Educational and entertaining.

Scenes from a famous director’s childhood.

A young boy watches a train wreck on the big screen in 1952, and it inspires a life of “movie magic.” Steven Spielberg’s story moves from New Jersey to Arizona and then California as he deals with bullies, antisemitism, and his parents’ divorce. Through all these hardships, he found solace in storytelling, whether scaring his sisters with creepy stories or using his dad’s handheld camera to record original scenes. The director once said that “hardly a single one of my films isn’t based on something that happened in my childhood” (one of several quotes from Spielberg incorporated in the text), and many iconic scenes from his movies are situated in the context of his life, like when young Steven let out the science-class frogs before they could be dissected or his father’s recounting of stories from World War II. Panoramic, colorful, action-packed spreads show these details and more, giving the book a cinematic feel. This would be challenging to read aloud—it’s on the longer end, and the prose uses the more complex writing style common for picture-book biographies. It would be ideal for a slightly older audience who want to sink their teeth into a biography but aren’t quite up for a chapter book. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Educational and entertaining. (fun facts, recommended viewing, quote sources) (Picture-book biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-33898-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022


A pivotal moment in a child’s life, at once stirring and authentically personal.

Before growing up to become a major figure in the civil rights movement, a boy finds a role model.

Buffing up a childhood tale told by her renowned father, Young Shelton describes how young Andrew saw scary men marching in his New Orleans neighborhood (“It sounded like they were yelling ‘Hi, Hitler!’ ”). In response to his questions, his father took him to see a newsreel of Jesse Owens (“a runner who looked like me”) triumphing in the 1936 Olympics. “Racism is a sickness,” his father tells him. “We’ve got to help folks like that.” How? “Well, you can start by just being the best person you can be,” his father replies. “It’s what you do that counts.” In James’ hazy chalk pastels, Andrew joins racially diverse playmates (including a White child with an Irish accent proudly displaying the nickel he got from his aunt as a bribe to stop playing with “those Colored boys”) in tag and other games, playing catch with his dad, sitting in the midst of a cheering crowd in the local theater’s segregated balcony, and finally visualizing himself pelting down a track alongside his new hero—“head up, back straight, eyes focused,” as a thematically repeated line has it, on the finish line. An afterword by Young Shelton explains that she retold this story, told to her many times growing up, drawing from conversations with Young and from her own research; family photos are also included. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A pivotal moment in a child’s life, at once stirring and authentically personal. (illustrator’s note) (Autobiographical picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-545-55465-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022



Visuals dominate on the page. Harris adds to large photos and samples of Parrish’s adult work an elaborately detailed dragon...

The generous (if selective and unfocused) array of pictures don’t quite compensate for a vague, sketchy accompanying narrative in this biography, the first about the influential painter aimed at young people.

Visuals dominate on the page. Harris adds to large photos and samples of Parrish’s adult work an elaborately detailed dragon he drew at age 7, a letter from his teens festooned with funny caricatures and a page of college chemistry notes tricked out with Palmer Cox–style brownies. Rather than include “Daybreak” (his most famous work) or any of Parrish’s characteristically androgynous figures, though, she tucks in semi-relevant but innocuous images from other artists of places Parrish visited and—just because in his prime he was grouped with them for the wide popularity of his reproduced art—a Van Gogh and a Cézanne. Along with steering a careful course in her account of Parrish’s private life (avoiding any reference to his lifelong mistress and frequent model Sue Lewin, for instance), the author makes only a few vague comments about the artist’s distinctive style and technique. In the same vein, she passes quickly over his influences, reduces all of his book-illustration work to one brief mention and closes with the laughable claim that he was the first artist in history who “created for more than a few.”

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4556-1472-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Pelican

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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