In a word: marvelous! (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

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THE RIGHT WORD

ROGET AND HIS THESAURUS

After award-winning collaborations about poet William Carlos Williams and artist Horace Pippin, Bryant and Sweet return to investigate the life of Peter Mark Roget.

Born in London in 1779, Roget was plagued by lifelong setbacks. His father died early; his mother was unstable. Frequent moves and pronounced shyness engendered solace in books. Partial to classifying his knowledge and experiences, Peter composed his first book of lists by age 8. Inspired by the taxonomy of Swedish physician and botanist Linnaeus, teenage Peter studied medicine in Scotland, eventually establishing a practice in London, and he worked on a book of word classifications, completing it in 1805 for his own reference. Roget lectured, invented (the slide rule and the pocket chess set) and, inspired by the publication of several contemporary, inferior books of lists, returned to his own. His Thesaurus, published in 1852 and nurtured by his descendants, has never gone out of print. Bryant’s prose is bright and well-tuned for young readers. She goes gently, omitting Roget’s darkest traumas, such as witnessing his uncle’s suicide. Sweet tops herself—again!—visually reflecting Roget’s wide range as a thinker and product of the Enlightenment. Injecting her watercolor palette with shots of teal, scarlet and fuchsia, Sweet embeds vintage bits (ledger paper, type drawers, botanical illustrations and more), creating a teeming, contemplative, playfully celebratory opus. Exemplary backmatter includes a chronology, author’s and illustrator’s notes, selected bibliography, suggested reading, quotation sources, and a photograph of one of Roget's manuscript pages.

In a word: marvelous! (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5385-1

Page Count: 42

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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

THE AMAZING AGE OF JOHN ROY LYNCH

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

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            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

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