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The compelling lives of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan are interwoven with quotations from their own writing in a choppy, flat, rehashing of the now-familiar story of Keller’s vast potential and the brilliant teaching skills that grew to make Helen’s social and intellectual life rich, but negated any semblance of a personal life for Anne. Though touched upon, several questions about relationships remain unanswered and basic motivations are glossed over, namely decisions regarding marital and family relationships. Brief insights into the nature of some of Keller’s major obstacles are succinctly summarized and enlarged by well-chosen selections from Helen’s biographies, yet still lack the depth and insight a fuller telling allows. In addition, well-selected and appropriately placed black-and-white photographs enhance the telling, but are standard fare chosen from various photo archives. What is perhaps most annoying is the writing style itself: paragraphs of two to three short, declarative sentences and an avoidance of contractions and complex sentence structure create the sense of a basal reader. Included in the “In Their Own Words” series, Sullivan’s clear introduction to Helen’s story teaches the difference between primary and secondary sources, but does not internally demonstrate the proper use of documentation. His primary and secondary resources are broken down in the bibliography and include further reading suggestions, as well as a listing of organizations that could provide supplemental report information. Satisfying the requirement for 100-page biography reports, this adds little else to the field. (Nonfiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-439-14751-4

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2002

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Ringgold’s biography of Rosa Parks packs substantial material into a few pages, but with a light touch, and with the ring of authenticity that gives her act of weary resistance all the respect it deserves. Narrating the book is the bus that Parks took that morning 45 years ago; it recounts the signal events in Parks’s life to a young girl who boarded it to go to school. A decent amount of the material will probably be new to children, for Parks is so intimately associated with the Montgomery Bus Boycott that her work with the NAACP before the bus incident is often overlooked, as is her later role as a community activist in Detroit with Congressman John Conyers. Ringgold, through the bus, also informs readers of Parks’s youth in rural Alabama, where Klansmen and nightriders struck fear into the lives of African-Americans. These experiences make her refusal to release her seat all the more courageous, for the consequences of resistance were not gentle. All the events are depicted in emotive naive artwork that underscores their truth; Ringgold delivers Parks’s story without hyperbole, but rather as a life lived with pride, conviction, and consequence. (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-689-81892-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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From Kroll (Lewis and Clark, 1994, etc.), a handsomely illustrated biography that introduces a fascinating historical figure and will make readers yearn for more information. The facts are covered, including Fulton’s stints as sign painter, air-gun inventor, and apprentice jeweler; Kroll states clearly which details cannot be pinned down, and the probable order of events and incidents. The text is informative and lively, although in places the transitions are abrupt, e.g., one of the only references to Fulton’s personal life—“Meanwhile, on January 7, 1808, Fulton had married Harriet Livingston. She bore him four children”—quickly reverts to details on the building of boats. Warm gold-toned paintings convey a sense of times past and complement the text. Especially appealing are the depictions of the steamships. A welcome volume. (chronology) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: March 15, 1999

ISBN: 0-8234-1433-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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