Based on a true story, an inspirational reclamation of history.

THE KEY FROM SPAIN

FLORY JAGODA AND HER MUSIC

Immigrant musician Flory Jagoda preserved a repertoire of Ladino and Sephardic songs learned from her Bosnian Jewish family.

A descendant of the Altaras family forced to leave Spain during the Inquisition, Flory and her family must now escape from the Balkans during World War II. Crucial to the story of the Altaras’ 16th-century exodus are the two symbols of their heritage: a key for their original home in Spain and Ladino, the traditional language of Spanish Jews. In the 20th century, Flory’s childhood is filled with the stories Nona tells about their ancestors and the music played and sung in Ladino by her talented family. Living in peace and harmony among Jews, Christians, and Muslims, their happy life is threatened as the perils of World War II approach. Fortunate to escape the death the rest of her family suffers, Flory eventually sails to the U.S. without the important key but with her own three significant symbols: her accordion, her Ladino, and her music. Levy gently weaves the history of the Sephardim into the story of Flory’s specific Balkan Jewish life, also blending in some italicized Ladino phrases and words (rendering “grandfather” as “Nonu” rather than the traditional “Nono”). Lovely mixed-media illustrations limn several scenes across the centuries, adding perspective to an element of Sephardic culture that is mostly unknown today in American Jewish circles.

Based on a true story, an inspirational reclamation of history. (author’s note) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5415-2218-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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Blandly laudatory.

I AM WALT DISNEY

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

The iconic animator introduces young readers to each “happy place” in his life.

The tally begins with his childhood home in Marceline, Missouri, and climaxes with Disneyland (carefully designed to be “the happiest place on Earth”), but the account really centers on finding his true happy place, not on a map but in drawing. In sketching out his early flubs and later rocket to the top, the fictive narrator gives Ub Iwerks and other Disney studio workers a nod (leaving his labor disputes with them unmentioned) and squeezes in quick references to his animated films, from Steamboat Willie to Winnie the Pooh (sans Fantasia and Song of the South). Eliopoulos incorporates stills from the films into his cartoon illustrations and, characteristically for this series, depicts Disney as a caricature, trademark mustache in place on outsized head even in childhood years and child sized even as an adult. Human figures default to white, with occasional people of color in crowd scenes and (ahistorically) in the animation studio. One unidentified animator builds up the role-modeling with an observation that Walt and Mickey were really the same (“Both fearless; both resourceful”). An assertion toward the end—“So when do you stop being a child? When you stop dreaming”—muddles the overall follow-your-bliss message. A timeline to the EPCOT Center’s 1982 opening offers photos of the man with select associates, rodent and otherwise. An additional series entry, I Am Marie Curie, publishes simultaneously, featuring a gowned, toddler-sized version of the groundbreaking physicist accepting her two Nobel prizes.

Blandly laudatory. (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2875-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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A pivotal moment in a child’s life, at once stirring and authentically personal.

JUST LIKE JESSE OWENS

Before growing up to become a major figure in the civil rights movement, a boy finds a role model.

Buffing up a childhood tale told by her renowned father, Young Shelton describes how young Andrew saw scary men marching in his New Orleans neighborhood (“It sounded like they were yelling ‘Hi, Hitler!’ ”). In response to his questions, his father took him to see a newsreel of Jesse Owens (“a runner who looked like me”) triumphing in the 1936 Olympics. “Racism is a sickness,” his father tells him. “We’ve got to help folks like that.” How? “Well, you can start by just being the best person you can be,” his father replies. “It’s what you do that counts.” In James’ hazy chalk pastels, Andrew joins racially diverse playmates (including a White child with an Irish accent proudly displaying the nickel he got from his aunt as a bribe to stop playing with “those Colored boys”) in tag and other games, playing catch with his dad, sitting in the midst of a cheering crowd in the local theater’s segregated balcony, and finally visualizing himself pelting down a track alongside his new hero—“head up, back straight, eyes focused,” as a thematically repeated line has it, on the finish line. An afterword by Young Shelton explains that she retold this story, told to her many times growing up, drawing from conversations with Young and from her own research; family photos are also included. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A pivotal moment in a child’s life, at once stirring and authentically personal. (illustrator’s note) (Autobiographical picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-545-55465-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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