A spectacular story about a little-known eco-warrior whose story should be told and retold.

SAVING AMERICAN BEACH

THE BIOGRAPHY OF AFRICAN AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALIST MAVYNEE BETSCH

An unsung American hero who used her voice to preserve the natural spaces she loved.

MaVynee Betsch grew up in the Jim Crow South, where she and other Black kids couldn’t swim with the White kids. An orange rope even segregated the ocean. Wanting beaches for all, MaVynee’s wealthy great-grandfather, Abraham Lincoln Lewis, bought a beach in Florida and welcomed African Americans, calling it American Beach. This “ocean paradise” entertained both regular folk and greats like Ray Charles, Zora Neale Hurston, and Ella Fitzgerald. MaVynee herself became a successful opera singer, but when her mother got sick and died, MaVynee abandoned her musical career and returned to Florida only to find her beloved beach in disrepair. Developers wanted to buy it to build condos. Holmes’ stunning, intricately composed paint-and-collage images bring MaVynee to life in full color and capture her eccentricities: She grew her locked hair to 7 feet long, decorating it with seashells, sometimes styling it into a high topknot and other times draping the end over her arm. Holmes uses a brilliant cerulean for ocean and sky and peppers the vibrantly patterned illustrations with found items such as torn raffle tickets, newspaper clippings, promotional posters, and sheet music, making each spread visually rich, realistic, and fascinating. King’s storytelling, Holmes’ artwork, and informative backmatter portray MaVynee Betsch as the larger-than-life Black environmentalist she was. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9.5-by-21-inch double-page spreads viewed at 27.6% of actual size.)

A spectacular story about a little-known eco-warrior whose story should be told and retold. (author's note, illustrator's note) (Picture book/biography. 6-12)

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-101-99629-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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Blandly laudatory.

I AM WALT DISNEY

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

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. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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A galloping marvel—enlightening and entertaining.

DR. SEUSS'S HORSE MUSEUM

A succinct introduction to art history via a Seussian museum of equine art.

This posthumously published text recently discovered in Ted Geisel’s studio uses horse-focused art pieces to provide historical context to artistic movements. Showing art ranging from the Lascaux cave paintings to an untitled 1994 sculpture by Deborah Butterfield, Joyner’s playful illustrations surround the curated photographs of art pieces. By using horses as the departing point in the artistic journey, Seuss and Joyner are able to introduce diverse perspectives, artifacts, and media, including Harnessed Horse from the northern Wei dynasty, a Navajo pictorial blanket titled Oh, My Beautiful Horses, and photographs by Eadweard Muybridge. Questions to readers prompt thought about the artistic concepts introduced, aided by a cast of diverse museumgoers who demonstrate the art terms in action. Joyner further engages readers by illustrating both general cultural and Seussian references. Glimpses of the Cat in the Hat are seen throughout the book; he poses as a silent observer, genially guarding Seuss’ legacy. For art enthusiasts, some illustrations become an inside joke, as references to artists such as Alexander Calder, Salvador Dalí, Marina Abramovic, and René Magritte make appearances. Thorough backmatter contains notes on each art piece referenced along with a study of the manuscript’s history and Seuss’ artistic style. Absent, probably unsurprisingly, is any acknowledgment of the Cat’s antecedents in minstrelsy and Seuss’ other racist work, but prominent among the museumgoers are black- and Asian-presenting characters as well as a girl wearing hijab and a child who uses a wheelchair.

A galloping marvel—enlightening and entertaining. (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-55912-9

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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