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

STAY CURIOUS!

A BRIEF HISTORY OF STEPHEN HAWKING

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 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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

I AM RUBY BRIDGES

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 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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Blandly laudatory.

I AM WALT DISNEY

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

The iconic animator introduces young readers to each “happy place” in his life.

The tally begins with his childhood home in Marceline, Missouri, and climaxes with Disneyland (carefully designed to be “the happiest place on Earth”), but the account really centers on finding his true happy place, not on a map but in drawing. In sketching out his early flubs and later rocket to the top, the fictive narrator gives Ub Iwerks and other Disney studio workers a nod (leaving his labor disputes with them unmentioned) and squeezes in quick references to his animated films, from Steamboat Willie to Winnie the Pooh (sans Fantasia and Song of the South). Eliopoulos incorporates stills from the films into his cartoon illustrations and, characteristically for this series, depicts Disney as a caricature, trademark mustache in place on outsized head even in childhood years and child sized even as an adult. Human figures default to white, with occasional people of color in crowd scenes and (ahistorically) in the animation studio. One unidentified animator builds up the role-modeling with an observation that Walt and Mickey were really the same (“Both fearless; both resourceful”). An assertion toward the end—“So when do you stop being a child? When you stop dreaming”—muddles the overall follow-your-bliss message. A timeline to the EPCOT Center’s 1982 opening offers photos of the man with select associates, rodent and otherwise. An additional series entry, I Am Marie Curie, publishes simultaneously, featuring a gowned, toddler-sized version of the groundbreaking physicist accepting her two Nobel prizes.

Blandly laudatory. (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2875-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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