Laughably undercontextualized and not particularly interesting, despite the decapitations.



From the Pocket Bios series

The ill-fated queen of France takes center stage in a beginner’s biography.

As a subject of a biography for preschoolers and early-elementary readers, Marie Antoinette, a woman who is known for the probably apocryphal “Let them eat cake!” and for her execution by guillotine during the French Revolution, is a curious choice. Berenger (not a person but a French media collective) introduces her as an Austrian princess married off to a French prince as part of a peace negotiation. At 18, she is crowned at Reims with her husband, Louis XVI, and she proceeds to “insist on the finest of everything….She hired hairdressers to change her hairstyle every day!” But “meanwhile, many people in France were poor and starving,” so “they decided to overthrow their king and queen!” The hopelessly simplistic account proceeds through the royal couple’s imprisonment, Louis’ execution (framed by the guillotine, he looks worriedly out at readers), the confiscation of her son, and her trial (depicted) and execution (not). Backmatter includes further information, which mostly muddies the waters rather than clearing them, introducing Robespierre and the Reign of Terror in a three-sentence thumbnail and presenting a complicated map of Europe that may be of more use to the volume’s original French readers than to North American ones. The bobbleheaded cartoons, all white, look by turns happy, anxious, and angry; they are at all times vapid. Companion title Buddha is equally inadequate.

Laughably undercontextualized and not particularly interesting, despite the decapitations. (Picture book/biography. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-16882-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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It’s a bit sketchy of historical detail, but it’s coherent, inspirational, and engaging without indulging in rapturous...


From the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

A first introduction to the iconic civil rights activist.

“She was very little and very brave, and she always tried to do what was right.” Without many names or any dates, Kaiser traces Parks’ life and career from childhood to later fights for “fair schools, jobs, and houses for black people” as well as “voting rights, women’s rights and the rights of people in prison.” Though her refusal to change seats and the ensuing bus boycott are misleadingly presented as spontaneous acts of protest, young readers will come away with a clear picture of her worth as a role model. Though recognizable thanks to the large wire-rimmed glasses Parks sports from the outset as she marches confidently through Antelo’s stylized illustrations, she looks childlike throughout (as characteristic of this series), and her skin is unrealistically darkened to match the most common shade visible on other African-American figures. In her co-published Emmeline Pankhurst (illustrated by Ana Sanfelippo), Kaiser likewise simplistically implies that Great Britain led the way in granting universal women’s suffrage but highlights her subject’s courageous quest for justice, and Isabel Sánchez Vegara caps her profile of Audrey Hepburn (illustrated by Amaia Arrazola) with the moot but laudable claim that “helping people across the globe” (all of whom in the pictures are dark-skinned children) made Hepburn “happier than acting or dancing ever had.” All three titles end with photographs and timelines over more-detailed recaps plus at least one lead to further information.

It’s a bit sketchy of historical detail, but it’s coherent, inspirational, and engaging without indulging in rapturous flights of hyperbole. (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-78603-018-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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Like a concerto for the heart.



Venezuelan pianist Teresa Carreño performs for President Abraham Lincoln amid a raging Civil War in Engle and López’s portrait of an artist.

Thanks to parental encouragement, Teresita learned about “all the beautiful / dark and light keys / of a piano” at an early age. By the age of 6, she composed original songs. Revolución in Venezuela soon drove an 8-year-old Teresa and her family to sail across the stormy sea to the United States, but the Carreño family arrived only to find another violent conflict—“the horrible Civil War”—in their adopted country. Despite the initial alienation that comes from being in an unfamiliar country, Teresita continued to improve and play “graceful waltzes and sonatas, / booming symphonies, and lively folk songs.” The Piano Girl’s reputation spread far, eventually garnering the attention of Lincoln, who invited the 10-year-old to perform at the White House! Yet the Civil War festered on, tormenting Teresita, who wished to alleviate the president’s burdens for at least one night. “How could music soothe / so much trouble?” Half biographical sketch, half wide-eyed tribute, Engle and López’s collaboration endearingly builds to Teresa’s fateful meeting with Lincoln like a gravitational pull, with bursts of compassion and admiration for both artist and public servant. Engle’s free verse whirls and twirls, playful and vivacious, while López’s vivid, colorful artwork elevates this story to heavenly heights.

Like a concerto for the heart. (historical note) (Informational picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8740-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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