Successful neither as biography nor sermon.


From the Ordinary People Change the World series

Our 16th president is presented as an activist for human and civil rights.

Lincoln resembles a doll with an oversized head as he strides through a first-person narrative that stretches the limits of credulity and usefulness. From childhood, Abe, bearded and sporting a stovepipe hat, loves to read, write and look out for animals. He stands up to bullies, noting that “the hardest fights don’t reveal a winner—but they do reveal character.” He sees slaves, and the sight haunts him. When the Civil War begins, he calls it a struggle to end slavery. Not accurate. The text further calls the Gettysburg ceremonies a “big event” designed to “reenergize” Union supporters and states that the Emancipation Proclamation “freed all those people.” Not accurate. The account concludes with a homily to “speak louder then you’ve ever spoken before,” as Lincoln holds the Proclamation in his hands. Eliopoulos’ comic-style digital art uses speech bubbles for conversational asides. A double-page spread depicts Lincoln, Confederate soldiers, Union soldiers, white folk and African-American folk walking arm in arm: an anachronistic reference to civil rights–era protest marches? An unsourced quotation from Lincoln may not actually be Lincoln’s words.

Successful neither as biography nor sermon. (photographs, archival illustration) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8037-4083-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2013

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Stirring encouragement for all “little people” with “big dreams.” (Picture book/biography. 5-7)


From the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

“There’s nothing I can’t be,” young Maya thinks, and then shows, in this profile for newly independent readers, imported from Spain.

The inspirational message is conveyed through a fine skein of biographical details. It begins with her birth in St. Louis and the prejudice she experienced growing up in a small Arkansas town and closes with her reading of a poem “about her favorite thing: hope” at Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration. In between, it mentions the (unspecified) “attack” by her mother’s boyfriend and subsequent elective muteness she experienced as a child, as well as some of the varied pursuits that preceded her eventual decision to become a writer. Kaiser goes on in a closing spread to recap Angelou’s life and career, with dates, beneath a quartet of portrait photos. Salaberria’s simple illustrations, filled with brown-skinned figures, are more idealized than photorealistic, but, though only in the cover image do they make direct contact with readers’, Angelou’s huge eyes are an effective focal point in each scene. The message is similar in the co-published Amelia Earhart, written by Ma Isabel Sánchez Vegara (and also translated by Pitt), but the pictures are more fanciful as illustrator Mariadiamantes endows the aviator with a mane of incandescent orange hair and sends her flying westward (in contradiction of the text and history) on her final around-the-world flight.

Stirring encouragement for all “little people” with “big dreams.” (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-84780-889-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Interesting and well meaning—but doesn’t make it to the top of the flagpole.



A teenage girl spangles the U.S. flag with stars—and spawns our national anthem.

It’s 1813; America has been fighting the British for a year. Thirteen-year-old Caroline Pickersgill is from an illustrious, white, flag-making family in Baltimore. When the U.S. Army commissions them to fashion a flag to fly over nearby Fort McHenry, Caroline and other skilled seamstresses—including Grace Wisher, a young African-American indentured servant—toil for weeks. The gigantic banner proudly waves for a year until the enemy sails toward the fort. The ensuing battle tests the flag’s, its creators’, and, of course, the new nation’s mettle. As history tells, America emerged victorious, and the flag survived, inspiring Francis Scott Key to write an awestruck poem, the first stanza of which became our national anthem (and all of which is reproduced in the backmatter). The simple, straightforward narrative incorporates snippets of the song in the book’s second half, but the stirring words fare better as lyrics than in story form. The informative author’s note is actually more inspiring than the text. Most illustrations evoke more excitement: bold reds and blues are eye-popping, and battle scenes are rousing and dramatic. However, the flat, caricatured portraits of human figures, rendered with light-tan skin tones save for Grace’s brown skin, feel at odds with the historical context.

Interesting and well meaning—but doesn’t make it to the top of the flagpole. (sources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6096-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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