A soft, sad, lovely introduction to a masterpiece.

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VINCENT CAN'T SLEEP

VAN GOGH PAINTS THE NIGHT SKY

Vincent van Gogh’s lifelong insomnia leads to his masterwork The Starry Night.

Starting as a toddler, wide awake in a cradle, “Vincent can’t sleep.” He sees “pink and yellow starlit shapes that twinkle on the ceiling”; the illustration uses those starlit reflections and the real stars outside to begin the visual theme of The Starry Night. A bit older, he runs outdoors at night, lies down in a field, and “snuggles under a blanket of sapphire sky.” He’s at peace right then, but the text is poetically clear that peace wasn’t plentiful: he “runs into the soothing darkness and is brought back to the harsh light over and over again.” He “draws, writes, and sighs alone”; he drifts, lost, creating “canvas after canvas like radiant chapters in a book only Vincent can read.” He’s hospitalized for an unnamed illness. He works hard to know: “Does darkness have a texture? / Thick? / Thin?…Is the night sky at rest? Or do eleven stars pulse like a beating heart?” Together, text and pictures balance his unsettled melancholy against beauty and harmony. Facially, van Gogh looks much like any GrandPré face; however, GrandPré’s acrylic, pen, and watercolor spreads make marvelous use of dark blues with yellows, putty hues and pinks with swirls, and curving lines, all building to a tender, magnificent final spread.

A soft, sad, lovely introduction to a masterpiece. (images of original art, author’s note, sources) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93710-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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There's a need for a good book for kids about Ansel Adams—and this one misses the mark.

ANTSY ANSEL

ANSEL ADAMS, A LIFE IN NATURE

This distillation of the photographer’s life and achievements focuses on his “antsy” youth and early influences.

A distracted, sickly student, Ansel reveled in nature along the beaches near his San Francisco home. He blossomed after his prescient father withdrew him from formal schooling, enabling home tutoring and such experiences as a season ticket to San Francisco’s 1915 world’s fair. Effectively employing onomatopoeia, Jenson-Elliott reveals 14-year-old Ansel’s pivotal experience at Yosemite. On a family trip, “Ansel got his first glimpse of Yosemite Valley—the ripple-rush-ROAR! of water and light! Light! Light! It was love at first sight.” In Yosemite, his parents gave him his first camera, and “he was off— Run-leap-scramble—SNAP!…Ansel’s photos became a / journal of everything he saw.” The final five double-page spreads compress 60-plus years: photography expeditions in Yosemite, marriage to Virginia Best, Adams’ government-commissioned work documenting the national parks, and the enduring importance of his photographic record of the American wild lands. Hale’s collages blend traditional and digital layering and include cropped photographic images such as Adams’ childhood home and wood-paneled station wagon. Her stylized depiction of Yosemite’s Half Dome and decision to render several iconic photographs as painterly thumbnails display a jarring disregard for Adams’ lifelong absorption with technical and visual precision.

There's a need for a good book for kids about Ansel Adams—and this one misses the mark. (biographical note, photographs with note, bibliography of adult resources, websites) (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-082-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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