An ode to a too-little-discussed musician and an excellent introduction to his amazing musical talent.

DARK WAS THE NIGHT

BLIND WILLIE JOHNSON'S JOURNEY TO THE STARS

When NASA scientists compiled a recording of sounds to send into space representing Earth and humanity, those sounds included thunder, crickets, classical pieces, and a short wordless song by musician “Blind Willie” Johnson.

Willie Johnson’s mother died while he was still a boy, and shortly thereafter he lost his sight. Now young Johnson’s light came from singing in the church choir and playing the guitar. He traveled to cities throughout Texas, where he sang and played for money. One day, an adult Johnson was given the opportunity to record an album of his songs. One of the songs was “Dark Was the Night,” a haunting yet hopeful tune marked only by Johnson’s humming and characteristic slide-guitar playing. The second-person narrative is brief but evocative. In the backmatter, Golio shares with readers that this song was chosen for the Golden Record placed on Voyager 1 in 1977 because “Johnson powerfully conveyed the sense of loneliness that all people feel—something very important to know about human beings and life on planet Earth.” Lewis’ illustrations have a soft, blurred effect to them, conveying both the bygone time and Johnson’s vision loss. They are washes of mostly blue and violet, with punches of bright yellow and gold. The author’s note also discusses the challenges of researching Johnson and provides a bit more information on Voyager 1. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 65% of actual size.)

An ode to a too-little-discussed musician and an excellent introduction to his amazing musical talent. (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-3888-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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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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