With messaging that blacks were happier before integration and explicit targeting of blackness, this is a version of the...

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RUBY, HEAD HIGH

RUBY BRIDGE'S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL

A harrowing quasi-biographical picture book about one girl’s quest to desegregate American schools and the hatred that tried to prevent her.

The story opens with a group of students discussing Norman Rockwell’s famous painting of young Bridges being walked to school by U.S. marshals. Immediately readers are confronted with a replica of the artwork, which includes graffiti of the N-word in the background. In an easy-to-understand first person, the anonymous child narrator dreams she is Bridges, allowing the story to delve into the details of Bridges’ life and the irony and realities of life in Jim Crow Louisiana. Bridges and her family are seen playing happily together before she qualifies to attend an all-white school—separate from her friends and family. The painterly illustrations, rich with deep yellows and striking blues, capture the cruelty of the time. In attempting to make the complex topic of racism understandable, the story undermines itself. When the narrator-as-Bridges wonders “why people were so angry at a little girl going to school,” the internalized message is revealed on the following page: “I was black.” Problematically, blackness is deemed the culprit for all the hatred this innocent girl has endured instead of racism. An author’s note devotes two sentences to further information on Bridges and two paragraphs to the Rockwell painting.

With messaging that blacks were happier before integration and explicit targeting of blackness, this is a version of the Ruby Bridges story to skip. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-56846-341-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Creative Editions/Creative Company

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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A predictable ballet tale for die-hard Copeland fans or as an introduction to Coppélia.

BUNHEADS

A young ballerina takes on her first starring role.

Young Misty has just begun taking ballet when her teacher announces auditions for the classic ballet Coppélia. Misty listens spellbound as Miss Bradley tells the story of the toymaker who creates a doll so lifelike it threatens to steal a boy’s heart away from his betrothed, Swanilda. Paired with a kind classmate, Misty works hard to perfect the steps and wins the part she’s wanted all along: Swanilda. As the book closes, Misty and her fellow dancers take their triumphant opening-night bows. Written in third person, the narrative follows a linear structure, but the storyline lacks conflict and therefore urgency. It functions more as an introduction to Coppélia than anything else, despite the oddly chosen title. Even those unfamiliar with Copeland’s legendary status as the first black principal ballerina for the American Ballet Theatre will predict the trite ending. The illustrations are an attractive combination of warm brown, yellow, and rosy mahogany. However, this combination also obscures variations in skin tone, especially among Misty’s classmates. Misty and her mother are depicted with brown hair and brown skin; Miss Bradley has red hair and pale skin. Additionally, there’s a disappointing lack of body-type diversity; the dancers are depicted as uniformly skinny with extremely long limbs. The precise linework captures movement, yet the humanity of dance is missing. Many ballet steps are illustrated clearly, but some might confuse readers unfamiliar with ballet terminology. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 48% of actual size.)

A predictable ballet tale for die-hard Copeland fans or as an introduction to Coppélia. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-399-54764-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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