Memorable art earns this biography a respectable place on the shelf.

READ REVIEW

THE SECRET GARDEN OF GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER

George Washington Carver tended a secret garden of flowers before becoming known for his skill in agriculture.

The book opens in 1921 as Carver addresses the U.S. Congress, astounding them with dozens of uses for the peanut. The narration then takes readers back to Carver’s childhood to discover how he reached that career highlight. As a child, he loved flowers, but he was warned not to waste time on plants that couldn’t be eaten or sold, so he kept his colorful garden hidden in the woods. Shut out of schools because he was black, he studied nature independently and learned through experimentation. Eventually, he started caring for neighbors’ sick plants, becoming known as “the Plant Doctor.” At 12, he left the farm on which he was raised and attained a formal education, after which he taught students at the Tuskegee Institute and farmers with a mobile classroom mounted on a wagon. This journey through Carver’s childhood and accomplishments ends with Carver’s simple but memorable words, “Regard Nature. Revere Nature. Respect Nature.” The substantial text holds readers on each spread long enough to appreciate not only the subject matter of the painted illustrations, but Morrison’s artistic techniques—strong strokes and careful dots, artful combinations of textures and shapes—which create lush forest scenes and portraitlike human faces and forms. The childhood story feels more cohesive than the final pages, which list his adult accomplishments but lack the narrative thread.

Memorable art earns this biography a respectable place on the shelf. (timeline, bibliography, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 4-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243015-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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An inspiring introduction to the young Nobel Peace Prize winner and a useful conversation starter

MALALA'S MAGIC PENCIL

The latest of many picture books about the young heroine from Pakistan, this one is narrated by Malala herself, with a frame that is accessible to young readers.

Malala introduces her story using a television show she used to watch about a boy with a magic pencil that he used to get himself and his friends out of trouble. Readers can easily follow Malala through her own discovery of troubles in her beloved home village, such as other children not attending school and soldiers taking over the village. Watercolor-and-ink illustrations give a strong sense of setting, while gold ink designs overlay Malala’s hopes onto her often dreary reality. The story makes clear Malala’s motivations for taking up the pen to tell the world about the hardships in her village and only alludes to the attempt on her life, with a black page (“the dangerous men tried to silence me. / But they failed”) and a hospital bracelet on her wrist the only hints of the harm that came to her. Crowds with signs join her call before she is shown giving her famous speech before the United Nations. Toward the end of the book, adult readers may need to help children understand Malala’s “work,” but the message of holding fast to courage and working together is powerful and clear.

An inspiring introduction to the young Nobel Peace Prize winner and a useful conversation starter . (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-31957-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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