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This trailblazing female costume designer deserves a stronger story with more depth.

How Edith Head became a famed Hollywood costume designer.

Growing up in the Nevada desert with her mother and mining engineer stepfather, young Edith longed for less solitude and more bustle. While she made the most of her circumstances, asking for fabric scraps from townspeople and sewing little outfits for dolls and pets, Edith wanted more. Going to high school in Los Angeles, she discovered Hollywood movies, and in those, Edith found the life of glamour she craved. After college, she became a teacher but eventually worked her way into costume design. After persevering through more than a few setbacks (which are mentioned but not explored in depth), Edith became a highly regarded Academy Award–winning movie costume designer. Edith’s life was much more intriguing than the bland treatment given by this picture book, which has a flat-footed, predictable rhythm. The mixed-media illustrations, mostly double-page spreads, reflect the text faithfully but do not amplify the storyline. Readers will be left with a feeling of mild respect for Edith’s accomplishments but little else. An author’s note offers a bit more detailed information (her master’s degree from Stanford, her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame). Edith was White; some secondary characters are illustrated with brown skin. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

This trailblazing female costume designer deserves a stronger story with more depth. (selected sources) (Picture-book biography. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-5105-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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Like a concerto for the heart.

Venezuelan pianist Teresa Carreño performs for President Abraham Lincoln amid a raging Civil War in Engle and López’s portrait of an artist.

Thanks to parental encouragement, Teresita learned about “all the beautiful / dark and light keys / of a piano” at an early age. By the age of 6, she composed original songs. Revolución in Venezuela soon drove an 8-year-old Teresa and her family to sail across the stormy sea to the United States, but the Carreño family arrived only to find another violent conflict—“the horrible Civil War”—in their adopted country. Despite the initial alienation that comes from being in an unfamiliar country, Teresita continued to improve and play “graceful waltzes and sonatas, / booming symphonies, and lively folk songs.” The Piano Girl’s reputation spread far, eventually garnering the attention of Lincoln, who invited the 10-year-old to perform at the White House! Yet the Civil War festered on, tormenting Teresita, who wished to alleviate the president’s burdens for at least one night. “How could music soothe / so much trouble?” Half biographical sketch, half wide-eyed tribute, Engle and López’s collaboration endearingly builds to Teresa’s fateful meeting with Lincoln like a gravitational pull, with bursts of compassion and admiration for both artist and public servant. Engle’s free verse whirls and twirls, playful and vivacious, while López’s vivid, colorful artwork elevates this story to heavenly heights.

Like a concerto for the heart. (historical note) (Informational picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8740-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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Despite excellent illustrations, does not do its subject’s complexity justice.

A child’s introduction to Keith Haring.

Outlining the artistic career of an iconic neo-expressionist is hardly a black-and-white endeavor, and paring down Haring’s legacy for children over 30 years after an early and complicated death is a task in itself. Unfortunately, this effort fails to deliver an in-depth or unique look at his life or his art, instead reducing both to a repetitive and uninspired mantra: “Art is life. Life is art.” Beginning with Haring's hildhood in Pennsylvania and continuing through his life in 1980s New York City, author Brown provides a well-paced but conservative biography, with almost no personal details or thoughtful analysis of his work. Within its limitations, it succeeds well enough. The text is punctuated with a number of choice vocabulary words, good for inquisitive young readers at a variety of levels, and bookended with enough context for understanding. The book is truly carried, however, by Negley’s vibrant and (appropriately) semiabstract illustrations. The pages burst with lively pops of color, friendly faces in a diverse palette—Haring is White—and, naturally, an endless stream of squiggly lines and dancing figures. Altogether, it’s a decent starting point for youngsters interested in drawing on the walls, but a noticeable lack of nuance leaves something to be desired. Matthew Burgess and Josh Cochran’s Drawing on Walls (2020) paints a far fuller picture.

Despite excellent illustrations, does not do its subject’s complexity justice. (author's note, illustrator's note, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-30424-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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