KING OF THE TIGHTROPE

WHEN THE GREAT BLONDIN RULED NIAGARA

Awesome, astounding, death-defying.

How famous French funambulist Jean-François Gravelet daringly traversed a tightrope spanning Niagara Falls in 1859.

Born into a family of acrobats, gymnasts, and funambulists, or tightrope walkers, Jean-François learned to balance on a thick board at age 4 and “took to the rope like a spider takes to its web.” Performing with his family throughout France, Jean-François twirled, flipped, leaped, and skipped across the high wire, inventing extreme balancing feats. Calling himself “the Great Blondin,” he traveled to America in 1851, pushing his act to be ever more “merveilleux.” Viewing Niagara Falls in 1858, Blondin imagined a tightrope stretched across it. Crossing “those roaring waters” became his life’s ambition. Peppered with French words and phrases, Bowman’s well-researched documentary text re-creates the energy, tactics, skill, engineering, unflinching optimism, and sheer grit of Blondin’s preparations to cross Niagara as well as the skepticism and wonder of all who witnessed his legendary endeavor. Bold, colorful watercolor-and-gouache illustrations capture Blondin’s high-wire escapades, from tottering childhood steps through his sure-footed Niagara crossing, with a dramatic, almost photographic realism. Theatrical lighting, stunning perspectives, and arresting close-ups convey the intensity of Blondin’s feats, either high above the viewer on a rope spanning both pages or below the viewer perched over Niagara’s turbulent waters. Historical notes, timeline, and photos complete the experience.

Awesome, astounding, death-defying. (author’s notes, photos) (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-56145-937-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

MORE THAN PEACH

An inspirational look at one girl’s quest to make sure that all skin tones are visible and available in the classroom.

A Black girl’s simple observation propels her into activism.

Woodard, who launched the More Than Peach Project—which arranges for classrooms and children in need to receive kits that include art supplies and boxes of multicultural crayons (crayons in a variety of skin tones)—relates the incident that sparked her journey. As the book begins, she is dropped off at school and notices that her family’s skin tone differs from that of her classmates. While it is clear that she is one of a few children of color at school, that difference isn’t really felt until her friends start asking for the “skin-color” crayon when they mean peach. She’s bothered that no one else seems to notice that skin comes in many colors, so she devises a unique way of bringing everyone’s attention to that fact. With support from her family and her school, she encourages her fellow classmates to rethink their language and starts an initiative to ensure that everyone’s skin tone is represented in each crayon box. Appealing, realistic artwork depicts Woodard’s experiences, while endpapers feature More Than Peach crayon boxes and childlike illustrations of kids of different ethnicities doing various activities. The story is stirring and will motivate budding activists. (This book was reviewed digitally; the review has been updated for factual accuracy.)

An inspirational look at one girl’s quest to make sure that all skin tones are visible and available in the classroom. (note from Woodard, information on Woodard’s journey into activism, instructions on starting a drive) (Picture-book biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: July 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-80927-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

BASKETBALL DREAMS

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses.

An NBA star pays tribute to the influence of his grandfather.

In the same vein as his Long Shot (2009), illustrated by Frank Morrison, this latest from Paul prioritizes values and character: “My granddad Papa Chilly had dreams that came true,” he writes, “so maybe if I listen and watch him, / mine will too.” So it is that the wide-eyed Black child in the simply drawn illustrations rises early to get to the playground hoops before anyone else, watches his elder working hard and respecting others, hears him cheering along with the rest of the family from the stands during games, and recalls in a prose afterword that his grandfather wasn’t one to lecture but taught by example. Paul mentions in both the text and the backmatter that Papa Chilly was the first African American to own a service station in North Carolina (his presumed dream) but not that he was killed in a robbery, which has the effect of keeping the overall tone positive and the instructional content one-dimensional. Figures in the pictures are mostly dark-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-81003-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

Close Quickview