An inspiring tale of an artist who came into her own later in life than traditional narratives lead readers to believe is...

LIBBA

THE MAGNIFICENT MUSICAL LIFE OF ELIZABETH COTTEN

A biography of folk-music icon Elizabeth Cotten.

Cotten grew up hearing music in everything—everyday things. She would sneak her brother’s guitar and play the sounds she heard, unconventionally playing the guitar upside down and backward—a way that made sense to her left-handedness. Though she eventually earned enough for her own guitar, as the years passed, Cotten didn’t have time for music. One cleverly rendered illustration depicts various stages in Cotten’s life in the cars of a passing freight train, explaining how her musical passion was (temporarily) derailed. When Cotten, now a grandmother working in a department store, encounters Ruth Crawford Seeger, Cotten becomes the musical family’s housekeeper. One day, when Cotten picks up a guitar again—still playing upside down and backward—it’s clear her talent and passion have not abandoned her…they’ve only lain dormant all those years. The Seegers use their privilege to help, and Cotten’s talent is appreciated worldwide. Both endpapers and the book cover put guitar imagery to good use, and lovely graphite illustrations lend the story an old-time–y, country feel—a perfect pairing with Cotton’s folk music.

An inspiring tale of an artist who came into her own later in life than traditional narratives lead readers to believe is normal. (author’s note, works cited) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4521-4857-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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A predictable ballet tale for die-hard Copeland fans or as an introduction to Coppélia.

BUNHEADS

A young ballerina takes on her first starring role.

Young Misty has just begun taking ballet when her teacher announces auditions for the classic ballet Coppélia. Misty listens spellbound as Miss Bradley tells the story of the toymaker who creates a doll so lifelike it threatens to steal a boy’s heart away from his betrothed, Swanilda. Paired with a kind classmate, Misty works hard to perfect the steps and wins the part she’s wanted all along: Swanilda. As the book closes, Misty and her fellow dancers take their triumphant opening-night bows. Written in third person, the narrative follows a linear structure, but the storyline lacks conflict and therefore urgency. It functions more as an introduction to Coppélia than anything else, despite the oddly chosen title. Even those unfamiliar with Copeland’s legendary status as the first black principal ballerina for the American Ballet Theatre will predict the trite ending. The illustrations are an attractive combination of warm brown, yellow, and rosy mahogany. However, this combination also obscures variations in skin tone, especially among Misty’s classmates. Misty and her mother are depicted with brown hair and brown skin; Miss Bradley has red hair and pale skin. Additionally, there’s a disappointing lack of body-type diversity; the dancers are depicted as uniformly skinny with extremely long limbs. The precise linework captures movement, yet the humanity of dance is missing. Many ballet steps are illustrated clearly, but some might confuse readers unfamiliar with ballet terminology. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 48% of actual size.)

A predictable ballet tale for die-hard Copeland fans or as an introduction to Coppélia. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-399-54764-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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