WAYS OF TELLING

CONVERSATIONS ON THE ART OF THE PICTURE BOOK

A series of interviews illuminates the perspectives of a variety of picture-book creators, both authors and illustrators. Fourteen luminaries, including Mitsumasa Anno, Karla Kuskin, Iona Opie, Tana Hoban, and Charlotte Zolotow, discuss their backgrounds, motivations, and approaches. The interviews were conducted over a span of years, from the late ’80s to the present, and provide valuable insights into the workings of the minds behind some of the most beloved picture books of the past half-century. Marcus (Side by Side, 2001, etc.) mines his subjects’ childhood memories for their connection to their books, resulting in Eric Carle’s fascinating reminiscences of his youth in Nazi Germany and James Marshall’s yearnings for a grand history growing up in Texas. Most subjects yield easily to the interviewer’s probes—Rosemary Wells, Jerry Pinkney, and Maurice Sendak speak freely of their growth and their art, for instance—but William Steig proves to be a tougher nut to crack, which results in an occasionally hilarious interview punctuated by his wife Jeanne’s attempts to keep him on track. To a greater or a lesser extent, each subject discusses very seriously the ways he or she works to create a book that will resonate with children and his or her reasons for choosing children as an audience. As a whole, the collection represents a valuable contribution to the scholarship of children’s books, but its most eager audience is likely to be among adult professionals rather than children themselves, except when they are guided to it by motivated teachers and librarians. A sheaf of color plates with illustrations from each of the subjects’ works completes the package. (Nonfiction. 12+)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-525-46490-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

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Mansa Musa and the Empire of Mali

A thoughtful, engaging history for intermediate students interested in Africa.

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Oliver’s debut, about one of West Africa’s most powerful and charismatic leaders, delivers a vibrant mix of history and historical fiction for young adults.

The book introduces the medieval empire of Mali with several short narrative essays on trans-Atlantic exploration, trade and mining and soon narrows its focus to the compelling life story of the emperor Mansa Musa, who ruled Mali in the early 1300s. Oliver shows how Musa gained influence while making a lavish, politically important trip to Mecca, and his deft explanation of how Musa crossed the vast Sahara Desert briefly but skillfully conveys the difficulty of the lengthy voyage. This enjoyable work smoothly blends historical text with memorable anecdotes from primary and secondary sources, photos and sketches of replicas of ancient and medieval African art, and well-drawn maps. The book moves at a fast pace, and the author’s clear, straightforward style is likely to appeal to young adults. He easily switches between topics, discussing history (how Musa gained recognition in Egypt and North Africa), religion (how Islam shaped Musa and his empire), architecture (the methods of construction for Malian mud-brick buildings) and fables (the legend of the Malian “gold plant”). However, Oliver always strives for historical accuracy; even his fictional account of a young sandal maker who travels to Niani’s great market contains period-appropriate language and scenery. The book also includes a lengthy glossary that is amply illustrated with drawings and photographs of West African boats and buildings. The work’s one shortcoming is its abrupt ending after Musa returns home; it lacks a thorough explanation as to how and why the empire of Mali eventually dissolved.

A thoughtful, engaging history for intermediate students interested in Africa.

Pub Date: March 26, 2013

ISBN: 978-1468053548

Page Count: 128

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2013

ALL BY HERSELF

POEMS

Prose poems celebrate the feats of young heroines, some of them famous, and some not as well-known. Paul (Hello Toes! Hello Feet!, 1998, etc.) recounts moments in the lives of women such as Rachel Carson, Amelia Earhart, and Wilma Rudolph; these moments don’t necessarily reflect what made them famous as much as they are pivotal events in their youth that influenced the direction of their lives. For Earhart, it was sliding down the roof of the tool shed in a home-made roller coaster: “It’s like flying!” For Rudolph, it was the struggle to learn to walk without her foot brace. Other women, such as Violet Sheehy, who rescued her family from a fire in Hinckley, Minnesota, or Harriet Hanson, a union supporter in the fabric mills of Massachusetts, are celebrated for their brave decisions made under extreme duress. Steirnagle’s sweeping paintings powerfully exude the strength of character exhibited by these young women. A commemorative book, that honors both quiet and noisy acts of heroism. (Picture book/poetry. 6-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-15-201477-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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