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


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


A unique angle on a watershed moment in the civil rights era.

The New Orleans school child who famously broke the color line in 1960 while surrounded by federal marshals describes the early days of her experience from a 6-year-old’s perspective.

Bridges told her tale to younger children in 2009’s Ruby Bridges Goes to School, but here the sensibility is more personal, and the sometimes-shocking historical photos have been replaced by uplifting painted scenes. “I didn’t find out what being ‘the first’ really meant until the day I arrived at this new school,” she writes. Unfrightened by the crowd of “screaming white people” that greets her at the school’s door (she thinks it’s like Mardi Gras) but surprised to find herself the only child in her classroom, and even the entire building, she gradually realizes the significance of her act as (in Smith’s illustration) she compares a small personal photo to the all-White class photos posted on a bulletin board and sees the difference. As she reflects on her new understanding, symbolic scenes first depict other dark-skinned children marching into classes in her wake to friendly greetings from lighter-skinned classmates (“School is just school,” she sensibly concludes, “and kids are just kids”) and finally an image of the bright-eyed icon posed next to a soaring bridge of reconciliation. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A unique angle on a watershed moment in the civil rights era. (author and illustrator notes, glossary) (Autobiographical picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-75388-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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