Though the text works hard to convey it, getting an aesthetic sense of Cassatt’s famous body of work will require another...

MARY CASSATT

EXTRAORDINARY IMPRESSIONIST PAINTER

Starting in childhood, impressionist artist Mary Cassatt carves her own path.

Mary grows up “tall and temperamental,” absolutely set on being an artist despite the 1860s social mores dictating that “proper girls weren’t artists. They had polite hobbies—flower arranging, needlepoint.” She attends art school and goes to Paris, sitting in the Louvre to copy the old masters. Connecting with Edgar Degas gives her a community that supports her independent streak: “We paint as we please. We break the judges’ rules.” Herkert’s bold phrasing—“Mary swept jewel tones across her canvas”—implies artistic zest. However, despite varied media (gouache, watercolor, acrylic, enamel, and tempera), Swiatkowska’s illustrations don’t match the text’s descriptions. A spread of “canary yellow, radiant pink, vibrant blue” shows no yellow at all (tan instead) and pleasant but low-intensity blue and pink. “Brilliant tones” and “lightning bolts of white” are narrated but not shown. Skin tones and backgrounds lean toward gray. Readers sophisticated enough to appreciate sentences like “she rendered cropped angles” will notice how much more is told than shown, including the fact that Cassatt is portrayed actually painting only once. Regrettably, Asian art is labeled “exotic.”

Though the text works hard to convey it, getting an aesthetic sense of Cassatt’s famous body of work will require another source. (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62779-016-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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A notable choice for both STEM curricula and family sharing.

CHARLES DARWIN'S AROUND-THE-WORLD ADVENTURE

This introduction to Darwin focuses on his five-year exploratory journey on the HMS Beagle.

Young Charles loves searching for insects, birds, rocks, and bones, and he also loves sorting his treasures. After finishing school at Cambridge, he’s recommended by his botany professor as naturalist for the Beagle’s mapmaking mission around South America. Collecting specimens and recording “big observations about the tiniest of creatures” in his journal, Charles often remains behind to explore while the Beagle sails the coastline. The forthright narrative highlights Charles’ coming-of-age as a young man and scientist. In Tierra del Fuego, he observes the food chain: “The bigger animals couldn’t survive without eating the smaller ones. Charles saw how their lives were all connected.” Exploring the Andes, Charles’ speculations about the effects of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis are proven when he finds seashells embedded in high-elevation rocks. Thermes’ pencil-and-watercolor maps and illustrations are charming, accessible, and idealized. Charles resembles a boy throughout, save for his long sideburns. Some spreads group many species together in tableaux designed for browsing rather than scientific exactitude. The famous Galápagos Islands stopover gets special attention, and a cross section of the departing Beagle shows tortoises—for eating—in the hold. Endpapers map the global journey and include a timeline, some of which is hidden behind the front flap.

A notable choice for both STEM curricula and family sharing. (notes, sources, further reading, “fun facts”) (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2120-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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Pithy narrative plus charming pictures equals an admiring, admirable portrait of a STEM pioneer.

ADA LOVELACE, POET OF SCIENCE

THE FIRST COMPUTER PROGRAMMER

Stanley surveys the brief life of Byron’s daughter, whose scientific education and inquiring mind shaped her foundational contributions to computer science.

Raised by the hyperrational Lady Byron, Ada’s creative ingenuity is shaped by the study of math and science. Touring newly industrialized factories, Ada’s fascinated by Jacquard’s mechanical loom, which uses encoded, hole-punched paper cards to weave fabrics from plaids to brocades. Introduced to London society at 17, Ada is flummoxed by fashion and gossip, but she’s entranced once introduced to mathematician Charles Babbage and his circle of scientists and writers. Encountering Babbage’s “Difference Engine”—a prototypical calculating machine—Ada forms a pivotal connection with the inventor. Marriage and children follow for Lovelace, but her later translation of an article about Babbage’s proposed “Analytical Engine” secures their partnership’s significance within the incremental timeline of machine science. Ada’s extensive Notes explain how to encode complex calculations, marking her own unique contribution. Stanley efficiently takes readers through Ada’s childhood and career, choosing details that develop her subject as both a human being and a landmark scientist. Complementing the clear prose, Hartland’s whimsical gouache pictures portray white figures with coral lips and in period dress. Gestural brushstrokes loosely evoke landscapes and interiors, yet scores of objects—from book titles and period toys to an omnipresent cat—provide plentiful visual interest.

Pithy narrative plus charming pictures equals an admiring, admirable portrait of a STEM pioneer. (author’s note, important dates, bibliography of adult sources, glossary) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5249-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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