Though well-meaning, this vague profile doesn't quite capture either Hawking's groundbreaking career or his full humanity.

A glance at the life of English theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking

Growing up in a bookish family, Stephen was always asking questions. At 12, he pondered the origin of the universe. At 17, he attended Oxford University, where he began losing control of his body. At 21, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neuromuscular disease, and given two years to live. Though his condition deteriorated, eventually requiring him to use a wheelchair and an augmentative communication device, he defied his grim prognosis by decades. In 1974, his discovery that black holes leaked radiation earned him international acclaim and led him to write the bestselling A Brief History of Time. Active and inquisitive until his death at 76, he researched life on other planets and advocated for disability rights. Kulikov’s scratchy illustrations cleverly acknowledge Hawking’s research, turning such everyday objects as a spinning LP and spilled tea into eye-catching black holes. However, the authors’ lack of specificity blurs Hawking’s accomplishments; for instance, his “important university job once held by genius scientist Isaac Newton”—Cambridge University’s prestigious Lucasian Professor of Mathematics position—is unnamed. Such down-to-earth details as Hawking’s family, humor, and penchant for parties are unfortunately eclipsed by cloying disability clichés declaring him “a triumphant life force, almost otherworldly,” whose brilliant mind was “trapped within his powerless body.” Kulikov depicts a seemingly all-white cast.

Though well-meaning, this vague profile doesn't quite capture either Hawking's groundbreaking career or his full humanity. (author's note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-399-55028-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020


Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses.

An NBA star pays tribute to the influence of his grandfather.

In the same vein as his Long Shot (2009), illustrated by Frank Morrison, this latest from Paul prioritizes values and character: “My granddad Papa Chilly had dreams that came true,” he writes, “so maybe if I listen and watch him, / mine will too.” So it is that the wide-eyed Black child in the simply drawn illustrations rises early to get to the playground hoops before anyone else, watches his elder working hard and respecting others, hears him cheering along with the rest of the family from the stands during games, and recalls in a prose afterword that his grandfather wasn’t one to lecture but taught by example. Paul mentions in both the text and the backmatter that Papa Chilly was the first African American to own a service station in North Carolina (his presumed dream) but not that he was killed in a robbery, which has the effect of keeping the overall tone positive and the instructional content one-dimensional. Figures in the pictures are mostly dark-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-81003-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022


A unique angle on a watershed moment in the civil rights era.

The New Orleans school child who famously broke the color line in 1960 while surrounded by federal marshals describes the early days of her experience from a 6-year-old’s perspective.

Bridges told her tale to younger children in 2009’s Ruby Bridges Goes to School, but here the sensibility is more personal, and the sometimes-shocking historical photos have been replaced by uplifting painted scenes. “I didn’t find out what being ‘the first’ really meant until the day I arrived at this new school,” she writes. Unfrightened by the crowd of “screaming white people” that greets her at the school’s door (she thinks it’s like Mardi Gras) but surprised to find herself the only child in her classroom, and even the entire building, she gradually realizes the significance of her act as (in Smith’s illustration) she compares a small personal photo to the all-White class photos posted on a bulletin board and sees the difference. As she reflects on her new understanding, symbolic scenes first depict other dark-skinned children marching into classes in her wake to friendly greetings from lighter-skinned classmates (“School is just school,” she sensibly concludes, “and kids are just kids”) and finally an image of the bright-eyed icon posed next to a soaring bridge of reconciliation. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A unique angle on a watershed moment in the civil rights era. (author and illustrator notes, glossary) (Autobiographical picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-75388-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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