A striking, quirky ode to a unique vision.

THE STRANGE BIRDS OF FLANNERY O'CONNOR

This picture-book biography, beginning in Flannery O’Connor’s childhood and ending with her untimely death, shines a light on her love of strangeness.

With its memorable opening line, “Right from the start young Flannery took a shine to chickens,” the book celebrates her fascination with life’s peculiarities—and death: “How strange to find something large and beautiful rushing in with all that sadness,” the text remarks about her grief at her father’s passing. Deciding that she wants to write stories “as strange as death,” she chooses staring as a writer’s tool, plumbing the “hidden strangeness” of people and looking for “flashes of good” in complicated characters. After college and a brief stint writing in New York, she is diagnosed with lupus and returns home to Georgia. Alznauer includes some appropriately grim humor, as in young Flannery’s fondness for a photo of a rooster that lived for a month without its head, and classroom humor as well: Flannery flings elastic from her braces at an impatient Sister Consolata. The exaggerated scale and off-kilter perspectives of Zhu’s illustrations align with the book’s focus on eccentricity, adding some imagined characters of color to the mostly white cast of historical figures. The thoughtful design—at 12 inches square, as outsized as its subject—includes a type chosen because its designer, like O’Connor, had a love for drawing birds. Backmatter fleshes out O’Connor’s life and personality and includes a bibliography; it’s not clear if the book’s dialogue is directly quoted or invented.

A striking, quirky ode to a unique vision. (Picture book/biography. 5-18)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59270-2954

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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A larger-than-life subject is neatly captured in text and images.

THURGOOD

The life journey of the first African American to serve on the United States Supreme Court and the incidents that formed him.

Thurgood Marshall grew up in segregated Baltimore, Maryland, with a family that encouraged him to stand for justice. Despite attending poor schools, he found a way to succeed. His father instilled in him a love of the law and encouraged him to argue like a lawyer during dinner conversations. His success in college meant he could go to law school, but the University of Maryland did not accept African American students. Instead, Marshall went to historically black Howard University, where he was mentored by civil rights lawyer Charles Houston. Marshall’s first major legal case was against the law school that denied him a place, and his success brought him to the attention of the NAACP and ultimately led to his work on the groundbreaking Brown v. Board of Education, which itself led to his appointment to the Supreme Court. This lively narrative serves as an introduction to the life of one of the country’s important civil rights figures. Important facts in Marshall’s life are effectively highlighted in an almost staccato fashion. The bold watercolor-and-collage illustrations, beginning with an enticing cover, capture and enhance the strong tone set by the words.

A larger-than-life subject is neatly captured in text and images. (author’s note, photos) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6533-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats.

50 IMPRESSIVE KIDS AND THEIR AMAZING (AND TRUE!) STORIES

From the They Did What? series

Why should grown-ups get all the historical, scientific, athletic, cinematic, and artistic glory?

Choosing exemplars from both past and present, Mitchell includes but goes well beyond Alexander the Great, Anne Frank, and like usual suspects to introduce a host of lesser-known luminaries. These include Shapur II, who was formally crowned king of Persia before he was born, Indian dancer/professional architect Sheila Sri Prakash, transgender spokesperson Jazz Jennings, inventor Param Jaggi, and an international host of other teen or preteen activists and prodigies. The individual portraits range from one paragraph to several pages in length, and they are interspersed with group tributes to, for instance, the Nazi-resisting “Swingkinder,” the striking New York City newsboys, and the marchers of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade. Mitchell even offers would-be villains a role model in Elagabalus, “boy emperor of Rome,” though she notes that he, at least, came to an awful end: “Then, then! They dumped his remains in the Tiber River, to be nommed by fish for all eternity.” The entries are arranged in no evident order, and though the backmatter includes multiple booklists, a personality quiz, a glossary, and even a quick Braille primer (with Braille jokes to decode), there is no index. Still, for readers whose fires need lighting, there’s motivational kindling on nearly every page.

A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats. (finished illustrations not seen) (Collective biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-14-751813-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Puffin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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