ (2005), reunite for this sonic celebration for the younger crowd.

Marsalis contributes 10 three-line verses that crackle with invented sound words. Most verses link a couple of everyday sounds with one made by a musical instrument: “Big trucks on the highway RRRRUMBLE. / Hunger makes my tummy GRrruMBle. / The big bass drum goes “Bum! Brrrum! BRRRUMBLE!!!!” Rogers’ digitally colored ink drawings depict a New Orleans setting. The narrator, an African-American boy in white high-tops, exudes curiosity and cool (and plays trumpet). Those onomatopoeic words, elegantly red-dressed in Caslon 540 Italic, will challenge readers and delight listeners. Marsalis’ choices seem just right: “Chrrrick chrrrick chrrrick chrrrick—buttering my toast.” An upright bass emits “Doom, Doom, Doom, Blap! Doom, Doom, Slap!” Rogers’ hip, playfully cartoonish spreads pop with clever visual allusions to jazz tunes and players. Hand-lettered lyrics to a popular funeral song blow out of a church band’s instruments; indeed, the tuba’s bell forms the “O” for “O[h] didn’t he ramble.” An ambulance’s side reads “U.M.M.G. Ambulance,” a brilliant reference to the Billy Strayhorn tune whose titular acronym means “Upper Manhattan Medical Group.” The final spread rounds up a cacophony of sounds, from “Squeak” and “Schuk-chuk” to “BAP!”

Loud and clear, the creators show how tuning into everyday sounds can inspire music. Clap, clap, CLAP! (Picture Book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-3991-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

A quiet story of sharing with no strings attached.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2012

  • Caldecott Honor Book

EXTRA YARN

A little girl in a town of white snow and soot-blackened chimneys opens a small box and discovers a never-ending gift of colorful yarn.

Annabelle knits herself a sweater, and with the leftover yarn, she knits one for her dog, and with the yarn left over from that, she knits one for a neighbor and for her classmates and for her teacher and for her family and for the birdhouse and for the buildings in town. All and everything are warm, cozy and colorful until a clotheshorse of an archduke arrives. Annabelle refuses his monetary offers, whereupon the box is stolen. The greedy archduke gets his just deserts when he opens the box to find it empty. It wends its way back to Annabelle, who ends up happily sitting in a knit-covered tree. Klassen, who worked on the film Coraline, uses inks, gouache and colorized scans of a sweater to create a stylized, linear design of dark geometric shapes against a white background. The stitches of the sweaters add a subdued rainbow. Barnett entertained middle-grade readers with his Brixton Brothers detective series. Here, he maintains a folkloric narrative that results in a traditional story arc complete with repetition, drama and a satisfying conclusion.

A quiet story of sharing with no strings attached. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-195338-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

In the end, Houdini realizes that writing has changed him and altered his perspective on people and life. Readers will feel...

THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF JOHN SMITH, JR., AKA HOUDINI

A middle-schooler writes a kids’ novel; an author writes an engaging, amiable read—and, presto, a tale about a boy nicknamed Houdini turns out magical.

When your name is John Smith, you need to have something going for you. What this 13-year-old—alas, no relation to the dude of Pocahontas fame—has is a fascination with the master escape artist. After an author’s visit to his classroom, John creates a novel, formed from the very novel kids are reading, and devises a series of lists to guide him. He also relies on adventures with his two best buds; a misunderstood Vietnam vet and his pit bull; and the neighborhood bully. By turns poignant and downright hilarious, Houdini’s story/novel is delivered in a voice that’s wonderfully authentic. Johnson expertly handles real male middle school friendships, issues and angst and doesn’t avoid some tough contemporary realities: Domestic troubles, the prospect of Dad losing his job and the pain arising from his older brother going missing in Iraq are handled realistically but sensitively.

In the end, Houdini realizes that writing has changed him and altered his perspective on people and life. Readers will feel the same way. And just try to get kids not to make their own lists or attempt their own novels. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-198890-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

Lyrically narrated, resplendently illustrated, and deeply respectful of both subject and audience.

