Thomas Edison’s mother yanked him out of school when his teacher called her forever-daydreaming son “addled.” Homeschooled from that day on, Tom devoured books and experimented in his chemistry lab until Mrs. Edison worried the family would be blown up. In this narrowly focused biography, readers will learn—despite the book’s title—that there was nothing magical about the man who patented 1,093 inventions. Edison was a hard worker who was curious about everything, studied diligently for years and was passionate about inventing, especially marketable objects (such as the phonograph and motion-picture cameras) he knew the world needed. Brown’s scratchy pen-and-ink drawings with muted watercolors successfully evoke the 19th-century American setting and reveal the industrious young Tom in action—pulling carrots in Michigan, selling newspapers on the Detroit train, printing his own newspaper, haunting telegraph offices, tinkering and, finally, gazing at his 1879 creation, the electric light bulb. This glimmer of the future inventor in his youth—sprinkled with quotations from Edison himself—may inspire a few daydreamers to get to work. (author’s note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-547-19487-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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Though she never says outright that he was a real person, Kurtz introduces newly emergent readers to the historical John Chapman, walking along the Ohio, planting apple seeds, and bartering seedlings to settlers for food and clothing. Haverfield supplies the legendary portions of his tale, with views of a smiling, stylishly ragged, clean-shaven young man, pot on head, wildlife on shoulder or trailing along behind. Kurtz caps her short, rhythmic text with an invitation to “Clap your hands for Johnny Chapman. / Clap your hands for Johnny Appleseed!” An appealing way to open discussions of our country’s historical or legendary past. (Easy reader/nonfiction. 5-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-689-85958-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

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Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments.


The junior senator from California introduces family and friends as everyday superheroes.

The endpapers are covered with cascades of, mostly, early childhood snapshots (“This is me contemplating the future”—caregivers of toddlers will recognize that abstracted look). In between, Harris introduces heroes in her life who have shaped her character: her mom and dad, whose superpowers were, respectively, to make her feel special and brave; an older neighbor known for her kindness; grandparents in India and Jamaica who “[stood] up for what’s right” (albeit in unspecified ways); other relatives and a teacher who opened her awareness to a wider world; and finally iconic figures such as Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley who “protected people by using the power of words and ideas” and whose examples inspired her to become a lawyer. “Heroes are…YOU!” she concludes, closing with a bulleted Hero Code and a timeline of her legal and political career that ends with her 2017 swearing-in as senator. In group scenes, some of the figures in the bright, simplistic digital illustrations have Asian features, some are in wheelchairs, nearly all are people of color. Almost all are smiling or grinning. Roe provides everyone identified as a role model with a cape and poses the author, who is seen at different ages wearing an identifying heart pin or decoration, next to each.

Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments. (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984837-49-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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