Shakespeare, racial discrimination, and strong doses of inspiration and determination—all in one notable life.



In the 1800s, an African-American boy dreamed of performing on stage and found success in Europe.

Ira Aldridge was a noted and popular Shakespearean actor in England and on the Continent, excelling in the Bard’s dramatic roles. Born to free black parents in New York City in 1807, he soon realized that America would not nurture his dreams, so he sailed for England. Success was not easy, but it did come. Aldridge, ever mindful of slavery at home, would talk to audiences after his performances and raise money for abolitionists. Armand presents the narrative in an easygoing style with imagined dialogue and scenes, focusing both on Aldridge’s childhood, when the beauty of Shakespeare’s words first enthralled him, and his later stage performances. Occasional quotes from Shakespeare add to the theatrical flavor. Cooper’s signature art style—oil wash with kneaded erasures—captures dramatic scenes from The Merchant of Venice and Othello, with shades of yellow effectively mimicking stage lighting. All in all, it’s a fine introduction for children to yet another distinguished name in the realm of African-American arts.

Shakespeare, racial discrimination, and strong doses of inspiration and determination—all in one notable life. (photograph, afterword, quotation sources, books, and websites) (Picture book/biography. 6-9)

Pub Date: June 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62014-155-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization.


If Pluto can’t be a planet—then what is he?

Having been a regular planet for “the better part of forever,” Pluto is understandably knocked out of orbit by his sudden exclusion. With Charon and his four other moons in tow he sets off in search of a new identity. Unfortunately, that only spins him into further gloom, as he doesn’t have a tail like his friend Halley’s comet, is too big to join Ida and the other asteroids, and feels disinclined to try to crash into Earth like meteoroids Gem and Persi. Then, just as he’s about to plunge into a black hole of despair, an encounter with a whole quartet of kindred spheroids led by Eris rocks his world…and a follow-up surprise party thrown by an apologetic Saturn (“Dwarf planet has a nice RING to it”) and the other seven former colleagues literally puts him “over the moon.” Demmer gives all the heavenly bodies big eyes (some, including the feminine Saturn, with long lashes) and, on occasion, short arms along with distinctive identifying colors or markings. Dressing the troublemaking meteoroids in do-rags and sunglasses sounds an off note. Without mentioning that the reclassification is still controversial, Wade closes with a (somewhat) straighter account of Pluto’s current official status and the reasons for it.

Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68446-004-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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