A loving remembrance of a tender, enduring intergenerational relationship.


Rhoda vividly remembers exciting New York weekends with her grandfather Toppy, the artist Charles R. Knight, who created many of the murals at the American Museum of Natural History.

Co-author Kalt—Rhoda herself, now grown up—provides a frame, using their weekend jaunts as an entree into Toppy’s life. Toppy was nearly blind but was nevertheless determined to become a wildlife artist, inspired by childhood visits to the American Museum of Natural History. He took art lessons, studied the animals at the Central Park Zoo, and spent hours at the museum’s taxidermy department. His first assignment was painting a prehistoric creature, working from a skeleton. He used every skill he had developed and brought all his knowledge of animals to the task. In scenes with little Rhoda, Toppy’s impromptu lectures, demonstrations, and expansive invitations provide further insights into his character and artistic achievements. Most important is his gentle insistence that Rhoda follow her own heart in determining her future endeavors. Two voices narrate the tale, in both present and past tenses and across several time periods. It is somewhat awkward, but Kerley maintains a careful balance, and it works. Knight’s own lifelike creations appear interspersed with Stephens’ bright, clever, and whimsical gouaches on watercolor. Rhoda and Toppy are white. In a note, Stephens tells of his own vision impairment and his admiration for Knight, and an excerpt from Knight’s own work is also appended.

A loving remembrance of a tender, enduring intergenerational relationship. (authors’ notes, sources, photos) (Picture book/memoir. 4-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-13427-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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A larger-than-life subject is neatly captured in text and images.


The life journey of the first African American to serve on the United States Supreme Court and the incidents that formed him.

Thurgood Marshall grew up in segregated Baltimore, Maryland, with a family that encouraged him to stand for justice. Despite attending poor schools, he found a way to succeed. His father instilled in him a love of the law and encouraged him to argue like a lawyer during dinner conversations. His success in college meant he could go to law school, but the University of Maryland did not accept African American students. Instead, Marshall went to historically black Howard University, where he was mentored by civil rights lawyer Charles Houston. Marshall’s first major legal case was against the law school that denied him a place, and his success brought him to the attention of the NAACP and ultimately led to his work on the groundbreaking Brown v. Board of Education, which itself led to his appointment to the Supreme Court. This lively narrative serves as an introduction to the life of one of the country’s important civil rights figures. Important facts in Marshall’s life are effectively highlighted in an almost staccato fashion. The bold watercolor-and-collage illustrations, beginning with an enticing cover, capture and enhance the strong tone set by the words.

A larger-than-life subject is neatly captured in text and images. (author’s note, photos) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6533-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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A simple but effective look at a keystone species.


Sea otters are the key to healthy kelp forests on the Pacific coast of North America.

There have been several recent titles for older readers about the critical role sea otters play in the coastal Pacific ecosystem. This grand, green version presents it to even younger readers and listeners, using a two-level text and vivid illustrations. Biologist Buhrman-Deever opens as if she were telling a fairy tale: “On the Pacific coast of North America, where the ocean meets the shore, there are forests that have no trees.” The treelike forms are kelp, home to numerous creatures. Two spreads show this lush underwater jungle before its king, the sea otter, is introduced. A delicate balance allows this system to flourish, but there was a time that hunting upset this balance. The writer is careful to blame not the Indigenous peoples who had always hunted the area, but “new people.” In smaller print she explains that Russian explorations spurred the development of an international fur trade. Trueman paints the scene, concentrating on an otter family threatened by formidable harpoons from an abstractly rendered person in a small boat, with a sailing ship in the distance. “People do not always understand at first the changes they cause when they take too much.” Sea urchins take over; a page turn reveals a barren landscape. Happily, the story ends well when hunting stops and the otters return…and with them, the kelp forests.

A simple but effective look at a keystone species. (further information, select bibliography, additional resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8934-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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