The artistic condescension and incongruities make this a marginal offering at best.




On Dec. 12, 1531, in newly colonized Mexico City, the Virgin Mary appeared to an Aztec farmer, Juan Diego, and spoke to him in Nahuatl, his native language, telling him to ask the bishop to build her church.

Despite Mary’s command, the Spanish bishop refused to comply until, after repeat visits, Juan Diego opened his cloak and roses cascaded out, revealing the image of Mary with the skin tone and features of an Indigenous Mexican woman. The bishop finally relented and had the church built on the hill of Tepeyac, where millions visit to this day. Demi’s retelling is both often at odds with the historical record and unabashedly Euro-centric: “In 1519 AD, the powerful Spanish conquistador, Hernan Cortes, landed in Mexico.” Cortes arguably was not a “conquistador” prior to the Mexican campaign. He had been a bureaucrat and owner of Indigenous slaves in Hispaniola and Cuba. Additionally, Demi’s familiar style is incongruous against the setting of 16th-century Mexico. Juan Diego and his fellow Aztecs are garbed in sombreros and clothing from the Mexican Revolution—more than 300 years in the future—and the Spanish conquistadors bear a resemblance to images of Mongol warriors. Furthermore, the Virgin herself appears more Asian then Aztec, and Juan Diego’s childlike depiction belies the fact that he was 57 at the time. Demi also fails to portray the modern basilica even though she ends her retelling in modern Mexico.

The artistic condescension and incongruities make this a marginal offering at best. (further information) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-937786-73-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Wisdom Tales

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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It’s a bit sketchy of historical detail, but it’s coherent, inspirational, and engaging without indulging in rapturous...


From the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

A first introduction to the iconic civil rights activist.

“She was very little and very brave, and she always tried to do what was right.” Without many names or any dates, Kaiser traces Parks’ life and career from childhood to later fights for “fair schools, jobs, and houses for black people” as well as “voting rights, women’s rights and the rights of people in prison.” Though her refusal to change seats and the ensuing bus boycott are misleadingly presented as spontaneous acts of protest, young readers will come away with a clear picture of her worth as a role model. Though recognizable thanks to the large wire-rimmed glasses Parks sports from the outset as she marches confidently through Antelo’s stylized illustrations, she looks childlike throughout (as characteristic of this series), and her skin is unrealistically darkened to match the most common shade visible on other African-American figures. In her co-published Emmeline Pankhurst (illustrated by Ana Sanfelippo), Kaiser likewise simplistically implies that Great Britain led the way in granting universal women’s suffrage but highlights her subject’s courageous quest for justice, and Isabel Sánchez Vegara caps her profile of Audrey Hepburn (illustrated by Amaia Arrazola) with the moot but laudable claim that “helping people across the globe” (all of whom in the pictures are dark-skinned children) made Hepburn “happier than acting or dancing ever had.” All three titles end with photographs and timelines over more-detailed recaps plus at least one lead to further information.

It’s a bit sketchy of historical detail, but it’s coherent, inspirational, and engaging without indulging in rapturous flights of hyperbole. (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-78603-018-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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Jesus pops up.

“It had been three days since Jesus died on a cross, and his friends were sad.” So Traini (The Life of Martin Luther, 2017) opens his ingenuously retold version of the first Easter. Beginning with two unnamed women clambering down a rocky hill to the graveyard, each of the seven tableaux features human figures with oversized eyes, light brown skin, and solemn or awed expressions posing in a sparsely decorated setting. The women hurry off at the behest of the angel lounging casually in a tomb bedecked with large crystals and fossil seashells to inform the “other disciples” of what’s happened. Along the way the women meet Jesus himself (“Greetings, my friends!”), who goes on to urge disciples “hiding inside a locked room” to touch his discreetly wounded hands. He later shares breakfast (“fish, of course!”) with Peter and others, then ascends from a mountaintop to heaven. Though the 3-D art and the flashes of irreverence set this sketchy rendition of the story apart from more conventional versions, the significance of the event never really comes clear…nor can it match for depth of feeling the stately likes of Jan Pienkowski’s Easter (1983). In the final scene Pentecostal flames appear over the heads of the disciples, leaving them endowed with the gift of tongues and eager to spread the “good news about Jesus!”

Skip. (Pop-up picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5064-3340-0

Page Count: 14

Publisher: Sparkhouse

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

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