A breezy look at a historical footnote, just right for young children on their way to the amusement park.

Who knew that Catherine the Great was such a sport?

Today’s roller-coaster enthusiasts can thank Catherine the Great for her role in the creation of an early roller coaster. Since the 1400s, Russians had created ice slides, like giant versions of today’s playground slides but made of wood, with the slide itself covered in ice. Catherine apparently loved wintertime, when she could whoosh down the slope in her “jeweled tiara and tapestry gown,” but the fun ended when winter ended and the ice melted. So she ordered her royal builders to create a slide that could be enjoyed year-round. She envisioned “Gilded beams and poles as high as a mountain. Golden stairs that spiraled all the way to the top.” What she got, in 1784, was a wooden structure that threatened splinters in “her royal bum.” It was all downhill from there…and uphill…and around. With the installation of rails and a wheeled carriage, it was a success and the progenitor of the many refinements over the many years since. In lighthearted illustrations rendered in Adobe Photoshop, Catherine is portrayed as a rosy-cheeked, fun-loving, olive-skinned young woman who sponsored schools, universities, and museums. Absent from both text and illustrations are the despot’s less-sterling attributes. Simplifying history to provide context for a purposively upbeat story can be a slippery slope, but young readers will enjoy the fun in which the volume is intended.

A breezy look at a historical footnote, just right for young children on their way to the amusement park. (author’s note, timeline, bibliography, acknowledgments) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4814-9657-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019


From the Celebrate the World series

Lovely illustrations wasted on this misguided project.

The Celebrate the World series spotlights Lunar New Year.

This board book blends expository text and first-person-plural narrative, introducing readers to the holiday. Chau’s distinctive, finely textured watercolor paintings add depth, transitioning smoothly from a grand cityscape to the dining room table, from fantasies of the past to dumplings of the present. The text attempts to provide a broad look at the subject, including other names for the celebration, related cosmology, and historical background, as well as a more-personal discussion of traditions and practices. Yet it’s never clear who the narrator is—while the narrative indicates the existence of some consistent, monolithic group who participates in specific rituals of celebration (“Before the new year celebrations begin, we clean our homes—and ourselves!”), the illustrations depict different people in every image. Indeed, observances of Lunar New Year are as diverse as the people who celebrate it, which neither the text nor the images—all of the people appear to be Asian—fully acknowledges. Also unclear is the book’s intended audience. With large blocks of explication on every spread, it is entirely unappealing for the board-book set, and the format may make it equally unattractive to an older, more appropriate audience. Still, readers may appreciate seeing an important celebration warmly and vibrantly portrayed.

Lovely illustrations wasted on this misguided project. (Board book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3303-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019


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

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