Pure silliness: shelve far, far away from the biographies.



From the LieOgraphies series

All her life, Amelia has only one thing on her mind: flight.

At her third birthday party, all her presents are plane-themed. Her fifth grade class laughs at her eagerness to fly. She’s excited to attend a stunt-pilot show but misses it thanks to an out-of-date poster. Through it all, she clings to her pronouncement that “Someday I will fly.” Even when she finally procures a plane, she’s told that girls can’t fly (when proven wrong, the naysaying adult man apologizes). She perseveres and eventually makes big plans for her 50th flight. Katz lards the baldly fictional narrative with absurdities such as metafictive tricks, anachronisms, and gags of convenience. Blessedly, the book closes with “some factual facts” about Earhart’s life, most crucially noting that she apparently had “no particular interest in aviation during her childhood.” Thus, the book is self-admittedly what its title promises. The grayscale cartoons give no indication that any character is any race other than White. Rather, as Christopher Eliopoulos does in his illustrations of Brad Meltzer’s Ordinary People Change the World series, Hill depicts his protagonist the same way no matter her age, which becomes problematic when she’s 17 and still looks like a 3-year-old among tall, adult-proportioned figures. This read is best for those whose senses of irony and humor are developed enough to enjoy the foolishness and then dismiss it. Companion titles about Babe Ruth and Thomas Edison publish simultaneously.

Pure silliness: shelve far, far away from the biographies. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-939100-48-1

Page Count: 100

Publisher: Tanglewood Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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At its best when the emphasis is on the skill and artistry of Mime’s most accomplished practitioner—alas, too much of the...



The legendary mime is introduced to a new generation, though not entirely successfully.

As a child, Marceau loved to silently entertain his friends, like his idol, Charlie Chaplin. During the Nazi occupation of France, Marcel and his brother took on new identities in the French Underground, where they forged documents for Jewish children and helped many to escape to Switzerland. Spielman assumes that her young audience will understand references to deportation and concentration camps; unfortunately for those that don't, her matter-of-fact tone speaks more of adventure than deadly peril. Her tone subtly changes when she lovingly describes Marceau’s training and development as a mime and his stage persona of Bip the clown, admiring his skills in the “art of silence” that won him international renown. But here too, comparisons to the Little Tramp and Pierrot may be outside readers’ frame of reference. Though the illustrations carefully complement the textual content with period details, Gauthier’s cartoon faces are all nearly identical, with only the screen image of Chaplin and Marceau’s Bip having distinctive features. A double-page spread at the conclusion provides photographs of Bip in action and is the only clear indication of Marceau’s stagecraft.

At its best when the emphasis is on the skill and artistry of Mime’s most accomplished practitioner—alas, too much of the book looks elsewhere. (Picture book/biography. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7613-3961-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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Routine assignment fodder.



From the Gateway Biographies series

A standard-issue profile of the renowned activist—one of a spate launched by his death in December 2013.

Doeden opens with Mandela on trial for treason in 1964, closes with a quote from Barack Obama’s eulogy and in between covers the civil rights leader’s long career from childhood to final illness. Small news photos and boxed discussions of apartheid and Steve Biko’s brief life accompany a narrative that reads like a term paper—though, looking at the paltry lists of notes and sources at the end, an inadequately documented one. Along with plenty of similar bio-trivia, readers will find out that Mandela moved from village schools in Qunu and Mqhekezweni to Clarkebury Boarding Institute, Healdtown and the University of Fort Hare before getting a correspondence-course law degree from the University of South Africa…but not why any of that is worth knowing or what light it sheds on his character, achievements and historical significance. Yona Zeldis McDonough’s Peaceful Protest (illustrated by Malcah Zeldis, 2002) or Kadir Nelson’s terse but masterful Nelson Mandela (2013) supply clearer, more cogent tributes.

Routine assignment fodder. (further reading, websites, index) (Biography. 8-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4677-5197-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Lerner

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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