Enjoyable perusing; best as an adult coffee-table book.

READ REVIEW

A CELEBRATION OF BEATRIX POTTER

Alongside some of Beatrix Potter’s own work, 32 contemporary author/illustrators each offer a testimonial and a piece of original art in homage to this grande dame of children’s books.

An introduction about Potter extols her “fierce independence and unwavering curiosity” during a time when “women of wealth were expected to follow rigid societal structures.” It mentions her love of art and nature, and it lists considerable accomplishments. The publishers hope that the book will be “a source of inspiration for future generations of authors and illustrators.” That might have worked had the contributors simply offered their art; each of these top-notch artists has produced an illustration well worth the colored ink. However, the testimonials, although not identical, soon feel that way, however heartfelt. Reading the text feels like attending a retirement party and listening to 32 glowing speeches, some of which have references that would be meaningful only to older readers. (Rosemary Wells compares Potter to pianist Glenn Gould; Matthew Forsythe compares Jemima Puddle-Duck to Emma Bovary.) Original moments—often quite fascinating—tend to be lost in the repetitious praise. Moreover, it seems a cruel tease to new initiates to offer only introductory, illustrated pages of nine of Potter’s original tales.

Enjoyable perusing; best as an adult coffee-table book. (Nonfiction. 9-16)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-241-24943-7

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Warne

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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A beautiful, powerful reflection on a tragic history.

ON THE HORIZON

In spare verse, Lowry reflects on moments in her childhood, including the bombings of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. 

When she was a child, Lowry played at Waikiki Beach with her grandmother while her father filmed. In the old home movie, the USS Arizona appears through the mist on the horizon. Looking back at her childhood in Hawaii and then Japan, Lowry reflects on the bombings that began and ended a war and how they affected and connected everyone involved. In Part 1, she shares the lives and actions of sailors at Pearl Harbor. Part 2 is stories of civilians in Hiroshima affected by the bombing. Part 3 presents her own experience as an American in Japan shortly after the war ended. The poems bring the haunting human scale of war to the forefront, like the Christmas cards a sailor sent days before he died or the 4-year-old who was buried with his red tricycle after Hiroshima. All the personal stories—of sailors, civilians, and Lowry herself—are grounding. There is heartbreak and hope, reminding readers to reflect on the past to create a more peaceful future. Lowry uses a variety of poetry styles, identifying some, such as triolet and haiku. Pak’s graphite illustrations are like still shots of history, adding to the emotion and somber feeling. He includes some sailors of color among the mostly white U.S. forces; Lowry is white.

A beautiful, powerful reflection on a tragic history. (author’s note, bibliography) (Memoir/poetry. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-12940-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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A mighty portrait of poverty amid cruelty and optimism.

FREE LUNCH

Recounting his childhood experiences in sixth grade, Ogle’s memoir chronicles the punishing consequences of poverty and violence on himself and his family.

The start of middle school brings about unwanted changes in young Rex’s life. His old friendships devolve as his school friends join the football team and slowly edge him out. His new English teacher discriminates against him due to his dark skin (Rex is biracial, with a white absentee dad and a Mexican mom) and secondhand clothes, both too large and too small. Seemingly worse, his mom enrolls him in the school’s free-lunch program, much to his embarrassment. “Now everyone knows I’m nothing but trailer trash.” His painful home life proffers little sanctuary thanks to his mom, who swings from occasional caregiver to violent tyrant at the slightest provocation, and his white stepdad, an abusive racist whose aggression outrivals that of Rex’s mom. Balancing the persistent flashes of brutality, Ogle magnificently includes sprouts of hope, whether it’s the beginnings of a friendship with a “weird” schoolmate, joyful moments with his younger brother, or lessons of perseverance from Abuela. These slivers of relative levity counteract the toxic relationship between young Rex, a boy prone to heated outbursts and suppressed feelings, and his mother, a fully three-dimensional character who’s viciously thrashing against the burden of poverty. It’s a fine balance carried by the author’s outstanding, gracious writing and a clear eye for the penetrating truth.

A mighty portrait of poverty amid cruelty and optimism. (author’s note, author Q&A, discussion guide, writing guide, resources) (Memoir. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-324-00360-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Norton Young Readers

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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