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A celebratory and informative homage to courageous and pioneering Black female vocalists.

Black songstresses and vocal stylists and their contributions to musical creation and culture are center stage in this illustrated collective biography.

Each of the 50 biographical sketches is five to six paragraphs long, covers the entire life span of the subject, and includes an epigraphic quote attributed to the singer in question. The revelatory and uplifting narratives span many musical genres, including soul, jazz, hip-hop, rap, reggae, punk rock, electronic music, and more. Altogether, they cover 87 years of music history—the singers’ birth dates range from 1894 to 1981—and illuminate the profound impact Black women have made on social, political, and spiritual life through the power of their voices. While most of the women profiled are African American, a few—like Jamaican reggae chanteuse Rita Marley and Beninese singer/songwriter Angélique Kidjo—represent the wider African diaspora. Signature songs and classic, empowering anthems are analyzed, and Elizabeth provides insight into the personal struggles and societal barriers these divas and doyennes of sound overcame on their journeys to success and self-fulfillment. The brightly hued, minimalist digital illustrations feature bold, three-quarter portraits of the melodists that capture their distinct fashion styles and personalities. The backmatter includes a glossary of music terminology and an index.

A celebratory and informative homage to courageous and pioneering Black female vocalists. (Collective picture-book biography. 8-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7624-7514-8

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Running Press Kids

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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An apt choice for collections that already have stronger alternatives, such as R.J. Palacio's Wonder (2012).

A memoir of the first 14 years in the life of Australian Robert Hoge, born with stunted legs and a tumor in the middle of his face.

In 1972, Robert is born, the youngest of five children, with fishlike eyes on the sides of his face, a massive lump in place of his nose, and malformed legs. As baby Robert is otherwise healthy, the doctors convince his parents to approve the first of many surgeries to reduce his facial difference. One leg is also amputated, and Robert comes home to his everyday white, working-class family. There's no particular theme to the tale of Robert's next decade and a half: he experiences school and teasing, attempts to participate in sports, and is shot down by a girl. Vignette-driven choppiness and the lack of an overarching narrative would make the likeliest audience be those who seek disability stories. However, young Robert's ongoing quest to identify as "normal"—a quest that remains unchanged until a sudden turnaround on the penultimate page—risks alienating readers comfortable with their disabilities. Brief lyrical moments ("as compulsory as soggy tomato sandwiches at snack time") appeal but are overwhelmed by the dry, distant prose dominating this autobiography.

An apt choice for collections that already have stronger alternatives, such as R.J. Palacio's Wonder (2012). (Memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-425-28775-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Though a bit loose around the edges, a charmer nevertheless.

Tales of a fourth grade ne’er-do-well.

It seems that young Jordan is stuck in a never-ending string of bad luck. Sure, no one’s perfect (except maybe goody-two-shoes William Feranek), but Jordan can’t seem to keep his attention focused on the task at hand. Try as he may, things always go a bit sideways, much to his educators’ chagrin. But Jordan promises himself that fourth grade will be different. As the year unfolds, it does prove to be different, but in a way Jordan couldn’t possibly have predicted. This humorous memoir perfectly captures the square-peg-in-a-round-hole feeling many kids feel and effectively heightens that feeling with comic situations and a splendid villain. Jordan’s teacher, Mrs. Fisher, makes an excellent foil, and the book’s 1970s setting allows for her cruelty to go beyond anything most contemporary readers could expect. Unfortunately, the story begins to run out of steam once Mrs. Fisher exits. Recollections spiral, losing their focus and leading to a more “then this happened” and less cause-and-effect structure. The anecdotes are all amusing and Jordan is an endearing protagonist, but the book comes dangerously close to wearing out its welcome with sheer repetitiveness. Thankfully, it ends on a high note, one pleasant and hopeful enough that readers will overlook some of the shabbier qualities. Jordan is White and Jewish while there is some diversity among his classmates; Mrs. Fisher is White.

Though a bit loose around the edges, a charmer nevertheless. (Memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-64723-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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