SPIRIT SEEKER

JOHN COLTRANE'S MUSICAL JOURNEY

In attuned counterpoint, Golio and Gutierrez present a portrait of John Coltrane’s lifelong quest to discover and share his spiritual truth through music.

Beginning with John’s 12th year, Golio traces his religious roots: Grandfather Blair, a Methodist minister, headed a household that included John’s parents, aunt and cousin. Within two years, his grandparents, father and uncle died, splintering the family. In one bright spot, a pastor began a community band, leading to a borrowed sax and lessons for John. His musical gift bloomed amid loneliness and setbacks. Touring’s pressures led to alcohol and drug dependence. Golio continuously weaves such biographical details into the tapestry of spiritual longing that characterized Coltrane’s life. “He began falling asleep onstage. Or showing up late, only to be fired. Part of him stood in the darkness, while another part was searching for the light.” Gutierrez’s full-bleed acrylic paintings pulse with emotional intensity and iconic religious images; Coltrane is often shown with a halo or wings. Expressionist color channels Coltrane’s psychic life: His hobby-filled childhood is sweet potato pie–sunny; a scene of drug withdrawal is moonlit black. Portraits of jazz influences—Dizzy, Duke, Bird—appear throughout. Coltrane’s spiritual apex, a vision coinciding, Golio notes, with the development of his masterwork, A Love Supreme, is depicted with John meditating, Buddha-like against glowing pink.

Lyrically narrated, resplendently illustrated, and deeply respectful of both subject and audience. (afterword, author’s and artist’s notes, bibliography, discography) (Picture book/biography. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-23994-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

Accessible, unfussy and visually charming.

GEORGIA IN HAWAII

WHEN GEORGIA O'KEEFFE PAINTED WHAT SHE PLEASED

An appealing and slightly humorous portrayal of O’Keeffe’s artistic vision and determination, along with a peek at the Hawaii of over half a century ago.

During her several-weeks sojourn in the Hawaii Territory in 1939, Georgia O’Keeffe painted some of her most lovely work. Though it was the Hawaiian (later Dole) Pineapple Company that underwrote her trip in exchange for a painting of a pineapple, O’Keeffe refused to paint the picked fruit the company offered. She did not actually paint a pineapple until she returned to New York, and readers may be able to find her pineapple painting hiding in the pages. But, as Novesky tells here, O’Keeffe discovered flowers, landscapes and Hawaiian feathered fishhooks that captured her artist’s eye. Morales’ luscious full-page illustrations—digitally assembled edge-to-edge acrylic paintings—seem to glow softly in scenes filled with rich colors and that create an intimate relationship between the figure of Georgia and her surroundings. Labeled illustrations of nine different Hawaiian blossoms cover the endpapers. In one striking spread, a canvas close-up shows Georgia’s just-painted waterfall, with a feathered lure and a shell hanging from the corners, while just beyond Georgia, a striking black lava formation reaches into the ocean. Morales captures Georgia’s intelligent and occasionally formidable look; she also captures what O’Keeffe saw, gracefully echoing, not reproducing, O’Keeffe’s work.

Accessible, unfussy and visually charming. (author’s and illustrator’s notes; sources) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-15-205420-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

A joy to read. Play calypso music and celebrate! (author’s note, glossary and pronunciation guide, author’s sources)...

DRUMMER BOY OF JOHN JOHN

Winston, a boy in Trinidad, wishes that he could play in a band and win free rotis, the delicious island specialty prepared by the Roti King and presented to the best performers at Carnival.

In the weeks before Carnival, the people of the Caribbean island are busy sewing costumes, and bands are busy rehearsing with their gourds, bamboo sticks, bottles-and-spoons and drums. Winston hears the sounds that his mango pit makes when he chucks it into a junkyard. Inspired, he tries out different cans and tins, listening carefully to their different notes. More experimentation follows, and soon, he is performing for his neighbors. Friends join him to form a band made up of “pots and pans, tins and cans in a rainbow of colors.” The sounds are winningly irresistible, and Winston and his fellow musicians soon enjoy their “folded pancakes filled with chicken and secret herbs and spices.” Greenwood’s story is based on the childhood of Winston Simon, the 20th-century musician credited with the invention of the steel drum. The text is filled with a cacophony of musical words that are fun and challenging to read aloud. Lessac’s gouache paintings pulsate with sun-drenched island colors and often resemble a folk-art quilt.

