Both a riveting narrative and an excellent guide for young readers to try, try again.

A philosophy for life, built word by word, hold by hold, climb by climb.

Japanese American teen rock-climbing champion Shiraishi narrates the story of how she navigated one of her biggest climbs with patience, perseverance, and creativity. Problems, whether on rock or in life, can look “tremendously endless” to anyone, even Ashima, depicted here as a 13-year-old. But when she compares individual holds to the shape of her mother’s bolts of fabric or of her father’s elbow in a dance, she connects with the route, finding her way up the rock. However, her ascent isn’t perfect, and her first fall is depicted, boldly, on a vertical double-page spread. She “listens” to the climb, regroups with her father’s help, and approaches the rock with renewed mental and physical strength. Her summit, illustrated in a strong, striking pose—arms spread wide, fingers gripping the rock—portrays the perseverance, reflection, and tenacity Ashima demonstrates in every climb. Backmatter both narrates and visually depicts the author’s rise through the annals of climbing, including her completion of a formidable boulder problem, the first woman to do so. Vivid, clean-lined illustrations by debut artist Xiao immerse readers in sweeping, earth-toned vistas of rock and sky that form Ashima’s world. Lively endpapers show Ashima in various body positions common to the sport of rock climbing.

Both a riveting narrative and an excellent guide for young readers to try, try again. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-7327-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Make Me a World

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020



One determined man brings two villages together with a hammer, chisel, and an iron will.

Deep in the heart of India, a mighty mountain separates two villages. Manjhi lives on one side, where nothing grows. On the other, rice and wheat flourish. The people there are affluent, while Manjhi’s village struggles with hunger. Manjhi climbs to the top of the mountain to ponder this problem. When he throws a stone, it triggers a sprinkle of powder, which gives him an idea. Manjhi trades his trio of goats for a hammer and chisel. Hurrying back to the top of the mountain, he positions the chisel and strikes it with the hammer. Powdered rock and tiny chips spray. He continues until he’s exhausted, but he’s also filled with hope. Even though people tell him he’s “crazy,” day after day Manjhi returns to the mountain. After a year, Majhi is a little stronger, and the hole he has made a little deeper. He perseveres and, when he returns to his task each day, notices that others have continued his work. It takes 22 years, but Manjhi lives to see the day that two villages become one, sharing water, hopes, and dreams. Churnin’s prose has an elegance appropriate for her inspiring tale, which is based on a true story. Popovich’s double-page illustrations use a warm palette and are nicely composed.

Heartening. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-939547-34-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Creston

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017


A beautifully designed book that will resonate with children and the adults who wisely share it with them.

An inspirational ode to the life of the great South African leader by an award-winning author and illustrator.

Mandela’s has been a monumental life, a fact made clear on the front cover, which features an imposing, full-page portrait. The title is on the rear cover. His family gave him the Xhosa name Rolihlahla, but his schoolteacher called him Nelson. Later, he was sent to study with village elders who told him stories about his beautiful and fertile land, which was conquered by European settlers with more powerful weapons. Then came apartheid, and his protests, rallies and legal work for the cause of racial equality led to nearly 30 years of imprisonment followed at last by freedom for Mandela and for all South Africans. “The ancestors, / The people, / The world, / Celebrated.” Nelson’s writing is spare, poetic, and grounded in empathy and admiration. His oil paintings on birch plywood are muscular and powerful. Dramatic moments are captured in shifting perspectives; a whites-only beach is seen through a wide-angle lens, while faces behind bars and faces beaming in final victory are masterfully portrayed in close-up.

A beautifully designed book that will resonate with children and the adults who wisely share it with them. (author’s note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-178374-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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