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Young readers lucky enough to encounter both this book and Mordecai Gerstein’s What Charlie Heard (2002) may never again hear the sounds of the world around them in quite the same way—they may be listening for music.

The informing story for Stanbridge’s brief biographical account is the work that Charles Ives composed after the news of the sinking of the Lusitania reached New York City. Her gentle, full-color illustrations are rounded and appealing. The several wordless pages devoted to the sinking of the ocean liner are appropriately dramatic and scary, but they focus on a small girl rescued by a lifeboat and reunited with her mother. It is as if Charles Ives and his New York neighbors are seeing the events before their eyes, and this sequence serves to underscore their reaction of grieving astonishment. Ives’ From Hanover Square North, at the End of a Tragic Day, the Voice of the People Again Arose was first, and at long last, performed 13 years after Ives’ death. Stanbridge tells her young readers that as listeners came to know Ives’ music and as composers took inspiration from Ives’ ideas, the line of succession grew, all the way to John Adams’ 2002 concert, On the Transmigration of Souls, composed to remember the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, filled with the ordinary sounds of the city. Unthreatening despite its subject matter, yet impressively moving. (author’s note, source list, suggestions for further reading and listening). (Picture book/biography. 4-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-23866-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Bewitched by the rhythms of jazz all around her in Depression-era Kansas City, little Melba Doretta Liston longs to make music in this fictional account of a little-known jazz great.

Picking up the trombone at 7, the little girl teaches herself to play with the support of her Grandpa John and Momma Lucille, performing on the radio at 8 and touring as a pro at just 17. Both text and illustrations make it clear that it’s not all easy for Melba; “The Best Service for WHITES ONLY” reads a sign in a hotel window as the narrative describes a bigotry-plagued tour in the South with Billie Holiday. But joy carries the day, and the story ends on a high note, with Melba “dazzling audiences and making headlines” around the world. Russell-Brown’s debut text has an innate musicality, mixing judicious use of onomatopoeia with often sonorous prose. Morrison’s sinuous, exaggerated lines are the perfect match for Melba’s story; she puts her entire body into her playing, the exaggerated arch of her back and thrust of her shoulders mirroring the curves of her instrument. In one thrilling spread, the evening gown–clad instrumentalist stands over the male musicians, her slide crossing the gutter while the back bow disappears off the page to the left. An impressive discography complements a two-page afterword and a thorough bibliography.

Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60060-898-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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A humorous tribute to the zany, determined and innovative side of invention.

Young Virena, one of four children, provides inspiration for her aspiring inventor papa’s latest ambitious construction: a submarine.

Fleming bases her tale on the true story of Civil War–era inventor Lodner Phillips, who tried his hand at submarine design on the shores of Lake Michigan. In Fleming’s lively, enthusiastic account, Papa builds three increasingly large and more complicated underwater vehicles, each of which sinks, with Papa emerging cheerfully, if damply, ready for the next round. As Virena muses on the nature of marine life, providing Papa with ideas for improvements, the baby interjects disarmingly funny comments: “No pee pee!” chortles the baby when Virena asks how fish stay dry. The Whitefish IV has room for everyone, and Papa puts his entire family into the contraption—somehow the cheerful presentation keeps readers from worrying about the outcome. Kulikov’s expansive, comical illustrations offer exaggerated perspectives from above and below the deep blue-green water, huge and beautiful fish just under the surface and a loving family for the determined inventor. Blueprints for each version of the mechanical fish are included—a neat glimpse into the invention process—while the peculiarly human expressions on the family bulldog remind readers that this is a fantasy. An author’s note and an extensive list of adult resources give background information about the real Lodner Phillips.

A humorous tribute to the zany, determined and innovative side of invention. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 11, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-39908-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2013

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