Since the likeliest audience for this is kids who have seen the Hobbit films, it’s a good reminder that the book came first.

JOHN RONALD'S DRAGONS

THE STORY OF J.R.R. TOLKIEN

The story of a boy who dreamed of dragons and found a way to bring them to life.

Tolkien grows from dapper lad to dapper young man in Wheeler’s cleanly drawn scenes as, tucked into views of carefully rendered buildings and landscapes (the illustrator appends lengthy notes), glimpses of scaly figures from treasured old tales or new fancies join evocative curls of smoke and architectural details to hint at the constant presence of dragons in his imagination. An account of his halcyon early days describes his loving mother and good friends and, critically, playing at making up his own language with his cousin. McAlister then tersely carries him through his subsequent unhappy youth, wartime, marriage, and academic career on into Middle Earth and The Hobbit—where at last, deep under the Lonely Mountain, “John Ronald found his dragon.” Two portraits of Smaug rearing up in red and golden splendor cap the narrative. A long authorial note plus a catalog of dragons from Tolkien’s novels, quotes from his essays, and a bibliography will well serve readers looking for more about the man’s life and outlook. It’s better written than Alexandra Wallner’s 2011 profile, though as a general gateway to Tolkien’s realms, the focus on his dragons makes it not so broad.

Since the likeliest audience for this is kids who have seen the Hobbit films, it’s a good reminder that the book came first. (afterword, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62672-092-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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She said, “Failure is impossible,” and she was right, but unfortunately her steely determination does not come through in...

SUSAN B. ANTHONY

Susan B. Anthony worked to win women the right to vote her whole long life, but she did not live to see it done.

Wallner uses her flat decorative style and rich matte colors to depict Susan B. Anthony’s life, layering on details: Susan catching snowflakes behind her parents’ house; working in her father’s mill (briefly) and then departing school when the money ran out; writing at her desk; speaking passionately in front of small groups and rowdy crowds. It’s a little too wordy and a little less than engaging in describing a life in which Anthony traveled alone, hired her own halls, spoke tirelessly about women’s suffrage, published, created forums where women could speak freely and was arrested for registering to vote. Her life-long friendship with suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton is touched on, as are the virulent attacks against her ideas and her person. She died in 1906. Votes for women did not come to pass in the United States until 1920.

She said, “Failure is impossible,” and she was right, but unfortunately her steely determination does not come through in this book. (timeline, bibliography, source notes) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8234-1953-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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