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From the Who Did It First? series

A well-intentioned biographical selection about Betty White that is consciously inclusive and diverse.

A playful tour of Betty White’s life.

A brown-skinned boy’s face lights up in class. Having just learned about a new assignment, choosing a “trailblazing woman” for a presentation, he knows precisely whom to study: Betty White. More than one person suggests he pick a more “traditional” subject, but the boy is adamant. At the library, the boy meets a mysterious woman in the stacks who just happens to be an expert on White and helps him bring his research to life. The boy learns all about White’s groundbreaking career, including her early days as a television host; her production credits, rare for women in the 1950s; her insistent support of a Black dancer during 1954’s The Betty White Show; her work for the American Humane Society; and her awards and starring roles. Finally, the boy is ready to dress up as his heroine for his class presentation. And who should appear in the classroom? That’s Betty! Sincere in its intentions but with some awkward moments (a character named “Darian the Vegetarian Librarian”), this LGBTQ+–friendly selection offers a mirror to children intent on being themselves and focusing on their unique interests, gender-typical or not. Lively illustrations feature a diverse cast. The boy has two fathers, one White and one Black, and the multiracial classroom includes a student in a wheelchair and a teacher with brown skin. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A well-intentioned biographical selection about Betty White that is consciously inclusive and diverse. (timeline, sources) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-79660-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses.

An NBA star pays tribute to the influence of his grandfather.

In the same vein as his Long Shot (2009), illustrated by Frank Morrison, this latest from Paul prioritizes values and character: “My granddad Papa Chilly had dreams that came true,” he writes, “so maybe if I listen and watch him, / mine will too.” So it is that the wide-eyed Black child in the simply drawn illustrations rises early to get to the playground hoops before anyone else, watches his elder working hard and respecting others, hears him cheering along with the rest of the family from the stands during games, and recalls in a prose afterword that his grandfather wasn’t one to lecture but taught by example. Paul mentions in both the text and the backmatter that Papa Chilly was the first African American to own a service station in North Carolina (his presumed dream) but not that he was killed in a robbery, which has the effect of keeping the overall tone positive and the instructional content one-dimensional. Figures in the pictures are mostly dark-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-81003-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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From the Ordinary People Change the World series

Blandly laudatory.

The iconic animator introduces young readers to each “happy place” in his life.

The tally begins with his childhood home in Marceline, Missouri, and climaxes with Disneyland (carefully designed to be “the happiest place on Earth”), but the account really centers on finding his true happy place, not on a map but in drawing. In sketching out his early flubs and later rocket to the top, the fictive narrator gives Ub Iwerks and other Disney studio workers a nod (leaving his labor disputes with them unmentioned) and squeezes in quick references to his animated films, from Steamboat Willie to Winnie the Pooh (sans Fantasia and Song of the South). Eliopoulos incorporates stills from the films into his cartoon illustrations and, characteristically for this series, depicts Disney as a caricature, trademark mustache in place on outsized head even in childhood years and child sized even as an adult. Human figures default to white, with occasional people of color in crowd scenes and (ahistorically) in the animation studio. One unidentified animator builds up the role-modeling with an observation that Walt and Mickey were really the same (“Both fearless; both resourceful”). An assertion toward the end—“So when do you stop being a child? When you stop dreaming”—muddles the overall follow-your-bliss message. A timeline to the EPCOT Center’s 1982 opening offers photos of the man with select associates, rodent and otherwise. An additional series entry, I Am Marie Curie, publishes simultaneously, featuring a gowned, toddler-sized version of the groundbreaking physicist accepting her two Nobel prizes.

Blandly laudatory. (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2875-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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