A joy to read. Play calypso music and celebrate! (author’s note, glossary and pronunciation guide, author’s sources) (Picture book/biography. 3-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60060-652-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

This extraordinary new picture book masterfully tackles the complex task of contextualizing seemingly complex architectural...

DREAMING UP

A CELEBRATION OF BUILDING

Hale turns her educated eye to modern and contemporary architecture and produces a book that is at once groundbreaking, child-friendly and marvelously inclusive.

With a celebratory tone, Hale cleverly structures this unusual picture book by matching a series of lively concrete poems and vignettes of young children at play (creating simple structures of all types) with carefully selected photos of complementary, emblematic 20th- and 21st-century structures. Mud pies are compared to Hassan Fathy’s all-earthen New Gourna Village (Luxor, Egypt); beachfront sand castles to Antoni Gaudí’s soaring La Sagrada Família Basilica (Barcelona, Spain); busy LEGO® projects with Moshe Safdie’s modular Habitat 67 housing (Montréal, Québec); cardboard-tube models to Shigeru Ban’s amazing Paper Tube School (Sichuan Provence, China); tongue-depressor/Popsicle-stick and white-glue crafts with the vertical slats of David Adjaye’s Sclera Pavilion (London, England); and the “soft forms / tumble making / ever-changing / caverns, secret spaces” of pillow forts with Frank Gehry’s curvilinear Guggenheim (Bilbao, Spain). Well-organized and accessible backmatter contains the photo, name and location of each of the 15 highlighted structures, a brief biography of and a telling quote from each structure’s architect, and Hale’s own portrait of each designer.

This extraordinary new picture book masterfully tackles the complex task of contextualizing seemingly complex architectural concepts within a child’s own world of play. (Informational picture book/poetry. 2-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60060-651-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

A warm, gentle portrait of an immigrant’s isolation and the ways that creativity and a loving family can offer both a safe...

THE QUIET PLACE

As in Stewart and Small’s previous The Gardener (1997) and The Journey (2001), letters to a loved one become the vehicle for a girl to explore what she sees, feels and comes to understand upon leaving home for the first time.

In this title, a family of four is moving from Mexico to America in 1957. Their poignant, pre-dawn departure starts on the endpapers. Small’s imaginative use of color and masterful variation of line combine to focus attention on Isabel’s expressive face while developing other characters and creating a convincing period with Formica countertops and big-finned cars. Silent spreads allow readers time to ponder her predicament and imagine their own reactions. As the epistles to Auntie Lupita chronicle Isabel’s encounter with snow, feelings about her new teacher and time spent at the children’s parties her mother caters, they also indirectly portray a family sensitive to a child’s well-being. When Isabel requests the big boxes left over from the parties, her family supports her special sanctuary as needed; decorated with paint, origami and cardboard rainspouts reminiscent of the clay gutters back home, her quiet place turns into a panorama of festivities on her birthday, when a double gatefold reveals many new friends.

A warm, gentle portrait of an immigrant’s isolation and the ways that creativity and a loving family can offer both a safe haven and a bridge. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-374-32565-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

An exceptional life; a stunning achievement.

MONSIEUR MARCEAU

ACTOR WITHOUT WORDS

Audiences thrilled to his mesmerizing performances, in which he spoke through his expressive body without uttering a single word.

Marceau was the world’s most popular and beloved mime. Born in France, he grew up watching and imitating Charlie Chaplin, star of silent films. World War II intruded and turned the Jewish teen into a war hero. At war’s end, he created Bip, his alter ego, who with makeup and costume “walks against the wind, but there is no wind.” Schubert’s spare text is both poetic and dramatic. DuBois’s oil paintings are brilliantly executed and saturated, with textured nuances. Images of Marceau fly across the page, delighting the eye, while close-ups highlight his extraordinary facial expressions. Ordinary paper morphs into stage settings as Marceau dances against white or black backgrounds. One double-page spread depicts a costumed fish with sinuously expressive hands and feet. Another presents seven views of Marceau in movement, updating a series of views of Marceau as a child. The pages set during World War II, in contrast, are a somber palette. Don’t turn the pages too quickly; rather stop and feel the joie de vivre with which the master filled people of all ages all over the world.

