Greatly enthusiastic, but it waters down Frankenthaler’s actual work and importance.

DANCING THROUGH FIELDS OF COLOR

THE STORY OF HELEN FRANKENTHALER

Abstract expressionist painter Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011) carries a deep fascination with color and light from childhood to adulthood.

In Frankenthaler’s wealthy, white Manhattan family, her parents nurture her artistic tendency toward abstraction—but her schools demand realism. A downcast Frankenthaler creeps past eight easels displaying eight identical pear paintings, while across the page, another version of her dances in midair, brushes in both hands, trailing swirls of nonrepresentational orange. In adulthood, she embraces her own path. The narration frames her artistic motivations as primarily emotional, undermining her deliberate aesthetic decisions. Moreover, though the textual descriptions of Frankenthaler’s process are gorgeous (“Colors jetéd across the painting, merged and connected, like rivers into oceans”), neither the colorist’s groundbreaking “soak-stain” technique—oils thinned with turpentine so they seep like watercolors—nor her level of influence as “one of the major Abstract Expressionists of the twentieth century” are mentioned until the bountiful backmatter. Sicuro’s watercolor, ink, and charcoal pencil illustrations are spirited, the ones about art process especially buoyant; her use of watercolor is actually a better match for Frankenthaler’s look than oils would have shown without Frankenthaler’s own soak-stain technique. However, there’s one enormous visual mismatch: Frankenthaler’s work features paint that soaks, flows, bleeds, and wetly saturates canvas, while Sicuro uses mostly controlled and neatly identifiable brush strokes.

Greatly enthusiastic, but it waters down Frankenthaler’s actual work and importance. (timeline, activities, author’s notes, quotes and sources, primary and secondary bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3410-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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

SUPERHEROES ARE EVERYWHERE

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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Sage, soothing ideas for a busy, loud, sometimes-divisive world.

GRANDMA'S GARDENS

In an inviting picture book, Chelsea and Hillary Clinton share personal revelations on how gardening with a grandmother, a mother, and children shapes and nurtures a love and respect for nature, beauty, and a general philosophy for life.

Grandma Dorothy, the former senator, secretary of state, and presidential candidate’s mother, loved gardens, appreciating the multiple benefits they yielded for herself and her family. The Clinton women reminisce about their beloved forebear and all she taught them in a color-coded, alternating text, blue for Chelsea and green for Hillary. Via brief yet explicit remembrances, they share what they learned, observed, and most of all enjoyed in gardens with her. Each double-page spread culminates in a declarative statement set in italicized red text invoking Dorothy’s wise words. Gardens can be many things: places for celebration, discovery and learning, vehicles for teaching responsibility in creating beauty, home to wildlife large and small, a place to share stories and develop memories. Though operating from very personal experience rooted in class privilege, the mother-daughter duo mostly succeeds in imparting a universally significant message: Whether visiting a public garden or working in the backyard, generations can cultivate a lasting bond. Lemniscates uses an appropriately floral palette to evoke the gardens explored by these three white women. A Spanish edition, Los jardines de la abuela, publishes simultaneously; Teresa Mlawer’s translation is fluid and pleasing, in at least one case improving on the original.

Sage, soothing ideas for a busy, loud, sometimes-divisive world. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11535-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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