A barely serviceable introduction with far more child appeal than substance.

I AM ROSA PARKS

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

Following introductions to Amelia Earhart and Abraham Lincoln, this third title in the set introduces an iconic figure in the civil rights movement.

In a straightforward fictionalized narration, Parks tells her story. She gives examples of segregation and bullying in her early life, describes the incident that led to her work for the NAACP and the resistance that led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-56. “The only tired I was, was tired of giving in,” she remarks. The book makes a point of contrasting her small size with her great determination. In the cartoon illustrations, Parks has the round head of Charlie Brown; sometimes she even shares his rueful expression. As with other heroes in the series, she remains child-sized throughout the book, which has the effect of infantilizing her. In one particularly unfortunate illustration, she and an equally child-sized Martin Luther King have an imagined conversation, depicted in speech bubbles, in front of an integrated classroom full of students prayerfully reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. The small, square format seems designed for young hands, and the approach may be most appropriate for preschoolers. The thriller-writer–turned–author-for-children has provided no documentation, sourcing or suggestions for further exploration of this history, but two pages of photographs (not seen) follow the account.

A barely serviceable introduction with far more child appeal than substance. (Picture book/biography. 3-7)

Pub Date: June 17, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8037-40853

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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A memorable life—a forgettable presentation.

I AM JACKIE ROBINSON

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

Baseball’s No. 42 strikes out.

Even as a babe in his mother’s arms, Robinson is depicted wearing his Brooklyn Dodgers baseball cap in this latest entry in the Ordinary People Change the World series. He narrates his childhood alongside cartoon panels that show him as an expert runner and thrower. Racism and poverty are also part of his growing up, along with lessons in sharing and courage. Incredibly, the Negro Leagues are not mentioned beyond a passing reference to “a black team” with a picture of the Kansas City Monarchs next to their team bus (still looking like a child in the illustration, Robinson whines, “Gross! Is this food or goo?”). In 1946, Branch Rickey signs him to play for the Dodgers’ farm team, and the rest, as they say, is history. Robinson concludes his story with an exhortation to readers to be brave, strong and use their “power to do what’s right. / Use that power for a cause that you believe in.” Meltzer writes his inspirational biography as a first-person narrative, which risks being construed and used as an autobiography—which it is not. The digitally rendered cartoon illustrations that show Robinson as a perpetual child fall sadly short of capturing his demeanor and prowess.

A memorable life—a forgettable presentation. (photographs, timeline, sources, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8037-4086-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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

MAYA ANGELOU

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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