This biography sometimes feels like a great song, so sad it can leave you joyous.

NATAN SHARANSKY

FREEDOM FIGHTER FOR SOVIET JEWS

Stories about heroes are almost always a little sad.

Like many activists, Natan Sharansky was punished nearly every time he fought for the goals he believed in. He was accused publicly of espionage by the Soviet authorities and spent years in prison and in labor camps, separated from his wife. The saddest part is that, for many people, his goals would have qualified as ordinary life: He wanted to live in Israel and practice his religion in the open. He eventually won those rights for himself and other Soviet Jews. Even after being locked up for close to a decade and completing several hunger strikes, he still had a remarkable sense of humor. While the dialogue captures emotional tenors well throughout, the most memorable lines in this graphic biography are often jokes he made. When KGB agents followed him into a taxi, he asked if they’d split the cab fare, and after years of constant surveillance, he said, “It’s like I have two shadows: one that is mine, and the other the KGB’s.” The text in the panels’ narrative boxes is less engaging, often coming across as boilerplate, but the pictures help to capture Sharansky’s personality. Though the likenesses—especially the pictures of presidents—aren’t always convincing, some of the drawings are vivid enough to look nearly alive. The historical figures in the illustrations are almost all light-skinned Soviets, Israelis, and Americans.

This biography sometimes feels like a great song, so sad it can leave you joyous. (timeline, glossary, reading list, historical notes) (Graphic biography. 8-11)

Pub Date: May 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5415-8899-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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At its best when the emphasis is on the skill and artistry of Mime’s most accomplished practitioner—alas, too much of the...

MARCEL MARCEAU

MASTER OF MIME

The legendary mime is introduced to a new generation, though not entirely successfully.

As a child, Marceau loved to silently entertain his friends, like his idol, Charlie Chaplin. During the Nazi occupation of France, Marcel and his brother took on new identities in the French Underground, where they forged documents for Jewish children and helped many to escape to Switzerland. Spielman assumes that her young audience will understand references to deportation and concentration camps; unfortunately for those that don't, her matter-of-fact tone speaks more of adventure than deadly peril. Her tone subtly changes when she lovingly describes Marceau’s training and development as a mime and his stage persona of Bip the clown, admiring his skills in the “art of silence” that won him international renown. But here too, comparisons to the Little Tramp and Pierrot may be outside readers’ frame of reference. Though the illustrations carefully complement the textual content with period details, Gauthier’s cartoon faces are all nearly identical, with only the screen image of Chaplin and Marceau’s Bip having distinctive features. A double-page spread at the conclusion provides photographs of Bip in action and is the only clear indication of Marceau’s stagecraft.

At its best when the emphasis is on the skill and artistry of Mime’s most accomplished practitioner—alas, too much of the book looks elsewhere. (Picture book/biography. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7613-3961-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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Routine assignment fodder.

NELSON MANDELA

WORLD LEADER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

From the Gateway Biographies series

A standard-issue profile of the renowned activist—one of a spate launched by his death in December 2013.

Doeden opens with Mandela on trial for treason in 1964, closes with a quote from Barack Obama’s eulogy and in between covers the civil rights leader’s long career from childhood to final illness. Small news photos and boxed discussions of apartheid and Steve Biko’s brief life accompany a narrative that reads like a term paper—though, looking at the paltry lists of notes and sources at the end, an inadequately documented one. Along with plenty of similar bio-trivia, readers will find out that Mandela moved from village schools in Qunu and Mqhekezweni to Clarkebury Boarding Institute, Healdtown and the University of Fort Hare before getting a correspondence-course law degree from the University of South Africa…but not why any of that is worth knowing or what light it sheds on his character, achievements and historical significance. Yona Zeldis McDonough’s Peaceful Protest (illustrated by Malcah Zeldis, 2002) or Kadir Nelson’s terse but masterful Nelson Mandela (2013) supply clearer, more cogent tributes.

Routine assignment fodder. (further reading, websites, index) (Biography. 8-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4677-5197-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Lerner

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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