An excellent, child-friendly introduction to a global issue.

THE FOREST MAN

THE TRUE STORY OF JADAV PAYENG

This picture-book biography of Jadav Payeng, hailed as “the forest man of India,” details his effort to single-handedly reforest his river island home.

In the opening pages of the book, 14-year-old Payeng is distraught by the destruction that deforestation and erosion are causing in his community, an island on the mighty Brahmaputra River in northeastern India. Every day after taking care of his chores, he plants trees on a sandbar laid bare by erosion. For over 35 years he does this, planting first bamboo trees and then other species. Today, Molai Forest is a lush woodland that is no longer desolate: It is home to elephants, rhinoceroses, deer, wild boars, vultures, and tigers. Widdowson’s simple, brightly colored art unfolds as the text does, showcasing stark, eroded shorelines and stranded animals in the opening pages, then verdant coastal forests and smiling animals at the book’s close. Additional backmatter details Payeng’s continued commitment to the revitalization of this fragile ecosystem along with further biographical information, such as his receiving one of India’s highest civilian awards, the Padma Shri. This is the second such picture book about Payeng, following The Boy Who Grew a Forest, by Sophia Gholz and illustrated by Kayla Harren (2019). Payeng is a member of the Mishing, a marginalized tribal community in India; as climate change greatly affects Indigenous and vulnerable communities, this coverage is both welcome and necessary.

An excellent, child-friendly introduction to a global issue. (fast facts, glossary, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4867-1816-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flowerpot Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments.

SUPERHEROES ARE EVERYWHERE

The junior senator from California introduces family and friends as everyday superheroes.

The endpapers are covered with cascades of, mostly, early childhood snapshots (“This is me contemplating the future”—caregivers of toddlers will recognize that abstracted look). In between, Harris introduces heroes in her life who have shaped her character: her mom and dad, whose superpowers were, respectively, to make her feel special and brave; an older neighbor known for her kindness; grandparents in India and Jamaica who “[stood] up for what’s right” (albeit in unspecified ways); other relatives and a teacher who opened her awareness to a wider world; and finally iconic figures such as Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley who “protected people by using the power of words and ideas” and whose examples inspired her to become a lawyer. “Heroes are…YOU!” she concludes, closing with a bulleted Hero Code and a timeline of her legal and political career that ends with her 2017 swearing-in as senator. In group scenes, some of the figures in the bright, simplistic digital illustrations have Asian features, some are in wheelchairs, nearly all are people of color. Almost all are smiling or grinning. Roe provides everyone identified as a role model with a cape and poses the author, who is seen at different ages wearing an identifying heart pin or decoration, next to each.

Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments. (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984837-49-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Blandly laudatory.

I AM WALT DISNEY

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

The iconic animator introduces young readers to each “happy place” in his life.

The tally begins with his childhood home in Marceline, Missouri, and climaxes with Disneyland (carefully designed to be “the happiest place on Earth”), but the account really centers on finding his true happy place, not on a map but in drawing. In sketching out his early flubs and later rocket to the top, the fictive narrator gives Ub Iwerks and other Disney studio workers a nod (leaving his labor disputes with them unmentioned) and squeezes in quick references to his animated films, from Steamboat Willie to Winnie the Pooh (sans Fantasia and Song of the South). Eliopoulos incorporates stills from the films into his cartoon illustrations and, characteristically for this series, depicts Disney as a caricature, trademark mustache in place on outsized head even in childhood years and child sized even as an adult. Human figures default to white, with occasional people of color in crowd scenes and (ahistorically) in the animation studio. One unidentified animator builds up the role-modeling with an observation that Walt and Mickey were really the same (“Both fearless; both resourceful”). An assertion toward the end—“So when do you stop being a child? When you stop dreaming”—muddles the overall follow-your-bliss message. A timeline to the EPCOT Center’s 1982 opening offers photos of the man with select associates, rodent and otherwise. An additional series entry, I Am Marie Curie, publishes simultaneously, featuring a gowned, toddler-sized version of the groundbreaking physicist accepting her two Nobel prizes.

Blandly laudatory. (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2875-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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