An inviting portrait of a privileged and unconventional woman who shared herself and her art collection with the masses.

WHAT ISABELLA WANTED

ISABELLA STEWART GARDNER BUILDS A MUSEUM

From the mixed-up files of Isabella Stewart Gardner.

In 1867, Isabella fell in love with art and started collecting paintings, sculpture, furniture, and other objects, sometimes having them smuggled into the United States in the way of many superrich art collectors. She eventually decided to build a home within a museum, and for over 20 years, she opened it annually for 20 days, also displaying her personal paraphernalia. She willed it all to the people of Boston, and after her death, the building became a full-time museum. Everything remained as she’d left it—until a mystifying robbery occurred in 1990. Playful, accessible text and engaging illustrations that feature an all-White cast until they reach the present day tell her story, which will be of particular interest to museum visitors. The entitlement she enjoyed (she began collecting during the U.S. Civil War while on a cruise to recover from her young son’s death, and her wealth seemingly enabled her to overcome barriers she may have faced as a woman) is not explicitly mentioned, nor are the many writers and artists—many of them gay—whom she regularly entertained. However, her unconventional nature and love of art are engagingly portrayed, and the unsolved theft of her art reads as a mystery worthy of her scandalous legacy. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An inviting portrait of a privileged and unconventional woman who shared herself and her art collection with the masses. (author's note, bibliography, source notes) (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4263-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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Lovely illustrations wasted on this misguided project.

LUNAR NEW YEAR

From the Celebrate the World series

The Celebrate the World series spotlights Lunar New Year.

This board book blends expository text and first-person-plural narrative, introducing readers to the holiday. Chau’s distinctive, finely textured watercolor paintings add depth, transitioning smoothly from a grand cityscape to the dining room table, from fantasies of the past to dumplings of the present. The text attempts to provide a broad look at the subject, including other names for the celebration, related cosmology, and historical background, as well as a more-personal discussion of traditions and practices. Yet it’s never clear who the narrator is—while the narrative indicates the existence of some consistent, monolithic group who participates in specific rituals of celebration (“Before the new year celebrations begin, we clean our homes—and ourselves!”), the illustrations depict different people in every image. Indeed, observances of Lunar New Year are as diverse as the people who celebrate it, which neither the text nor the images—all of the people appear to be Asian—fully acknowledges. Also unclear is the book’s intended audience. With large blocks of explication on every spread, it is entirely unappealing for the board-book set, and the format may make it equally unattractive to an older, more appropriate audience. Still, readers may appreciate seeing an important celebration warmly and vibrantly portrayed.

Lovely illustrations wasted on this misguided project. (Board book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3303-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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A lovely 20th-anniversary tribute to the towers and all who perished—and survived.

SURVIVOR TREE

A remarkable tree stands where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once soared.

Through simple, tender text, readers learn the life-affirming story of a Callery pear tree that grew and today still flourishes “at the foot of the towers.” The author eloquently describes the pre-9/11 life of the “Survivor Tree” and its heartening, nearly decadelong journey to renewal following its recovery from the wreckage of the towers’ destruction. By tracking the tree’s journey through the natural cycle of seasonal changes and colors after it was found beneath “the blackened remains,” she tells how, after replanting and with loving care (at a nursery in the Bronx), the tree managed miraculously to flourish again. Retransplanted at the Sept. 11 memorial, it valiantly stands today, a symbol of new life and resilience. Hazy, delicate watercolor-and–colored pencil artwork powerfully traces the tree’s existence before and after the towers’ collapse; early pages include several snapshotlike insets capturing people enjoying the outdoors through the seasons. Scenes depicting the towers’ ruins are aptly somber yet hopeful, as they show the crushed tree still defiantly alive. The vivid changes that new seasons introduce are lovingly presented, reminding readers that life unceasingly renews itself. Many paintings are cast in a rosy glow, symbolizing that even the worst disasters can bring forth hope. People depicted are racially diverse. Backmatter material includes additional facts about the tree.

A lovely 20th-anniversary tribute to the towers and all who perished—and survived. (author's note, artist's note) (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-48767-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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