What is clearly a labor of love creates quite an extraordinary collective biography for young people, from a veteran observer. In the introduction, Lester addresses his granddaughter: “One of our jobs is to remember how things used to be so we can tell our grandchildren.” Using the cadences of traditional storytelling and the rhythms of grandfatherly affection he recollects the lives of ten great blues singers. Because he’s speaking in his grandfather persona, he imbues each of these stories with personal experiences and reflections and fills them with references to tie them to children’s own lives: B.B. King still sleeping with a night light on; Whitney Houston as a child watching her mother, Cissy Houston, sing with Aretha Franklin. He also ties these singers to those who followed them: Janis Joplin paying for half of a tombstone to mark Bessie Smith’s grave; the Rolling Stones taking their band name from a Muddy Waters song; Little Richard, in his life as preacher, officiating at the marriages of Cyndi Lauper and Little Steven. Robert Johnson, Mahalia Jackson, Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, and James Brown are included here, too. Beautiful design plays a role, with pulled quotes in vivid colors and multiple typefonts opening up the text blocks of each three-page biography. Each has a full-page image of its subject in bold, black calligraphic filled with strong colors, evoking stained glass. Excellence wears many faces: this works as biography, as source material for school reports, and as compelling storytelling. (bibliography, recommended listening) (Collective biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7868-0463-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney-Jump at the Sun

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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Wholesome, uncomplicated fare for the younger Matt Christopher crowd.


From the Zach and Zoe Mysteries series , Vol. 1

Lupica kicks off a new series starring a pair of 8-year-old twins who solve sports-themed mysteries.

Even the pleasures of competing in various events during his school’s Spirit Week dim a smidge for Zach Walker when the prized autographed baseball he brings to his third-grade class for show and tell vanishes. Happily, his bookish but equally sports-loving sister, Zoe, is on the case, and by the time of the climactic baseball game at week’s end, she has pieced together clues and deductions that lead to the lost treasure—which had not been stolen but batted through an open window by the teacher’s cat and stashed in a storage shed by the custodian. In the co-published sequel, The Half-Court Hero, the equally innocuous conundrum hangs on the identity of the mysterious “guardian angel” who is fixing up a run-down playground basketball court. Along with plenty of suspenseful sports action, the author highlights in both tales the values of fair play, teamwork, and doing the “right thing.” The Walker family presents white, but in both the narrative and Danger’s appropriately bland (if inappropriately static) illustrations, the supporting cast shows some racial and ethnic diversity.

Wholesome, uncomplicated fare for the younger Matt Christopher crowd. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-425-28936-5

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Puffin

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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Marcus and Mia Robinson, genial elementary-school–aged twins, are excited about meeting fictional NBA star Jason Carter. Mia is writing an article for her newspaper and Marcus, the budding basketball star, has won the honor of asking the class’s questions during a field trip to Giants Practice Day. Sometimes sounding more like motivational speaking than fiction, Richardson encourages her young audience to dream more than one dream. After Carter points out the obvious facts—that most athletes do not become professional athletes, athletes often get injured and athletes need to have other interests—young Marcus thinks more about his mathematical talents. Though it seems unlikely that a top NBA athlete would choose NCAA Division II Morehouse University (where, conveniently, Martin Luther King Jr. matriculated) over the NBA, cynicism should be put on hold for this feel-good lesson for the youngest reader. Engaging cover and black-and-white interior art will draw many fans, especially those elusive boy readers. Not quite a slam-dunk, but the straightforward, accessible story will invite them to stay for the end of the game. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-8037-3050-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2005

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