From the Story Orchestra series

Perfunctory and disappointing, this retelling of a classic fairy-tale ballet falls short.

One of the ballet world’s most enduring and endearing productions receives a picture-book staging.

Tchaikovsky composed three great ballet scores, and that for The Sleeping Beauty is certainly beautifully enchanting. Productions fill the stage with sumptuous sets and costumes, and the dancers perform every range of steps from delicate to bravura. Unfortunately, none of this is evident in this version. The retelling of the classic fairy tale, told in the present tense, lacks poetic nuance. The mixed-media illustrations, albeit showing a diverse cast, are cartoonish and busy and do not portray anything much resembling ballet steps. The “Rose Adagio,” when the 16-year-old princess dances with four suitors and performs audience-thrilling balances, is only hinted at in the illustrations. Likewise, the very entertaining fairy-tale characters of the wedding scene are here just part of a crowded double-page spread. The fairies are often depicted floating overhead while barefooted. The gimmick of the book, a musical accompaniment, is actually 10 bursts of tinny sounds that are too brief to be of lasting value. At the end of the book, the author does describe the instrumentation for many of the scenes, but this information is inadequate.

Perfunctory and disappointing, this retelling of a classic fairy-tale ballet falls short. (note on Tchaikovsky, glossary) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-78603-093-1

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018


While the logical concerns don’t sink this ship, muffed details have it awash at the scuppers.

A father-and-child team venture out together on their tugboat, rescuing a small boat and navigating a storm before returning safely to their harbor.

Evocative watercolor illustrations effectively convey the ocean and harbor setting with azure skies, puffy clouds, swirling seas, and a rip-roaring thunderstorm with lightning streaking across purplish skies. While the intriguing illustrations are the book’s strongest feature, several illustrations do not have exact picture-to-text correlation. Some perplexing depictions that could disorient coastal readers include an ocean liner on a direct path for collision with a sailboat and the tugboat (as well as the nearby shore) and a jet shown in the hangar bay of an aircraft carrier, which would not likely be anywhere near this small harbor. Safety-conscious readers will be concerned by the lack of clearly depicted personal flotation devices on the child and father. The child (who is androgynous) is shown wearing a slim vest, but it isn’t clearly a life jacket. Sharp-eyed readers will note that the line that’s towing the dinghy the tug rescues disappears in some pictures, as does the dinghy’s occupant. The cast of characters includes people of color; the child’s father has light skin and dark hair, and the mother presents as Asian. The short, rhyming text conveys a dramatic and interesting story, but in the pictures, too many extraneous types of boats make unnecessary and illogical appearances. Nautical terms used in the story are defined in a glossary.

While the logical concerns don’t sink this ship, muffed details have it awash at the scuppers. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4847-9952-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019



Like a concerto for the heart.

Venezuelan pianist Teresa Carreño performs for President Abraham Lincoln amid a raging Civil War in Engle and López’s portrait of an artist.

Thanks to parental encouragement, Teresita learned about “all the beautiful / dark and light keys / of a piano” at an early age. By the age of 6, she composed original songs. Revolución in Venezuela soon drove an 8-year-old Teresa and her family to sail across the stormy sea to the United States, but the Carreño family arrived only to find another violent conflict—“the horrible Civil War”—in their adopted country. Despite the initial alienation that comes from being in an unfamiliar country, Teresita continued to improve and play “graceful waltzes and sonatas, / booming symphonies, and lively folk songs.” The Piano Girl’s reputation spread far, eventually garnering the attention of Lincoln, who invited the 10-year-old to perform at the White House! Yet the Civil War festered on, tormenting Teresita, who wished to alleviate the president’s burdens for at least one night. “How could music soothe / so much trouble?” Half biographical sketch, half wide-eyed tribute, Engle and López’s collaboration endearingly builds to Teresa’s fateful meeting with Lincoln like a gravitational pull, with bursts of compassion and admiration for both artist and public servant. Engle’s free verse whirls and twirls, playful and vivacious, while López’s vivid, colorful artwork elevates this story to heavenly heights.

Like a concerto for the heart. (historical note) (Informational picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8740-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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