An uneven but rewarding autobiography that records not only how this artist has lived, but, at its best, how he sees. The octogenarian Lionni has been an artist, graphic designer, and children's book author. His upbringing in several countries—Holland, Belgium, the US, and Italy—left him fluent in several languages but with "no mother tongue." The result is a book that often feels translated—like Nabokov without the verbal genius. The detailed record of his European youth is sometimes moving but frequently overinflated, as when he exclaims, "Great excitement in early fall when Father became a full-fledged certified public accountant!" However, the narrative is consistently strong whenever it connects to Lionni's true calling, the visual arts. He shows how artists see differently from other people—for example, in being able to remember "the specks of mica flickering in the sand, the fold of lichens on a stone." He speaks with insight and affection about 20th-century painting (raised among avid art collectors, he became familiar as a child with the revolutionary work of Chagall, Klee, Kandinsky, and Mondrian). Above all, in recounting his journey from bohemian in Mussolini's Italy to upwardly mobile American art director to his rediscovery of his artistic roots via painting and children's books, he lays bare the moral choices an artist confronts. Turning down a lucrative job offer that would have locked him into an advertising career, he writes, "I had defended myself from the threat of a predictable future." The end result is a feeling of triumph that he successfully ventured into so many fields—painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography, and criticism. Though Lionni's prose is not as accomplished as his visual work, his autobiography inspires admiration that the artist has tried—and largely succeeded—in yet another form.

Pub Date: April 17, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-42393-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1997

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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