Lovely art comes with unusual perspectives on familiar tales about lions, mice, and trickster foxes.



Messages both overt and hidden in the life and preserved wisdom of an enslaved storyteller.

Yes, Lendler acknowledges, Aesop’s fables are generally interpreted as “simple lessons on virtue and good values,” but on closer looks, “many of them are actually practical advice on how to survive in a world in which some have power and some do not.” As evidence, he selects 13 to retell—most (“The Ant and the Grasshopper,” “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”) well known, others, such as “The Donkey and the Lapdog” and “The Lion and the Statue,” less so. Some are embedded in an imagined account of Aesop’s life based on legends from later centuries. In this narrative, the child of enslaved parents learns to speak “in code,” impresses one master but is sold to a second, and, after some years, wins freedom at last with the story of a wolf who would rather go hungry than be collared like a dog. Zagarenski places light-skinned, delicately expressive humans and graceful animals (the latter often in anthropomorphic dress and postures) into golden-toned settings. The book is highlighted by a lyrical trio of climactic freedom scenes in which morals, titles, and lines from fables become decorative elements, swirling exuberantly through dense crowds of figures. Morals printed in gold add further sumptuous notes to the tersely rendered fables.

Lovely art comes with unusual perspectives on familiar tales about lions, mice, and trickster foxes. (afterword, bibliography) (Folktales. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-58552-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering.


An honestly told biography of an important politician whose name every American should know.

Published while the United States has its first African-American president, this story of John Roy Lynch, the first African-American speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, lays bare the long and arduous path black Americans have walked to obtain equality. The title’s first three words—“The Amazing Age”—emphasize how many more freedoms African-Americans had during Reconstruction than for decades afterward. Barton and Tate do not shy away from honest depictions of slavery, floggings, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, or the various means of intimidation that whites employed to prevent blacks from voting and living lives equal to those of whites. Like President Barack Obama, Lynch was of biracial descent; born to an enslaved mother and an Irish father, he did not know hard labor until his slave mistress asked him a question that he answered honestly. Freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, Lynch had a long and varied career that points to his resilience and perseverance. Tate’s bright watercolor illustrations often belie the harshness of what takes place within them; though this sometimes creates a visual conflict, it may also make the book more palatable for young readers unaware of the violence African-Americans have suffered than fully graphic images would. A historical note, timeline, author’s and illustrator’s notes, bibliography and map are appended.

A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering. (Picture book biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5379-0

Page Count: 50

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


            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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet