A PICTURE BOOK OF SACAGAWEA

Adler is the author of the wide-ranging and market-savvy Picture Book Biography series that now tops 25 titles. Here he focuses on his first Native American figure, the Shoshone woman Sacagawea, the only woman in the Lewis and Clark Louisiana Purchase “Corps of Discovery.” Adler’s reliable no-nonsense approach is inclusive enough to satisfy most second- through third-grade biography readers’ needs, but those seeking inspiration or validation will need to look elsewhere. Most of the familiar elements of Sacagawea’s life are here: the approximate place and date of birth; death of her mother in a raid by a rival tribe; her marriage to a French trapper Charbonneau; joining the expedition with her husband; the birth of her son Jean Baptiste; her ability to communicate with other native peoples; her wide ranging knowledge of edible plants; etc. Unfortunately, Adler’s prose style is flat-footed. Even when recounting some of the more interesting bits (the fact that she carried her son on a cradleboard throughout most of the expedition; an unexpected reunion with her brother; how she saved the expedition’s medicines in a canoeing accident), the text communicates neither excitement nor pride of purpose. Brown’s awkward watercolor art can’t rescue this from mundane. The cover and interior depictions of a sweet-faced, pig-tailed adult Sacagawea are greeting-card bland, and most figure groups are awkwardly composed. A barely additional purchase. (Picture book biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 15, 2000

ISBN: 0-8234-1485-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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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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  • SPONSORED PLACEMENT

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

INFINITE COUNTRY

A 15-year-old girl in Colombia, doing time in a remote detention center, orchestrates a jail break and tries to get home.

"People say drugs and alcohol are the greatest and most persuasive narcotics—the elements most likely to ruin a life. They're wrong. It's love." As the U.S. recovers from the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, from the misery of separations on the border, from both the idea and the reality of a wall around the United States, Engel's vital story of a divided Colombian family is a book we need to read. Weaving Andean myth and natural symbolism into her narrative—condors signify mating for life, jaguars revenge; the embattled Colombians are "a singed species of birds without feathers who can still fly"; children born in one country and raised in another are "repotted flowers, creatures forced to live in the wrong habitat"—she follows Talia, the youngest child, on a complex journey. Having committed a violent crime not long before she was scheduled to leave her father in Bogotá to join her mother and siblings in New Jersey, she winds up in a horrible Catholic juvie from which she must escape in order to make her plane. Hence the book's wonderful first sentence: "It was her idea to tie up the nun." Talia's cross-country journey is interwoven with the story of her parents' early romance, their migration to the United States, her father's deportation, her grandmother's death, the struggle to reunite. In the latter third of the book, surprising narrative shifts are made to include the voices of Talia's siblings, raised in the U.S. This provides interesting new perspectives, but it is a little awkward to break the fourth wall so late in the book. Attention, TV and movie people: This story is made for the screen.

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982159-46-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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BEATRIX

VARIOUS EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF BEATRIX POTTER

Winter follows up Emily Dickinson’s Letters to the World (p. 111) with a similarly evocative character portrait, pairing small, formal, closely-framed portraits of Beatrix Potter—at various ages, and usually in the company of small animals, as she so often was—with a first person narrative into which she folds Potter’s own words (set off in italics). The general tone is grave, often melancholy: “No one has time for me. I talk to the birds, who have the time.” Reflecting the loneliness of her childhood, Potter’s face is the only human one to be seen (with a single, late exception), and an occasional slight smile is the only outward sign of her inner pleasure at drawing, photographing, or just being with her many animal friends. Winter traces Potter’s burgeoning interest in observing and recording the natural world, covers the genesis of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and closes with a “happily-ever-after” image of rabbits and fairies dancing in the dooryard of the farm where Potter spent her last decades. “I live so much out of the world,” she ruefully averred, but, just as her works have helped to connect generations of children to the natural one, so will this diminutive keepsake bring her private one into focus. (Picture book/biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 4, 2003

ISBN: 0-374-30655-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

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