Read as an ode to Aretha Franklin rather than as a true biography.



The early beginnings and professional life of the prolific singer and activist are presented in this LP–shaped picture book.

The text is presented in rhyming couplets, one per double-page spread, with a spelled-out lead word printed in block letters setting each one up. “B-L-E-S-S-E-D” leads off, and the titular “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” introduces the final couplet. The short stanzas move the book quickly from one point in Franklin’s life to the next, hinting kaleidoscopically at who she was and why she was so important. Children with no previous familiarity with the subject will require context from caregivers to understand most points. (A narrative biographical note sums up the main points in the backmatter.) Weatherford acknowledges that Franklin’s mother left the family when her preacher father was unfaithful: “Clarence and Barbara Franklin can’t seem to agree. / Daddy wasn’t faithful, so Mama chose to flee.” The spread that includes this information is introduced with “S-T-R-I-F-E,” and the illustration is almost identical to one seen earlier symbolically showing the family establishing roots in “D-E-T-R-O-I-T.” Though Barbara is missing from the “S-T-R-I-F-E” illustration, Clarence wears the same grin, and the effect is unsettling. Overall, the striking, richly colored, painterly illustrations work well with the text and perform due homage to Franklin, but the story of Franklin’s life is left wanting. The oversized, 11 ¼-inch-square trim fittingly accommodates its subject.

Read as an ode to Aretha Franklin rather than as a true biography. (discography) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-5228-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments.


The junior senator from California introduces family and friends as everyday superheroes.

The endpapers are covered with cascades of, mostly, early childhood snapshots (“This is me contemplating the future”—caregivers of toddlers will recognize that abstracted look). In between, Harris introduces heroes in her life who have shaped her character: her mom and dad, whose superpowers were, respectively, to make her feel special and brave; an older neighbor known for her kindness; grandparents in India and Jamaica who “[stood] up for what’s right” (albeit in unspecified ways); other relatives and a teacher who opened her awareness to a wider world; and finally iconic figures such as Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley who “protected people by using the power of words and ideas” and whose examples inspired her to become a lawyer. “Heroes are…YOU!” she concludes, closing with a bulleted Hero Code and a timeline of her legal and political career that ends with her 2017 swearing-in as senator. In group scenes, some of the figures in the bright, simplistic digital illustrations have Asian features, some are in wheelchairs, nearly all are people of color. Almost all are smiling or grinning. Roe provides everyone identified as a role model with a cape and poses the author, who is seen at different ages wearing an identifying heart pin or decoration, next to each.

Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments. (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984837-49-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Sage, soothing ideas for a busy, loud, sometimes-divisive world.


In an inviting picture book, Chelsea and Hillary Clinton share personal revelations on how gardening with a grandmother, a mother, and children shapes and nurtures a love and respect for nature, beauty, and a general philosophy for life.

Grandma Dorothy, the former senator, secretary of state, and presidential candidate’s mother, loved gardens, appreciating the multiple benefits they yielded for herself and her family. The Clinton women reminisce about their beloved forebear and all she taught them in a color-coded, alternating text, blue for Chelsea and green for Hillary. Via brief yet explicit remembrances, they share what they learned, observed, and most of all enjoyed in gardens with her. Each double-page spread culminates in a declarative statement set in italicized red text invoking Dorothy’s wise words. Gardens can be many things: places for celebration, discovery and learning, vehicles for teaching responsibility in creating beauty, home to wildlife large and small, a place to share stories and develop memories. Though operating from very personal experience rooted in class privilege, the mother-daughter duo mostly succeeds in imparting a universally significant message: Whether visiting a public garden or working in the backyard, generations can cultivate a lasting bond. Lemniscates uses an appropriately floral palette to evoke the gardens explored by these three white women. A Spanish edition, Los jardines de la abuela, publishes simultaneously; Teresa Mlawer’s translation is fluid and pleasing, in at least one case improving on the original.

Sage, soothing ideas for a busy, loud, sometimes-divisive world. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11535-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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