An excellent introduction to an American icon.

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A VOICE NAMED ARETHA

“Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin was once a shy child afraid to sing in front of a large audience. However, she came to learn that through music, she could ease her own pain and help others.

This thoughtfully illustrated biography of Aretha Franklin paints a clear picture of the artist from the time she was a child grappling with the loss of her mother in 1952 through refusing to sing before segregated audiences during the 1960s to winning multiple awards and honors. The narrative covers Aretha’s introduction to entertainers like Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald as well as to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—all were often visitors of her father, famed preacher C.L. Franklin, at their Detroit, Michigan, home. The book moves fluidly through one phase of Aretha’s life and career to the next. The illustrations are vivid, and those of Aretha singing are full of emotion. Aretha is often dressed in gold to signify her queenly stature, and Freeman hides small crowns throughout the pages, often on Aretha herself. The final spread, featuring four overlapping, sequential images of Aretha Franklin at different stages in her music career against a white background, is especially well done and even moving. The backmatter begins with a two-page spread of photographs and more information about Aretha’s life; it’s followed by a list of songs that younger listeners can look up and hear for themselves.

An excellent introduction to an American icon. (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68119-850-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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Engaging, well-chosen images and a clear, coherent text illuminate the importance of empathy for the world’s inhabitants.

A WORLD TOGETHER

Large color photographs (occasionally composed of montages) and accessible, simple text highlight global similarities and differences, always focusing on our universal connections.

While child readers may not recognize Manzano, the Puerto Rican actress who played Maria on Sesame Street, adults will recognize her as a trusted diverse voice. In her endnote, she explains her desire to “encourage lively conversations about shared experiences.” Starting out with the familiar, home and community, the text begins with “How many WONDERFUL PEOPLE do you know?” Then it moves out to the world: “Did you know there are about 8 BILLION PEOPLE on the planet?” The photo essay features the usual concrete similarities and differences found in many books of this type, such as housing (a Mongolian yurt opposite a Hong Kong apartment building overlooking a basketball court), food (dumplings, pizza, cotton candy, a churro, etc.), and school. Manzano also makes sure to point out likenesses in emotions, as shown in a montage of photos from countries including China, Spain, Kashmir (Pakistan/India), and the United States. At the end, a world map and thumbnail images show the locations of all photos, revealing a preponderance of examples from the U.S. and a slight underrepresentation for Africa and South America.

Engaging, well-chosen images and a clear, coherent text illuminate the importance of empathy for the world’s inhabitants. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4263-3738-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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Vital information for young media consumers; it couldn’t be timelier.

FACTS VS. OPINIONS VS. ROBOTS

Charismatic robots populate this primer for kids growing up in an era when facts are considered debatable and opinions are oft expressed loudly and without empathy.

Rex tackles a very serious topic infrequently addressed in kids’ books: how to tell the difference between provable facts and far-less-provable opinions. To do this, Rex employs a handful of colorful and chatty robot pals who run through enough examples to make the distinctions clear. For instance, it’s a fact that the blue robot has two arms while the gold robot has four. However, while they both like to dance, it’s less certain there’s a definitive answer to the question: “Which of them has the coolest moves?” When the green and yellow robots share their preferences for ice cream (yes, robots eat ice cream, just add oil or nuts and bolts), it turns into a fight that might have come off a Twitter thread (“We are getting chocolate!” “No way, buckethead!”). Via a series of reboots, the robots learn how to respect opinions and engage in compromise. It’s a welcome use of skill-building to counter an information landscape filled with calls of “Fake news!” and toxic online discourse. Rex never says that these ’bots sometimes act like social media bots when they disagree, but he doesn’t have to. Perhaps most importantly, Rex’s robots demonstrate that in the absence of enough information, it’s perfectly fine to wait before acting.

Vital information for young media consumers; it couldn’t be timelier. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-1626-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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