GANDHI

Demi (The Emperor’s New Clothes, 2000, etc.) emphasizes the self-transforming powers that enabled Gandhi to change from frightened child to English gentleman to tongue-tied lawyer to ultimate servant of mankind with unshakable faith in the force of nonviolence and love. Perhaps because this is an overview, Demi gets the chronology of events right, but is less successful at bringing to life the man who’s widely regarded as one of the most influential of the 20th century and translating his philosophy into a compelling story. There are big themes to tackle: civil rights, the caste system, Satyagraha, Jainism, not to mention the socio-political milieu of turn-of-the century South Africa and colonial India. Though not without dramatic incident, this is of necessity, weighted with philosophy and brief definitions. And Gandhi, as one of the grand electrifying figures on the human stage, might have benefited from more expressive storytelling. In the delicate balancing act necessitated by presenting a “saint,” this veers perilously close to hagiography. Fortunately, the illustrations, though formal in presentation, present Gandhi more dramatically. Executed in Demi’s signature style, many are based on actual photographs. Some, like the Yeravada Jail, in which Gandhi began an important fast, would benefit from captions, and the action presented in others is not always made clear in the text. Lavish and rich in color, detail, and design, though, Demi’s style is both appropriate to the setting and particularly successful in depicting the diminutive Gandhi in his simple white garb symbolically isolated or in a throng. A note expands on Gandhi’s significance, but does little to document the authority of the work. Nevertheless, a heartfelt, handsome, and uplifting treatment for those who already have prior background and interest. (Biography. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-84149-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2001

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For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

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BROWN GIRL DREAMING

A multiaward–winning author recalls her childhood and the joy of becoming a writer.

Writing in free verse, Woodson starts with her 1963 birth in Ohio during the civil rights movement, when America is “a country caught / / between Black and White.” But while evoking names such as Malcolm, Martin, James, Rosa and Ruby, her story is also one of family: her father’s people in Ohio and her mother’s people in South Carolina. Moving south to live with her maternal grandmother, she is in a world of sweet peas and collards, getting her hair straightened and avoiding segregated stores with her grandmother. As the writer inside slowly grows, she listens to family stories and fills her days and evenings as a Jehovah’s Witness, activities that continue after a move to Brooklyn to reunite with her mother. The gift of a composition notebook, the experience of reading John Steptoe’s Stevie and Langston Hughes’ poetry, and seeing letters turn into words and words into thoughts all reinforce her conviction that “[W]ords are my brilliance.” Woodson cherishes her memories and shares them with a graceful lyricism; her lovingly wrought vignettes of country and city streets will linger long after the page is turned.

For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-25251-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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WHO WAS BEN FRANKLIN?

Benjamin Franklin “snatched the lightning from the sky and the scepter from tyrants” and his story is told here in many informative and amusing anecdotes. Among them: young, skinny-dipping Ben pulled across a pond by his kite, Ben in London proving he can swim three miles, Ben making up fake “news items” to spice up his Pennsylvania Gazette, and Ben wanting to get married in spite of his “bumpy” love life. These human-interest stories balance the better-known record of Franklin’s accomplishments as an inventor and political force in colonial America. Franklin invented the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, and an artificial arm. He started a public library, a volunteer fire company, and a general hospital in Philadelphia. He improved the colonies’ mail delivery system and founded the Philadelphia Academy, which later became the University of Pennsylvania. Franklin helped draft the Declaration of Independence, helped secure French support for the Revolution, and helped hammer out the Constitution. His final public act was to urge Congress to end slavery. All of this and more are covered in this brief, engaging, well-written biography. Not just a birth-to-death exposition of facts, this account opens with Franklin’s catching lightning in a bottle and, by the end, has succeeded in portraying Franklin as a “man of many talents” and a flesh-and-blood person. The black-and-white illustrations, which appear on every spread, are superb, adding information and touches of humor. Readers will like the Ben Franklin they come to know in this outstanding biography. Two timelines are appended—one on Franklin’s life, and one on world events. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42495-9

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001

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