A spare telling of a big life.

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THE TRUE TALL TALE OF A GIANTESS

THE STORY OF ANNA SWAN

A small, illustrated biography of a giant woman.

Anna Swan was born in Nova Scotia in 1846, and an author’s note explains she likely had “a rare medical condition called pituitary gigantism” that caused her to grow to nearly 8 feet. The story is written in the first person, a dubious choice for biography, but the point of view infuses the narrative with a sense of intimacy. From her birth, Anna is a spectacle in her rural community, where her family is credited with accepting and protecting her. “All the more to love,” her parents are quoted as saying of her, though there’s no direct citation for this dialogue, nor for any other quotations in the book, which could exacerbate concerns about the book’s nonfiction credibility. The strong foundation Anna receives from them helps her confidently set out into the world with a man she calls Mr. Barnum, who includes her in his Gallery of Wonders with other people with unusual physiques. An unfortunate, insensitive simile likens two men with gigantism to “totem poles,” and a later introduction of Anna’s husband, Martin Van Buren Bates, calls him the “Kentucky Mountain Giant” but fails to mention he was a Confederate soldier. Despite these missteps, there’s much to admire in this tribute to Swan, not the least of which are detailed mixed-media illustrations; done with a delicate folk-art sensibility, they depict Anna and her world as an all-white one.

A spare telling of a big life. (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77138-376-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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Sage, soothing ideas for a busy, loud, sometimes-divisive world.

GRANDMA'S GARDENS

In an inviting picture book, Chelsea and Hillary Clinton share personal revelations on how gardening with a grandmother, a mother, and children shapes and nurtures a love and respect for nature, beauty, and a general philosophy for life.

Grandma Dorothy, the former senator, secretary of state, and presidential candidate’s mother, loved gardens, appreciating the multiple benefits they yielded for herself and her family. The Clinton women reminisce about their beloved forebear and all she taught them in a color-coded, alternating text, blue for Chelsea and green for Hillary. Via brief yet explicit remembrances, they share what they learned, observed, and most of all enjoyed in gardens with her. Each double-page spread culminates in a declarative statement set in italicized red text invoking Dorothy’s wise words. Gardens can be many things: places for celebration, discovery and learning, vehicles for teaching responsibility in creating beauty, home to wildlife large and small, a place to share stories and develop memories. Though operating from very personal experience rooted in class privilege, the mother-daughter duo mostly succeeds in imparting a universally significant message: Whether visiting a public garden or working in the backyard, generations can cultivate a lasting bond. Lemniscates uses an appropriately floral palette to evoke the gardens explored by these three white women. A Spanish edition, Los jardines de la abuela, publishes simultaneously; Teresa Mlawer’s translation is fluid and pleasing, in at least one case improving on the original.

Sage, soothing ideas for a busy, loud, sometimes-divisive world. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11535-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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An inspiring introduction to the young Nobel Peace Prize winner and a useful conversation starter

MALALA'S MAGIC PENCIL

The latest of many picture books about the young heroine from Pakistan, this one is narrated by Malala herself, with a frame that is accessible to young readers.

Malala introduces her story using a television show she used to watch about a boy with a magic pencil that he used to get himself and his friends out of trouble. Readers can easily follow Malala through her own discovery of troubles in her beloved home village, such as other children not attending school and soldiers taking over the village. Watercolor-and-ink illustrations give a strong sense of setting, while gold ink designs overlay Malala’s hopes onto her often dreary reality. The story makes clear Malala’s motivations for taking up the pen to tell the world about the hardships in her village and only alludes to the attempt on her life, with a black page (“the dangerous men tried to silence me. / But they failed”) and a hospital bracelet on her wrist the only hints of the harm that came to her. Crowds with signs join her call before she is shown giving her famous speech before the United Nations. Toward the end of the book, adult readers may need to help children understand Malala’s “work,” but the message of holding fast to courage and working together is powerful and clear.

An inspiring introduction to the young Nobel Peace Prize winner and a useful conversation starter . (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-31957-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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