MY GREAT-AUNT ARIZONA

Echoing Barbara Cooney's fictionalized picture-book biographies of strong, independent women whose stories both challenged and exemplified their times (Miss Rumphius, 1982; Hattie and the Wild Waves, 1990), Houston (her The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree, 1988, was illustrated by Cooney) recounts the story of a great-aunt who spent her entire life in rural North Carolina. Though she dropped out of school to care for the family when her mother died, Arizona was eventually able to fulfill her ambition of becoming a teacher, returning to the one- room school she had attended, marrying, and bringing her own children to school with her but never going to the ``faraway places'' she visited only ``in my mind.'' Arizona doesn't have Hattie's individuality or Miss Rumphius's vision, and her story has less energy and unique flavor than either of theirs; still, Houston's simple narrative is warm and exceptionally graceful and clean, while Lamb's settings (which seem to be in watercolor plus color pencil) are well researched. Her impressionistic outdoor scenes are especially attractive; figures are less expert if lively—the young Arizona reading with high-button shoes aloft, or dancing with skirts aswirl above the knee, are engaging bits of poetic license. A nostalgic but appealing portrait of another generation. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: March 30, 1992

ISBN: 0-06-022606-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1992

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            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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It’s a bit sketchy of historical detail, but it’s coherent, inspirational, and engaging without indulging in rapturous...

ROSA PARKS

From the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

A first introduction to the iconic civil rights activist.

“She was very little and very brave, and she always tried to do what was right.” Without many names or any dates, Kaiser traces Parks’ life and career from childhood to later fights for “fair schools, jobs, and houses for black people” as well as “voting rights, women’s rights and the rights of people in prison.” Though her refusal to change seats and the ensuing bus boycott are misleadingly presented as spontaneous acts of protest, young readers will come away with a clear picture of her worth as a role model. Though recognizable thanks to the large wire-rimmed glasses Parks sports from the outset as she marches confidently through Antelo’s stylized illustrations, she looks childlike throughout (as characteristic of this series), and her skin is unrealistically darkened to match the most common shade visible on other African-American figures. In her co-published Emmeline Pankhurst (illustrated by Ana Sanfelippo), Kaiser likewise simplistically implies that Great Britain led the way in granting universal women’s suffrage but highlights her subject’s courageous quest for justice, and Isabel Sánchez Vegara caps her profile of Audrey Hepburn (illustrated by Amaia Arrazola) with the moot but laudable claim that “helping people across the globe” (all of whom in the pictures are dark-skinned children) made Hepburn “happier than acting or dancing ever had.” All three titles end with photographs and timelines over more-detailed recaps plus at least one lead to further information.

It’s a bit sketchy of historical detail, but it’s coherent, inspirational, and engaging without indulging in rapturous flights of hyperbole. (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-78603-018-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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