With Souza’s book, this could have bookended the Obama years. But it’s more of a bookend and a paperweight.

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REACH HIGHER

AN INSPIRING PHOTO CELEBRATION OF FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA

Lucidon’s adaptation of her adult book Chasing Light (2017) for the kindergarten-to–second-grade set aims for the photographic splendor of Pete Souza’s Dream Big Dreams (2017), which celebrates what made the Obama administration both historic and extraordinary.

The author gives context for the first lady’s roles as well as the role of a White House photographer and the White House itself, including descriptions of the storied hued rooms. Within that framework, Lucidon shows Michelle Obama performing her duties inside and outside what she called “the People’s House.” However, it’s arguable that enough books exist detailing the duties and the building. What readers likely want from this book is to understand what exactly made Obama’s tenure as incredible as her husband’s. For example, the author calls Obama “Visitor-in-Chief,” but she most famously called herself “Mom-in-Chief” and validated many black mothers in a national discourse that constantly denigrates them. Considering this, it’s regrettable that the book includes relatively few photos of Obama with her family. Other missed opportunities abound, as when Lucidon fails to explain why black girls dancing under Lincoln’s portrait is significant in light of Obama’s first ladyship even as she acknowledges it is “a special moment in history.”

With Souza’s book, this could have bookended the Obama years. But it’s more of a bookend and a paperweight. (Nonfiction. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-64400-2

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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

ROSA PARKS

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.

DANCING HANDS

HOW TERESA CARREÑO PLAYED THE PIANO FOR PRESIDENT LINCOLN

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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