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A delight to eye and ear alike, this biography provides an abundant dignity and beauty worthy of its subject.

The life of a great children’s book author and illustrator is set in context.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, in the Hotel Bossert, to a father who favored her brothers, Barbara Cooney (1917-2000) bonded with her mother over the art that would become her eventual career. Restricted for many years to black-and-white etchings after becoming a picture-book illustrator (an editor told her she lacked a sense of color), Cooney excelled when, after about 40 books, she let her colors flow upon the page. She was an inveterate traveler whose heart was most aligned with Maine, where she’d spent summers as a child. All this culminated in her work to restore a library there, shortly before her death. Kunkel’s text eschews the rote biographical format so common in other books, unafraid to muse that “a life is more than a timeline, dates set down in black and white.” Cooney’s own life is thus complemented with consistently inventive descriptions of her adventures (“Barbara drives a yellow Volkswagen across a brown landscape, soaking up sun, and color, and light”). The result is a celebration of the living of a good life rather than a focus on her successes in her chosen field. Meanwhile, the book’s gouache art evokes Cooney’s own without replicating it. The delicate lines and colors serve as a spectacular homage in and of themselves.

A delight to eye and ear alike, this biography provides an abundant dignity and beauty worthy of its subject. (author’s note, bibliography) (Picture-book biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9780593484388

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House Studio

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2024

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A supplemental rather than introductory book on the great artist.

Frida Kahlo’s strong affection for and identification with animals form the lens through which readers view her life and work in this picture-book biography.

Each two-page spread introduces one or more of her pets, comparing her characteristics to theirs and adding biographical details. Confusingly for young readers, the beginning pages reference pets she owned as an adult, yet the illustrations and events referred to come from earlier in her life. Bonito the parrot perches in a tree overlooking young Frida and her family in her childhood home and pops up again later, just before the first mention of Diego Rivera. Granizo, the fawn, another pet from her adult years, is pictured beside a young Frida and her father along with a description of “her life as a little girl.” The author’s note adds important details about Kahlo’s life and her significance as an artist, as well as recommending specific paintings that feature her beloved animals. Expressive acrylic paintings expertly evoke Kahlo’s style and color palette. While young animal lovers will identify with her attachment to her pets and may enjoy learning about the Aztec origins of her Xolo dogs and the meaning of turkeys in ancient Mexico, the book may be of most interest to those who already have an interest in Kahlo’s life.

A supplemental rather than introductory book on the great artist. (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7358-4269-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses.

An NBA star pays tribute to the influence of his grandfather.

In the same vein as his Long Shot (2009), illustrated by Frank Morrison, this latest from Paul prioritizes values and character: “My granddad Papa Chilly had dreams that came true,” he writes, “so maybe if I listen and watch him, / mine will too.” So it is that the wide-eyed Black child in the simply drawn illustrations rises early to get to the playground hoops before anyone else, watches his elder working hard and respecting others, hears him cheering along with the rest of the family from the stands during games, and recalls in a prose afterword that his grandfather wasn’t one to lecture but taught by example. Paul mentions in both the text and the backmatter that Papa Chilly was the first African American to own a service station in North Carolina (his presumed dream) but not that he was killed in a robbery, which has the effect of keeping the overall tone positive and the instructional content one-dimensional. Figures in the pictures are mostly dark-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-81003-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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