An inviting peek into a fascinating chapter of U.S. history.

Literacy by any means possible!

As soon as the sun rises, a young, White-presenting woman is off on horseback to fulfill her mission: getting books into the hands of readers in the Kentucky backwoods. The rider, Anna Mary (“rhymes with library”), travels long distances with her horse, Sand, sleeping under the stars on fair nights and (hopefully) in a barn or spare room on wet ones. For Adam, a light-skinned boy whose father is away at war, she brings books about brave men. For Alice, a light-skinned girl recovering from measles, Anna Mary brings Millions of Cats and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. And for a small, diverse school, a book for everyone, including the teacher. An author’s note explains that although Anna Mary is fictional, her work was not. The Pack Horse Library Project began in 1935 as part of the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression and provided work for the unemployed. Yolen knows her way around a picture book, and here she has penned a story that’s both approachable and inspiring, accompanied by Badiu’s bright illustrations. Educators will love reading it aloud to groups, and young readers will be fascinated to learn more. If there are any quibbles to be had, it’s the lack of citations for further explanation, but this is a small issue in an otherwise strong work. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An inviting peek into a fascinating chapter of U.S. history. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2023

ISBN: 9780807562918

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2023



This unusual presentation of a tale of class-crossed lovers recounts a true 18th-century Russian romance. Nicolas Cheremeteff, the richest man in the land, loves music more than gold. He travels the world to hear the finest performers, but it is Praskovia, a peasant girl working on his estate who captures his heart with her singing. He takes her to his palace, where he teaches her to be a lady and nurtures her singing. Crowned “The Pearl” for her luminous talent, she even sings for the Empress, Catherine the Great. Naturally, Nicolas and Praskovia fall in love and live in a simple cottage. Years go by, and Praskovia still sings like a nightingale, but she’s still a serf and unmarried. Nicolas does the unthinkable and marries her, making her a countess. Their happiness is short-lived, as Praskovia dies after giving birth. Tributes to her remain today. The dramatic story is matched with stylized, theatrical artwork. Vibrant reds, golds and blacks are backlit with broad expanses of white space that frame Praskovia. Heavy, glossy paper adds to the book’s opulence. This historical mesh of "Cinderella" and My Fair Lady is a rich nugget of history for sophisticated readers and as beautiful as a Fabergé egg. (brief author’s note) (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-884167-24-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Umbrage

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011




In the end, however, they all testify to something important: Presidents are only men (so far, anyway) and capable of every...

This gathering of presidential foibles and fancies covers the gamut, from George W. the First to Barack.

Each is set as either a poem (rhymed and free verse) or a prose poem, and all display a handling of language that both is comfortable and exhibits a certain degree of flash. Of one-eyed James Buchanan: “So he cocked his head to focus. / He could tilt his view toward a distant star, / ogle an ash on a nearby cigar, / or peer halfway to Zanzibar. / Was there anything he didn’t notice?” Neubecker’s illustrations are wonderful puddles of colorful personality, true to the text but amplifying it (or further poking a sharp stick into the presidential eye). The only concern here is that some of the presidential tics are a bit dull. Of course, no one will deny the import of blubbery William Howard Taft wedging himself into the White House tub and needing a team of assistants to extricate him. Or T. Jefferson the inventor, J.Q. Adams the skinny dipper or Z. Taylor’s nearly missing the presidency for want of a stamp. But that J. Adams was chubby, J. Madison was small and M. Fillmore is forgotten? There’s little to spark even a muted guffaw or a sympathetic nod.

In the end, however, they all testify to something important: Presidents are only men (so far, anyway) and capable of every mortal weakness and weirdness. (Picture book/poetry. 6-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-18221-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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