Interesting enough but not particularly impactful.

Discover the lost genius of Maria Anna Mozart.

Ades and Lirius’ picture-book biography tells the story of the older sister of great classical music composer and pianist Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Maria, nicknamed Nannerl, narrates the story, recounting how her musical family life inspired her early longing to make music. During her childhood, her father taught her to play the harpsichord. She explains that “Wolfgang always wanted to do everything I did, so Papa taught him, too.” Both children showed prodigious aptitude and spent years performing across Europe. However, the custom of the time precluded women from public performance, never mind musical composition, so as Nannerl grew older, her father arranged for her to marry, bringing her short-lived music career to an end. Nevertheless, Nannerl’s passion for music never died. The book spends little time developing the relationships between its central characters, especially the complex one between Nannerl and her father, in reality not half so tyrannical a figure as the story makes him out to be. The narrative is rather limited in scope, omitting certain key aspects of Nannerl’s biography. The prose is lyrical in its simplicity but otherwise unremarkable; the gouache and digital illustrations, however, are sublime, painted in delicate shades with whimsical touches and flowing floral scroll motifs. The backmatter explains that some liberties were taken in creating this work of “creative nonfiction” and provides biographical and reference information, including a timeline and glossary. All characters are White.

Interesting enough but not particularly impactful. (Picture-book biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-31476-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022


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


A striking visual representation of how the label “bad reader” can feel.

A slow reader gains confidence.

Strongly influenced by Talbott’s own childhood reading journey, a young tot with a mop of brown hair and pale skin loves art, but reading doesn’t come as naturally. Crayons and colored pencils create imaginative worlds, but the words on a page crowd together, forming an impenetrable wall, with the youngster barely able to peer over. The rest of the class seemingly soars ahead, turning page after page, but the books (in the protagonist’s mind) give chase, flying menacingly like a scene from Hitchcock: “And they were coming for me! / So many words! So many pages!” Talbott expertly captures the claustrophobic crush of unknown vocabulary, first as a downpour of squiggles from the sky, then as a gnarled, dark forest with words lining the branches. But reading slowly doesn’t mean not reading at all. The youngster learns to search for familiar words, using them as steppingstones. And there are advantages: “Slow readers savor the story!” There is even a “Slow Readers Hall of Fame” included, featuring Albert Einstein, Sojourner Truth, and many others. Talbott excels at evincing concepts visually, and this talent is in evidence here as his protagonist first struggles then gains mastery, surfing confidently down a wave of words. Patience and curiosity (along with some fierce determination) can unlock incredible stories. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A striking visual representation of how the label “bad reader” can feel. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-399-54871-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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