Only barely informative and severely lacking in authenticity.

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I AM GANDHI

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

Gandhi, the guru of nonviolence, becomes the latest addition to Meltzer’s Ordinary People Change the World Series.

After describing Gandhi’s early childhood experiences, the book dives into the racism he experienced in South Africa, the development of his philosophy of “Satyagraha,” or “Truth-Force,” and his critical role in the Indian independence movement. It ends with a brief timeline of Gandhi’s life, some photographs, and suggestions for further reading. Similar to other books in the series, child Gandhi is depicted as an old man, which is quite confusing. This is particularly an issue for Gandhi as he only adopted the dhoti he wears throughout this book in his late 40s while protesting against the British. There are also many instances of cultural insensitivity throughout the book. Crucially, Meltzer distorts Gandhi’s original quote “In a gentle way, you can shake the world” as “I will shake the world.” Gandhi was not known as one to take credit for his successes, much less to claim he could shake the world. Another example of misrepresentation is the narration of an incident in which Gandhi refused to copy from another child despite his teacher’s demand that he do so. The text is inaccurate and omits to mention that the refusal by Gandhi was during an exam. Moreover, the illustration depicts the teacher as an Indian in the act of putting his sandaled foot on the book, which goes against a deep-rooted Indian tradition of respect for books; as Gandhi recorded the story, the teacher had the English name of Mr. Giles and used his boot to prod Gandhi.

Only barely informative and severely lacking in authenticity. (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2870-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2017

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A sanitized version of a too-short life.

I AM ANNE FRANK

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

A bobblehead avatar of the teenage writer and symbol of the Holocaust presents her life as an inspiration.

From a big-eared babyhood and a childhood spent “writing stories” to fleeing Germany for Amsterdam, Anne’s pre-Annex life is sketched. Narrating in the first person, the cartoon Anne explains that Nazis “didn’t like those of us who were Jewish or other groups who were different from them.” Hitler is presented as a leader “who blamed the Jews for all of Germany’s problems, even though we hadn’t done anything wrong.” Then in short order Anne receives her diary as a birthday present, the family goes into hiding, and Anne finds solace in the attic looking at the chestnut tree and writing. Effectively, Annex scenes are squeezed between broad black borders. Illustrations present four snippets of quotes from her diary, including “I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.” Narrator Anne says, “You can always find light in the darkest places. That’s what hope is,” as she clutches the diary with Shabbat candles on one side and a menorah burning brightly on the other. In the next double-page spread, an international array of modern-day visitors standing outside the Anne Frank House briefly, in speech bubbles, wraps up the story of the Holocaust, the diary, the Annex, and the chestnut tree. Anne’s wretched death in a concentration camp is mentioned only in a concluding timeline. I Am Benjamin Franklin publishes simultaneously. (This book was reviewed digitally with 7.5-by-15-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

A sanitized version of a too-short life. (photos, sources, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-55594-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Blandly laudatory.

I AM WALT DISNEY

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

The iconic animator introduces young readers to each “happy place” in his life.

The tally begins with his childhood home in Marceline, Missouri, and climaxes with Disneyland (carefully designed to be “the happiest place on Earth”), but the account really centers on finding his true happy place, not on a map but in drawing. In sketching out his early flubs and later rocket to the top, the fictive narrator gives Ub Iwerks and other Disney studio workers a nod (leaving his labor disputes with them unmentioned) and squeezes in quick references to his animated films, from Steamboat Willie to Winnie the Pooh (sans Fantasia and Song of the South). Eliopoulos incorporates stills from the films into his cartoon illustrations and, characteristically for this series, depicts Disney as a caricature, trademark mustache in place on outsized head even in childhood years and child sized even as an adult. Human figures default to white, with occasional people of color in crowd scenes and (ahistorically) in the animation studio. One unidentified animator builds up the role-modeling with an observation that Walt and Mickey were really the same (“Both fearless; both resourceful”). An assertion toward the end—“So when do you stop being a child? When you stop dreaming”—muddles the overall follow-your-bliss message. A timeline to the EPCOT Center’s 1982 opening offers photos of the man with select associates, rodent and otherwise. An additional series entry, I Am Marie Curie, publishes simultaneously, featuring a gowned, toddler-sized version of the groundbreaking physicist accepting her two Nobel prizes.

Blandly laudatory. (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2875-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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