A perfectly pitched celebration of an esteemed author that may nevertheless struggle somewhat to find an audience.

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ORDINARY, EXTRAORDINARY JANE AUSTEN

THE STORY OF SIX NOVELS, THREE NOTEBOOKS, A WRITING BOX, AND ONE CLEVER GIRL

A simple introduction to Jane Austen’s life and work.

Hopkinson’s light, conversational tone and obvious appreciation for her subject combine with Qin’s lively ink-and-watercolor illustrations to create an engaging portrait of this talented writer. The relatively brisk recital of the events of Jane Austen’s life is leavened by insights into her personality and childhood experiences. Realistic vignettes, single-page illustrations, and double-page spreads of Jane and her family accompany and expand the text; generous use of white space and delicate linework give the pictures an airy feel. Unlike Lisa Pliscou and Jen Corace’s practically simultaneously publishing biography (Brave Jane Austen, 2018), potentially distressing details are glossed over, and the narrative focuses on Austen’s early years. No mention is made of Jane’s serious illness as a child or of the Austen family’s financial difficulties. Rather, the focus is on Jane’s appreciation for her father’s extensive library, her pleasure in writing amusing stories for her family to enjoy, and the fun of family theatricals and games. This approach brings Jane endearingly to life for an audience that has likely never heard of her and provides context for the description of her later experiences and lauded writing style. Several pages of backmatter, including a timeline, summaries of Austen’s major works, and additional resources, may be beyond the interest and abilities of most young listeners but share the accessible tone of the text.

A perfectly pitched celebration of an esteemed author that may nevertheless struggle somewhat to find an audience. (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-237330-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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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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It’s not the most dramatic version, but it’s a visually effective and serviceable addition to the rapidly growing shelf of...

THE FIRST MEN WHO WENT TO THE MOON

A 50th-anniversary commemoration of the epochal Apollo 11 mission.

Modeling her account on “The House That Jack Built” (an unspoken, appropriate nod to President John F. Kennedy’s foundational role in the enterprise), Greene takes Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins from liftoff to post-splashdown ticker-tape parade. Side notes on some spreads and two pages of further facts with photographs at the end, all in smaller type, fill in select details about the mission and its historical context. The rhymed lines are fully cumulated only once, so there is some repetition but never enough to grow monotonous: “This is the Moon, a mysterious place, / a desolate land in the darkness of space, / far from Earth with oceans blue.” Also, the presentation of the text in just three or fewer lines per spread stretches out the narrative and gives Brundage latitude for both formal and informal group portraits of Apollo 11’s all-white crew, multiple glimpses of our planet and the moon at various heights, and, near the end, atmospheric (so to speak) views of the abandoned lander and boot prints in the lunar dust.

It’s not the most dramatic version, but it’s a visually effective and serviceable addition to the rapidly growing shelf of tributes to our space program’s high-water mark. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-58536-412-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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