Accomplished illustrations further elevate this engaging introduction to America’s first family of science.


Crisis looms when young Sybilla Peale learns that big brother Rembrandt is taking a beloved fossil for a tour of England.

Sybilla is accustomed to living among the wildlife exhibits (“They are very well behaved. They’re stuffed”) that fill the natural history museum set up in their home by Rembrandt and their father, Charles Willson Peale. She is understandably infuriated at the news that the “magnificent!” fossil skeleton beneath which she holds her doll tea parties will be leaving. Her rebellion melts away, though, when Rembrandt actually bows to her wishes. “Even if he is bossy, he is my brother,” she reflects, and rather than force him to leave the mastodon behind she lets the bones themselves decide. Marinoni illustrates this fictional episode in the life of the multitalented Peales with painterly views of a small, blonde spark plug confidently at home amid her all-white clan, exactly rendered early-American art and furnishings…not to mention all sorts of birds, insects, fossils, and other specimens. The scale of the mastodon skeleton relative to Sybilla is jaw-dropping, emphasized in image after image. Occasional outbreaks of elegantly set italics add an appropriately antique flavor to Sybilla’s narrative, and the author adds a pair of well-chosen period illustrations to an admiring explanatory afterword.

Accomplished illustrations further elevate this engaging introduction to America’s first family of science. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-56846-327-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Creative Editions/Creative Company

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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            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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A ho-hum outing next to James Rumford’s first-class Traveling Man (2001).


A first-person précis of the journeys taken by the Muslim world’s greatest traveler.

Originally published in Arabic, Sharafeddine’s recast tale takes the 14th-century Ibn Battuta on a long, looping course from his home in Tangier to India, then on to China and back for visits to Grenada and Mali. Aside from the occasional storm or hyena attack, however, “his” narrative is a wearying recitation of place names hooked to vague details—“Cairo impressed me with its mosques and hospitals”—and repeated mentions of visits to local “theologians and legal scholars.” Furthermore, dates in the narrative are taken from the Christian calendar only, and the prose is sometimes inexpertly phrased: “I hired a camel to continue my journey”; “After ten years, he made me the ambassador of India in China.” The illustrations, done in a style reminiscent of Persian miniatures, feature large-eyed figures in period dress and evocative glimpses of grand architecture. These scenes are, however, integrated into maps that are so stylized that it’s seldom possible to get a clear picture of where the lands and cities are. The abrupt ending leaves readers who want to know more about Ibn Battuta to their own devices.

A ho-hum outing next to James Rumford’s first-class Traveling Man (2001). (Picture book/biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55498-480-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

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