An exceptional life; a stunning achievement.   (afterword, source notes, further reading) (Picture book biography. 4-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59643-529-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Flash Point/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

The joyful clarity of both vision and execution thrills.

MOUSTERPIECE

Who needs a cookie? Give a mouse a paintbrush!

Janson lives in a museum, in a cozy corner with a pillow and a rose-speckled blanket. One day, she stumbles upon something new, “and her little world opened.” Striding across a gray page, with a soft white glow around her figure to show energy, Janson emerges into a white background and finds—art! Immediately entranced, this self-possessed, humble rodent sets to work copying the masters. A grid of pop-art self-portraits (Janson’s face, with her tenderly expressive eyebrow angle) pays homage to Andy Warhol’s Marilyn series; Janson reclining in a jungle recalls Rousseau; Janson’s snout, elongated and triangulated into cubism, echoes Picasso. Each clean, white page centers Janson at work; an occasional wall angle, easel or dropcloth nimbly enhances the minimal composition. Janson’s gray body and striped skirt are warm hues of low saturation, sending focus to the colors within her artwork: Campbell’s red soup can with mouse face, à la Warhol; blues and yellows for van Gogh’s Starry Night; primaries for a geometric Mondrian mouse and a Munch mouse Scream. When museum renovation bars Janson from the art wing, she weeps, truly bereft, then forges ahead, painting from memory and defining her own style. Discovery and an exhibit follow. Janson’s climactic mousterpiece features canvas texture showing through the paint, honoring her beloved medium.

The joyful clarity of both vision and execution thrills. (notes on 22 artists referenced) (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59643-549-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

The Steads’ work adopts a folkloric approach to cooperative relationships; the affectionately rendered animals that stand in...

BEAR HAS A STORY TO TELL

Within a gentle tale of hibernation and renewal, the Steads’ second collaboration (after Caldecott-winning A Sick Day for Amos McGee) explores a second, internal theme: the nature of the storytelling narrative itself.

Increasingly sleepy, Bear pads through the fall landscape with “a story to tell” before winter’s sleep. Mouse, Duck, Frog and Mole are well into their own winter preparations and cannot listen. Months later, when the reunited friends gather beneath a full moon, Bear can’t remember his story. Helpfully, his friends suggest a protagonist (“Maybe your story is about a bear”), a plot (“Maybe your story is about the busy time just before winter”), and supporting characters (themselves). Thus, Bear begins his story as this one ends: The first line of his story is both the last line of the book and its first. Erin Stead’s pictures quietly appeal: Pencil line and shading define basic features of animals and trees, while washes and smudges of paint suggest seasonal colors, Bear’s rotund mass, and the brushy cobalt expanse of starlit skies. Sharing an affinity with Jerry Pinkney yet evoking the sparer 1960s work of Evaline Ness and Nonny Hogrogian, Stead’s compositions exude an ineffable, less-is-more charm.

The Steads’ work adopts a folkloric approach to cooperative relationships; the affectionately rendered animals that stand in for humans convey a nurturing respect for child readers. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59643-745-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

More Book Lists

The Magazine: Kirkus Reviews

Jenn Shapland reclaims a queer icon in My Autobiography of Carson McCullers.

subscribe
  • The Kirkus Star

    One of the most coveted designations in the book industry, the Kirkus Star marks books of exceptional merit.

  • The Kirkus Prize

    The Kirkus Prize is among the richest literary awards in America, awarding $50,000 in three categories annually.

    See the 2019 winners.

Great Books & News Curated For You

Be the first to read books news and see reviews, news and features in Kirkus Reviews. Get awesome content delivered to your inbox every week.

Thank you!

Looks good !! Please provide a valid email.