Overwrought and flawed history accompanied by unappealing illustrations. (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

JFK

An homage to the 35th president of the United States, marking the 50th anniversary of his assassination.

Winter frames his narrative with personal statements, opening with an anecdote that he was a baby watching on his father’s shoulders in Dallas on November 22 and concluding with a gushy testimonial. In between, he covers the litany of Kennedy’s sickly childhood, World War II heroism, presidential campaign and three years in office, playing into the Kennedy mythology without restraint. The story of the older brother killed in combat and the second son assuming the political mantle is more legend than fact, and Kennedy’s support of the civil rights movement was more conservative than implied. The crux of the West Virginia primary was whether or not a Catholic could carry a Protestant state, not economics. In addition, the Camelot aura arose from an interview Jacqueline Kennedy gave to Theodore White, not from JFK’s childhood reading. Winter does not mention the space program but does devote a page to the Cuban missile crisis. He concludes that JFK was flawed, but “his words and his spirit live on.” The only sourcing is one website recommended for further reading. The brevity of the form and the youth of the audience is no excuse for hagiography instead of history. Ford’s full-color paintings reproduce period photographs, some making a very good-looking family appear singularly unattractive.

Overwrought and flawed history accompanied by unappealing illustrations. (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-176807-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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Stirring encouragement for all “little people” with “big dreams.” (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

MAYA ANGELOU

From the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

“There’s nothing I can’t be,” young Maya thinks, and then shows, in this profile for newly independent readers, imported from Spain.

The inspirational message is conveyed through a fine skein of biographical details. It begins with her birth in St. Louis and the prejudice she experienced growing up in a small Arkansas town and closes with her reading of a poem “about her favorite thing: hope” at Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration. In between, it mentions the (unspecified) “attack” by her mother’s boyfriend and subsequent elective muteness she experienced as a child, as well as some of the varied pursuits that preceded her eventual decision to become a writer. Kaiser goes on in a closing spread to recap Angelou’s life and career, with dates, beneath a quartet of portrait photos. Salaberria’s simple illustrations, filled with brown-skinned figures, are more idealized than photorealistic, but, though only in the cover image do they make direct contact with readers’, Angelou’s huge eyes are an effective focal point in each scene. The message is similar in the co-published Amelia Earhart, written by Ma Isabel Sánchez Vegara (and also translated by Pitt), but the pictures are more fanciful as illustrator Mariadiamantes endows the aviator with a mane of incandescent orange hair and sends her flying westward (in contradiction of the text and history) on her final around-the-world flight.

Stirring encouragement for all “little people” with “big dreams.” (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-84780-889-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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A beautifully designed book that will resonate with children and the adults who wisely share it with them.

NELSON MANDELA

An inspirational ode to the life of the great South African leader by an award-winning author and illustrator.

Mandela’s has been a monumental life, a fact made clear on the front cover, which features an imposing, full-page portrait. The title is on the rear cover. His family gave him the Xhosa name Rolihlahla, but his schoolteacher called him Nelson. Later, he was sent to study with village elders who told him stories about his beautiful and fertile land, which was conquered by European settlers with more powerful weapons. Then came apartheid, and his protests, rallies and legal work for the cause of racial equality led to nearly 30 years of imprisonment followed at last by freedom for Mandela and for all South Africans. “The ancestors, / The people, / The world, / Celebrated.” Nelson’s writing is spare, poetic, and grounded in empathy and admiration. His oil paintings on birch plywood are muscular and powerful. Dramatic moments are captured in shifting perspectives; a whites-only beach is seen through a wide-angle lens, while faces behind bars and faces beaming in final victory are masterfully portrayed in close-up.

A beautifully designed book that will resonate with children and the adults who wisely share it with them. (author’s note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-178374-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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