At its best when the emphasis is on the skill and artistry of Mime’s most accomplished practitioner—alas, too much of the...

The legendary mime is introduced to a new generation, though not entirely successfully.

As a child, Marceau loved to silently entertain his friends, like his idol, Charlie Chaplin. During the Nazi occupation of France, Marcel and his brother took on new identities in the French Underground, where they forged documents for Jewish children and helped many to escape to Switzerland. Spielman assumes that her young audience will understand references to deportation and concentration camps; unfortunately for those that don't, her matter-of-fact tone speaks more of adventure than deadly peril. Her tone subtly changes when she lovingly describes Marceau’s training and development as a mime and his stage persona of Bip the clown, admiring his skills in the “art of silence” that won him international renown. But here too, comparisons to the Little Tramp and Pierrot may be outside readers’ frame of reference. Though the illustrations carefully complement the textual content with period details, Gauthier’s cartoon faces are all nearly identical, with only the screen image of Chaplin and Marceau’s Bip having distinctive features. A double-page spread at the conclusion provides photographs of Bip in action and is the only clear indication of Marceau’s stagecraft.

At its best when the emphasis is on the skill and artistry of Mime’s most accomplished practitioner—alas, too much of the book looks elsewhere. (Picture book/biography. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7613-3961-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011



A squeaky-clean biography of the original Mouseketeer.

Scollon begins with the (to say the least) arguable claim that Disney grew up to “define and shape what would come to be known as the American Century.” Following this, he retraces Disney’s life and career, characterizing him as a visionary whose only real setbacks came from excess ambition or at the hands of unscrupulous film distributors. Disney’s brother Roy appears repeatedly to switch between roles as encourager and lead doubter, but except in chapters covering his childhood, the rest of his family only puts in occasional cameos. Unsurprisingly, there is no mention of Disney’s post–World War II redbaiting, and his most controversial film, Song of the South, gets only a single reference (and that with a positive slant). More puzzling is the absence of Mary Poppins from the tally of Disney triumphs. Still, readers will come away with a good general picture of the filmmaking and animation techniques that Disney pioneered, as well as a highlight history of his studio, television work and amusement parks. Discussion questions are appended: “What do you think were Walt Disney’s greatest accomplishments and why?” Brown’s illustrations not seen. An iconic success story that has often been told before but rarely so one-dimensionally or with such firm adherence to the company line. (bibliography) (Biography. 8-10)


Pub Date: July 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9647-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Disney Press

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014


Apart from the peculiar posthumous narration, a useful addition to the artist-biography shelf.

This Spanish import describes well-known events in van Gogh’s career

Readers first see him as a child and then as an assistant in his uncle’s art dealership, followed by a brief spell as a minister, during which he witnessed and drew mining families living in terrible poverty. Constantly dogged by disapproval and humiliation in the provincial towns, the painter moved to Paris. Here he was exposed to contemporary art movements that were central to the evolution of his distinctive style. His removal to the Arles countryside, the inspiration for many of his most famous works; his complicated friendship with Gauguin; and his eventual descent into madness and suicide are described and illustrated with García’s soft watercolor illustrations and a few reproductions. Sidebars provide background information about art movements, places, and people that influenced van Gogh. The entire book, including the concluding timeline, is in the first person. This is potentially confusing for children who have a limited understanding of chronology. Some of the statements seem particularly jarring owing to this choice of narrative voice. The timeline states: “in a moment of despair, [I] shot myself in the chest. Two days later, I died.” It will be obvious to most readers that he could not be writing when dead, and this adds a layer of absurdity that derails the otherwise factual tone.

Apart from the peculiar posthumous narration, a useful addition to the artist-biography shelf. (list of paintings, websites) (Biography. 8-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59572-770-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Star Bright

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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