Doesn’t quite do its subject justice.

A biography of Ruth Krauss, doyen of children’s literature, told, aptly, in picture-book format.

Higgins chronicles Krauss’ life from childhood to early adulthood, covering the illnesses she endured, her experiences at summer camp, and her forays into painting and writing. For Krauss fans, the book may be heralded as a welcome acknowledgement of her work. However, for those less familiar with her and her canon, the title does little to introduce or discuss her creativity in a meaningful way; the book repeatedly states that she was a free thinker but only vaguely addresses how that was channeled into her writing. It’s not clear why others initially said “No that’s not good” about her work or how interacting with a young neighbor and other small children (depicted as racially diverse) helped her “[find] another way to tell a tale.” At times, the poetic language works against the biographical elements, such as when the book discusses Krauss’ childhood: “But sickness sticks around a lot / and steals her voice away— / so she wiggles-wiggles little fingers / that’s how she says hi / Like this.” The verse is elegant—as is Arsenault’s graceful, scribbly artwork—but implies a physical loss of voice and a sign-language skill that is not explained in the book’s author’s note (though her illnesses are briefly discussed there). The author’s note, a bibliography, and a list of Krauss’ work attempt to provide more substance but fall short. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Doesn’t quite do its subject justice. (Picture-book biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4993-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022


Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses.

An NBA star pays tribute to the influence of his grandfather.

In the same vein as his Long Shot (2009), illustrated by Frank Morrison, this latest from Paul prioritizes values and character: “My granddad Papa Chilly had dreams that came true,” he writes, “so maybe if I listen and watch him, / mine will too.” So it is that the wide-eyed Black child in the simply drawn illustrations rises early to get to the playground hoops before anyone else, watches his elder working hard and respecting others, hears him cheering along with the rest of the family from the stands during games, and recalls in a prose afterword that his grandfather wasn’t one to lecture but taught by example. Paul mentions in both the text and the backmatter that Papa Chilly was the first African American to own a service station in North Carolina (his presumed dream) but not that he was killed in a robbery, which has the effect of keeping the overall tone positive and the instructional content one-dimensional. Figures in the pictures are mostly dark-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-81003-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022


A unique angle on a watershed moment in the civil rights era.

The New Orleans school child who famously broke the color line in 1960 while surrounded by federal marshals describes the early days of her experience from a 6-year-old’s perspective.

Bridges told her tale to younger children in 2009’s Ruby Bridges Goes to School, but here the sensibility is more personal, and the sometimes-shocking historical photos have been replaced by uplifting painted scenes. “I didn’t find out what being ‘the first’ really meant until the day I arrived at this new school,” she writes. Unfrightened by the crowd of “screaming white people” that greets her at the school’s door (she thinks it’s like Mardi Gras) but surprised to find herself the only child in her classroom, and even the entire building, she gradually realizes the significance of her act as (in Smith’s illustration) she compares a small personal photo to the all-White class photos posted on a bulletin board and sees the difference. As she reflects on her new understanding, symbolic scenes first depict other dark-skinned children marching into classes in her wake to friendly greetings from lighter-skinned classmates (“School is just school,” she sensibly concludes, “and kids are just kids”) and finally an image of the bright-eyed icon posed next to a soaring bridge of reconciliation. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A unique angle on a watershed moment in the civil rights era. (author and illustrator notes, glossary) (Autobiographical picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-75388-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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