FLYING FREE

HOW BESSIE COLEMAN'S DREAMS TOOK FLIGHT

From the Sweet Blackberry series

A story in verse of trailblazer Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to earn a pilot’s license.

After learning about Harriet Quimby, a White woman who became the first American woman to earn a pilot’s license, young Coleman began to think that flying could be for her. A few years later, after moving to Chicago, she learned from her brother that women in France were pilots during “the war” (that this was World War I is never communicated). Inspired, Coleman tried in vain to find a teacher in the United States; undaunted, she moved to France, where she finally learned to fly before returning to the United States to inspire the nation. Coleman is a fascinating subject, but missing biographical detail and undocumented conversations do not suit this effort for the nonfiction shelves. Though the backmatter includes information about women in flight as well as notes from the author and illustrator, there is not enough information presented about Coleman’s life to answer the questions readers will have after finishing this book. Parsons’ verse is, sadly, too often simplistic and strained: “One day, Bessie’s teacher / Told them of how / A woman had become a pilot! / A huge breakthrough! Wow!” Christie’s characteristically powerful illustrations cannot mitigate the text’s weaknesses (though his note does inform those who read it that Coleman grew up in Texas, another fact Parsons leaves unsaid).

Doesn’t take flight. (timeline, photographs) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-45719-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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This reimagined telling has an engaging charm that rings true.

KAFKA AND THE DOLL

An imagining of an unlikely real-life episode in the life of absurdist Franz Kafka.

Theule follows the outline of the account: When Kafka meets an unhappy girl in a Berlin park in 1923 and learns her doll is lost, Kafka writes a series of letters from Soupsy, the doll, to Irma, the girl. The real letters and the girl’s identity have been lost to history; the invented letters describe a dazzling variety of adventures for Soupsy. Unfortunately, as the letters increase in excitement, Kafka’s health declines (he would die of tuberculosis in June 1924), and he must find a way to end Soupsy’s adventures in a positive way. In an author’s note, readers learn that Kafka chose to write that Soupsy was getting married. Theule instead opts to send the doll on an Antarctic expedition. Irma gets the message that she can do anything, and the final image shows her riding a camel, a copy of Metamorphosis peeking from a satchel. While kids may not care about Kafka, the short relationship between the writer and the little girl will keep their interest. Realizing that an adult can care so much about a child met in the park is empowering. The stylized illustrations, especially those set in the chilly Berlin fall, resemble woodcuts with a German expressionist look. The doll’s adventures look a little sweeter, with more red and blue added to the brown palette of the German scenes. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 23% of actual size.)

This reimagined telling has an engaging charm that rings true. (biographical note, bibliography) (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11632-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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Just a bit of well-armed fun, more suitable formatwise for a gift than classroom or library shelves.

MAISY'S CASTLE

A relatively sturdy pullout castle with a die-cut drawbridge and a dragon in the cellar serves as playscape for punch-out figures of medieval Maisy and her friends.

The dramatic main event follows a perfunctory scenario in which Maisy welcomes “Sir Charley” the crocodile and others to a bit of archery practice, then dons armor to win a friendly joust “by one point.” Even toddlers-at-arms (with minimal assistance from a yeoparent) can follow the easy instructions to set up the castle and brace it. The card-stock punch-outs include four characters in period dress, two rideable destriers and, oddly, a cannon. These can be stored in an accompanying pocket when not in use—or even dispensed with entirely, as the castle is not only festooned with busy guards and other residents, but there is lots of (literal) monkey business going on. Along with sending Maisy further from her customary domestic settings than usual, this outing features a possibly discomfiting quantity of weaponry—none seen actually in use, but still adding an unusually martial note to a series that generally promotes more peaceful pursuits.

Just a bit of well-armed fun, more suitable formatwise for a gift than classroom or library shelves. (Novelty. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7438-0

Page Count: 10

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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