Not for everyone—but a potential delight for the old at heart.

READ REVIEW

SEASONS BEFORE THE WAR

The author recalls her bucolic childhood in St. John’s, Newfoundland, before World War II.

As the title suggests, Morgan organizes her first-person, past-tense narration seasonally, beginning in spring, when kids, “released from winter’s bulky snow-pants and gaiters,” played in empty fields. Children “learned everything about the known world” at “the supper table,” where the author’s father “worried constantly about money.” During summer, kids explored hilly streets, visited neighborhood shops with “marvellous things to smell and look at,” and watched local craftsmen at work. In her father’s carpentry shop, Morgan piled curly shavings on her head, pretending to be Shirley Temple. She warily started kindergarten in fall, disappointed to discover she was the only child wearing glasses and wasn’t the “smartest or prettiest.” Winter brought kids indoors to amuse themselves or listen to stories around the woodstove. The family’s annual trip downtown to view Christmas toys provided the seasonal highlight. Nostalgic prose lovingly describes a simpler, safer time, when Newfoundland was an independent country and before World War II and Canadian provincial status in 1949 changed everything. Colorful, impressionistic, whimsical pencil and watercolor illustrations vividly capture the childlike wonder and bygone atmosphere of a world “about to vanish.” St. John’s is represented as an all-white community. There is no real plot to hold these dense descriptions together, which may prove off-putting to younger readers.

Not for everyone—but a potential delight for the old at heart. (author’s note) (Picture book/memoir. 10-adult)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-927917-18-3

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Running the Goat

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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Humble, endearing and utterly easy to relate to; don’t miss this one.

THE DUMBEST IDEA EVER!

The charismatic creator of the Eisner-nominated Amelia Rules! series recounts his beginnings as a cartoonist.

From the very first panel, Gownley’s graphic memoir is refreshingly different. He’s not the archetypal nerd, and he doesn’t retreat to draw due to feelings of loneliness or isolation. Gownley seems to be a smart kid and a talented athlete, and he has a loyal group of friends and a girlfriend. After he falls ill, first with chicken pox and then pneumonia, he falls behind in school and loses his head-of-the-class standing—a condition he is determined to reverse. A long-standing love of comics leads him to write his own, though his first attempt is shot down by his best friend, who suggests he should instead write a comic about their group. He does, and it’s an instant sensation. Gownley’s story is wonderful; his small-town life is so vividly evinced, it’s difficult to not get lost in it. While readers will certainly pick up on the nostalgia, it should be refreshing—if not completely alien—for younger readers to see teens interacting without texting, instead using phones with cords. Eagle-eyed readers will also be able to see the beginnings of his well-loved books about Amelia. He includes an author’s note that shouldn’t be overlooked—just be sure to keep the tissues handy.

Humble, endearing and utterly easy to relate to; don’t miss this one. (author’s note) (Graphic memoir. 10 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-45346-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2013

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A biography worthy of the larger-than-life Virginia Hamilton

VIRGINIA HAMILTON

AMERICA’S STORYTELLER

From the Biographies for Young Readers series

If the children you know think biographies are boring, this one will make them reconsider.

The tapestry of words Rubini weaves together brilliantly portrays the amazing, quirky, shy, frog-loving woman and extraordinary writer who was Virginia Hamilton. Since Hamilton constantly dipped into the well of her own family history for book details, Rubini wisely begins several generations back, with Hamilton’s enslaved great-grandmother Mary Cloud, who smuggled her son from Virginia to Ohio and delivered him to free relatives then disappeared. Descended from a long line of storytellers and “plain out-and-out liars,” Hamilton relied heavily on what she called Rememory, “an exquisitely textured recollection, real or imagined, which is otherwise indescribable.” Rubini traces Hamilton’s evolution from aspiring writer to becoming “the most honored author of children’s literature.” Hamilton received award after award and in 1975 became the first African-American winner of the coveted Newbery Medal. (To date, only three other African-Americans have won the Newbery.) Rubini’s biography entertains and informs in equal measure, and because she writes short paragraphs and highlights challenging words, young readers will find this a quick, accessible, and memorable read. Photographs and book covers punctuate the chapters, as do useful explanations of Hamilton’s historical context and impact. Rich backmatter will also make this a useful classroom text.

A biography worthy of the larger-than-life Virginia Hamilton . (Biography. 10-16)

Pub Date: June 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8214-2268-7

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Ohio Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2017

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