Kudos to a title that recognizes a previously uncelebrated African-American woman of achievement.

FANCY PARTY GOWNS

THE STORY OF FASHION DESIGNER ANN COLE LOWE

Society ladies and screen actresses made Ann Cole Lowe’s gowns famous, but no one credited their African-American designer.

The great-granddaughter of a slave, Ann grew up in Alabama sewing with her mother. When she was just 16, her mother died, but Ann kept on with the work, finishing a gown for the wife of the governor. She was able to attend design school in New York City in 1917, albeit sitting alone in a segregated classroom. As the proprietor of her own business, Ann was in much demand with very wealthy and high-profile women. Olivia de Havilland accepted her 1947 Oscar wearing an Ann Cole Lowe gown. In 1953, a rich socialite named Jaqueline Bouvier married a Massachusetts senator named John F. Kennedy wearing one of Lowe’s couture creations. Lowe worked hard and eventually began to receive long-overdue recognition. Freeman’s crisply colorful artwork enlivens the clear and accessible narration. The endpapers featuring pictures of Lowe’s runway-perfect gowns and fabric swatches in the page design will delight young fashionistas, while the vignette of Ann in a classroom sitting by herself against a solid white background speaks volumes.

Kudos to a title that recognizes a previously uncelebrated African-American woman of achievement. (author’s note) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4998-0239-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Bee Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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Though the text works hard to convey it, getting an aesthetic sense of Cassatt’s famous body of work will require another...

MARY CASSATT

EXTRAORDINARY IMPRESSIONIST PAINTER

Starting in childhood, impressionist artist Mary Cassatt carves her own path.

Mary grows up “tall and temperamental,” absolutely set on being an artist despite the 1860s social mores dictating that “proper girls weren’t artists. They had polite hobbies—flower arranging, needlepoint.” She attends art school and goes to Paris, sitting in the Louvre to copy the old masters. Connecting with Edgar Degas gives her a community that supports her independent streak: “We paint as we please. We break the judges’ rules.” Herkert’s bold phrasing—“Mary swept jewel tones across her canvas”—implies artistic zest. However, despite varied media (gouache, watercolor, acrylic, enamel, and tempera), Swiatkowska’s illustrations don’t match the text’s descriptions. A spread of “canary yellow, radiant pink, vibrant blue” shows no yellow at all (tan instead) and pleasant but low-intensity blue and pink. “Brilliant tones” and “lightning bolts of white” are narrated but not shown. Skin tones and backgrounds lean toward gray. Readers sophisticated enough to appreciate sentences like “she rendered cropped angles” will notice how much more is told than shown, including the fact that Cassatt is portrayed actually painting only once. Regrettably, Asian art is labeled “exotic.”

Though the text works hard to convey it, getting an aesthetic sense of Cassatt’s famous body of work will require another source. (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62779-016-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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An inspirational must-read for budding scientists and those who teach them.

OUT OF SCHOOL AND INTO NATURE

THE ANNA COMSTOCK STORY

Slade and Lanan bring the biography of scientist Anna Comstock to young readers.

A true story about an early champion of nature education, this beautifully illustrated watercolor picture book introduces young readers to Anna Botsford Comstock, a white woman born in 1854. At a time when girls were expected to get married, then stick close to home and take care of their families, Anna’s “heart belonged to her first love—nature.” She attended Cornell University to study entomology and also honed her artistic craft in drawing insects. Anna Comstock insisted that New York state integrate nature study into classroom lessons and allow children to experience nature while in school. “People thought she was crazy. Didn’t she know school rules? Students learn inside. Students play outside!” But eventually, Anna’s ideas prevailed, and science and nature remain vital aspects of American education today, in part because of Anna’s early advocacy. The story opens with a barefoot Anna sitting on a fallen log, dipping her toes into the water, and it ends with Anna as an old woman, perched on that same log with her feet and the bottom of her skirt dangling in the water. Quotes from her writing augment the illustrations in a complementary display type. The informative backmatter fills in more details about the life and accomplishments of this naturalist, writer, scholar, and forward-thinking female pioneer.

An inspirational must-read for budding scientists and those who teach them. (notes, bibliography) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-58536-9-867

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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