Despite some missteps, adult Elvis fans will be thrilled to share this book with children.

READ REVIEW

ELVIS

THE STORY OF THE ROCK AND ROLL KING

Brief poems present the childhood and youth of the King of rock ’n’ roll.

Readers learn immediately that Elvis grew up in another time: “Things were different back then. / One door for blacks, another for whites.” Free verse describes how Elvis lived a tough life and soaked up the music that was all around him—gospel, country, blues. His family was poor and moved often. A shy kid, Elvis found his voice through music, first at church, then at a talent show and later as a recording artist. Once he began working with Sam Phillips of Sun Records and his version of “That’s All Right” hit the radio, there was no turning back; he was on the road to becoming a legend. Christensen lauds Elvis as a musical hero, the pioneer who bridged the worlds of black and white music. It is interesting to note, however, that African-Americans appear only on a single page, in photographs on the walls of the recording studio. Christensen’s technique, painting on scanned photographs, helps tell the story by creating distinctive images that feel like glimpses back in time. The flow of the presentation is occasionally interrupted by the switch between single-page illustrations and double-page spreads.

Despite some missteps, adult Elvis fans will be thrilled to share this book with children. (author’s note, timeline) (Picture book/biography. 6-11)

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9447-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic.

STICKS AND STONES

Veteran picture-book creator Polacco tells another story from her childhood that celebrates the importance of staying true to one’s own interests and values.

After years of spending summers with her father and grandmother, narrator Trisha is excited to be spending the school year in Michigan with them. Unexpectedly abandoned by her summertime friends, Trisha quickly connects with fellow outsiders Thom and Ravanne, who may be familiar to readers from Polacco’s The Junkyard Wonders (2010). Throughout the school year, the three enjoy activities together and do their best to avoid school bully Billy. While a physical confrontation between Thom (aka “Sissy Boy”) and Billy does come, so does an opportunity for Thom to defy convention and share his talent with the community. Loosely sketched watercolor illustrations place the story in the middle of the last century, with somewhat old-fashioned clothing and an apparently all-White community. Trisha and her classmates appear to be what today would be called middle schoolers; a reference to something Trisha and her mom did when she was “only eight” suggests that several years have passed since that time. As usual, the lengthy first-person narrative is cozily conversational but includes some challenging vocabulary (textiles, lackeys, foretold). The author’s note provides a brief update about her friends’ careers and encourages readers to embrace their own differences. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2622-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            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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