This chronicle of uncompromisingly sticking to one’s unique perspective is, alas, also a fairly dull one.

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GIRL WITH BRUSH AND CANVAS

GEORGIA O'KEEFFE, AMERICAN ARTIST

Growing from a stubbornly individualistic girl to “one of the most important abstract artists in the country,” Georgia O’Keeffe is depicted as a true American pioneer.

The story opens with young narrator “Georgie” making the remarkably self-aware observation: “I did not have in mind just drawing pretty pictures—I was going to be an artist. There was a difference.” What follows is a fictionalized chronicle of her life from 12 to 42 years old, traversing her life from childhood in small-town Wisconsin and Virginia through teachers and art schools in Chicago and New York to adult life in Texas and New Mexico. Periodically, she experiences revelations of art techniques and style, with romantic relationships (none same-sex) manifesting later. Georgia addresses gender inequality of the times, for instance vocalizing how much she hates being known as a “woman artist”—but not racism, despite the white character’s time in the South. Peers and authority figures encourage her to conform to custom, but she refuses, preferring instead to be “provocative” and embracing her “misfit” status. As developed by Meyer, Georgia’s character possesses stalwart self-confidence bordering on hauteur. In part a tour of early-20th-century American landscapes and also part school story and part biography, the narrative sometimes reads like a recitation of facts that at times veers into first-person observations. Meyer reports emotions in an omniscient adult voice, but they remain flat, with little emotional resonance for readers; the stiff style and small type skew this novel’s readership older than its putative middle-grade audience.

This chronicle of uncompromisingly sticking to one’s unique perspective is, alas, also a fairly dull one. (Historical fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62979-934-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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Rich and strange of place and premise; suspenseful and thought-provoking.

THE LEFT-HANDED FATE

An ancient inscription and a handful of inscrutable artifacts plunge three young people into both the War of 1812 and a much larger, older conflict.

Opening in Baltimore then moving on to the not-entirely-earthly town of Nagspeake (setting, in another era, of Milford’s Greenglass House, 2014), the tale centers on staid, methodical “natural philosopher” Max Ault; 12-year-old American naval officer Oliver Dexter; and fiery Lucy Bluecrowne, daughter of a renowned British privateer, captain of the titular ship. It pits them against both relentless French pursuers and mysterious men in black with eldritch abilities. The prize is a three-part device made thousands of years ago and said to be able to stop war…a superweapon, or so everyone (nearly everyone) presumes. Along with being replete with rousing chases, races, and violent explosions, the tale is uncommonly rich in memorable characters, from the central three, who all display stout hearts and hidden depths, to Lucy’s 9-year-old half brother, part-Chinese Liao: pacifist, expert lockpick, and fireworks genius extraordinaire. The labyrinthine Nagspeake itself is magical and vivid enough to serve as more than just a setting (and deservedly sports a metafictional website). Wheeler’s neatly turned monochromes capture the tale’s warmth and wonder, though (at least as she depicts it) the cast appears to be white, excepting Liao.

Rich and strange of place and premise; suspenseful and thought-provoking. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9800-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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A respectful, sometimes irreverent and broadly multicultural treasury of dramas, romances, chillers, knee-slappers and...

1492

NEW WORLD TALES

In this much-expanded version of a 1992 collection, two veteran storytellers present tales that were being told in the Americas, North Africa and on the Iberian Peninsula the day Christopher Columbus made landfall.

Probably, that is. As their conscientious source notes indicate, the 50-plus short myths, legends, anecdotes and animal tales (up from 20 in Stories from the Days of Christopher Columbus) were all gathered from later collections or learned from modern members of indigenous groups. Still, the cross-sectional approach results in a mix of relatively well-known episodes with those that are less familiar. Among the former are “Why Anansi Has a Narrow Waist,” a Spanish version of “The Three Sillies” called “Bastianito” and two verse extracts from the legends of El Cid. Readers are less likely to know scary tales from Aztec Zempoala and Tlacopán, exploits of the clever Mayan “Dwarf of Uxmal,” creation myths from Taíno Guanahaní, Basque, and Moroccan Jewish tales—among dozens of other rarities from carefully specified locales. Despite a generally informal tone (“King Sancho the Eleventy Leventh became angry”), this lends itself less to reading straight through than using as a storyteller’s resource; along with frequent prefatory cultural notes, the Youngs add discussion points, glossaries, and inserted pronunciations for proper names and non-English phrases.

A respectful, sometimes irreverent and broadly multicultural treasury of dramas, romances, chillers, knee-slappers and teaching tales. (introduction) (Folk tales. 11-14, adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-939160-73-7

Page Count: 180

Publisher: August House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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