Nevertheless, it’s an engaging entry in a winning series.

READ REVIEW

PAPA CHAGALL, TELL US A STORY

Anholt continues his series of introductory picture books about the artists with this entry on Marc Chagall.

As he did in Cézanne and the Apple Boy (2009), Anholt uses the artist’s relationship with a child—in this case, children—as a hook to draw young readers in. Here “Papa” Chagall’s twin grandchildren elicit a sequence of anecdotes in which Chagall relates the story of his life, from his impoverished childhood in the Russian shtetl, through meeting his wife, moving to Paris and fleeing the Nazis, to success in his old age. Loose, warm ink-and-watercolor paintings depict children and grandfather against relaxing expanses of white space, with dream-bubble insets illustrating Chagall’s memories. Reproductions of some of his more famous paintings are incorporated, with child-friendly glosses: “The twins saw…a weird cat on a windowsill….” The boy Chagall’s penchant for surrealism is validated in his first patron’s reaction: “These paintings are funny!…But they are very, very good.” By and large, Anholt’s simple narrative approach works well, though his glossing over the Holocaust with the summation that “[s]ome bad people came—they hated me and they did not like my paintings” will mystify children, particularly when juxtaposed with images of destruction in both memory and Chagall’s own reproduced work. Though the Holocaust is discussed in a biographical note at the end, it’s too bad it’s not confronted more directly in the text.

Nevertheless, it’s an engaging entry in a winning series. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7641-6644-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Barron's

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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Stirring encouragement for all “little people” with “big dreams.” (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

MAYA ANGELOU

From the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

“There’s nothing I can’t be,” young Maya thinks, and then shows, in this profile for newly independent readers, imported from Spain.

The inspirational message is conveyed through a fine skein of biographical details. It begins with her birth in St. Louis and the prejudice she experienced growing up in a small Arkansas town and closes with her reading of a poem “about her favorite thing: hope” at Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration. In between, it mentions the (unspecified) “attack” by her mother’s boyfriend and subsequent elective muteness she experienced as a child, as well as some of the varied pursuits that preceded her eventual decision to become a writer. Kaiser goes on in a closing spread to recap Angelou’s life and career, with dates, beneath a quartet of portrait photos. Salaberria’s simple illustrations, filled with brown-skinned figures, are more idealized than photorealistic, but, though only in the cover image do they make direct contact with readers’, Angelou’s huge eyes are an effective focal point in each scene. The message is similar in the co-published Amelia Earhart, written by Ma Isabel Sánchez Vegara (and also translated by Pitt), but the pictures are more fanciful as illustrator Mariadiamantes endows the aviator with a mane of incandescent orange hair and sends her flying westward (in contradiction of the text and history) on her final around-the-world flight.

Stirring encouragement for all “little people” with “big dreams.” (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-84780-889-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Though the text works hard to convey it, getting an aesthetic sense of Cassatt’s famous body of work will require another...

MARY CASSATT

EXTRAORDINARY IMPRESSIONIST PAINTER

Starting in childhood, impressionist artist Mary Cassatt carves her own path.

Mary grows up “tall and temperamental,” absolutely set on being an artist despite the 1860s social mores dictating that “proper girls weren’t artists. They had polite hobbies—flower arranging, needlepoint.” She attends art school and goes to Paris, sitting in the Louvre to copy the old masters. Connecting with Edgar Degas gives her a community that supports her independent streak: “We paint as we please. We break the judges’ rules.” Herkert’s bold phrasing—“Mary swept jewel tones across her canvas”—implies artistic zest. However, despite varied media (gouache, watercolor, acrylic, enamel, and tempera), Swiatkowska’s illustrations don’t match the text’s descriptions. A spread of “canary yellow, radiant pink, vibrant blue” shows no yellow at all (tan instead) and pleasant but low-intensity blue and pink. “Brilliant tones” and “lightning bolts of white” are narrated but not shown. Skin tones and backgrounds lean toward gray. Readers sophisticated enough to appreciate sentences like “she rendered cropped angles” will notice how much more is told than shown, including the fact that Cassatt is portrayed actually painting only once. Regrettably, Asian art is labeled “exotic.”

Though the text works hard to convey it, getting an aesthetic sense of Cassatt’s famous body of work will require another source. (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62779-016-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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