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Both timely and historical.

A children’s biography of a complex figure.

The much-interpreted facts, not to mention meaning, of Dr. James Barry’s life are squarely presented in this quiet picture book. After opening with “Imagine living at a time when you couldn’t be the person you felt you were inside,” the story provides some scant information about Dr. Barry’s early life: his female-assigned birth and feminine name in 18th-century Ireland, the restrictive roles for women in that time and place, and Barry’s decision to pass as a man in order to enroll in medical school. At this point the story shifts from she/her pronouns to he/him, as the story dutifully but calmly follows Barry on his travels as a military doctor. The illustrations are subdued and old-fashioned, with background scenes often depicted in smudged black and gray scribbles and the White protagonist surrounded by an almost all-White cast. An early question asks, “Why did Margaret become James? She never said. Nor did he.” Despite the interesting character at its center, this story comes across as somewhat dull, the subject matter proving much more lively than the telling. It ends with the claim that “James was living his truth” without making clear what truth, precisely, Barry was living. An author’s note tries to clarify a position that isn’t as clear in the text, with final notes fleshing out Barry’s biography and discussing gender-neutral pronouns and nonbinary identities. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 19.1% of actual size.)

Both timely and historical. (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-4905-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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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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A stimulating outing to the furthest reaches of our knowledge, certain to inspire deep thoughts.

From a Caldecott and Sibert honoree, an invitation to take a mind-expanding journey from the surface of our planet to the furthest reaches of the observable cosmos.

Though Chin’s assumption that we are even capable of understanding the scope of the universe is quixotic at best, he does effectively lead viewers on a journey that captures a sense of its scale. Following the model of Kees Boeke’s classic Cosmic View: The Universe in Forty Jumps (1957), he starts with four 8-year-old sky watchers of average height (and different racial presentations). They peer into a telescope and then are comically startled by the sudden arrival of an ostrich that is twice as tall…and then a giraffe that is over twice as tall as that…and going onward and upward, with ellipses at each page turn connecting the stages, past our atmosphere and solar system to the cosmic web of galactic superclusters. As he goes, precisely drawn earthly figures and features in the expansive illustrations give way to ever smaller celestial bodies and finally to glimmering swirls of distant lights against gulfs of deep black before ultimately returning to his starting place. A closing recap adds smaller images and additional details. Accompanying the spare narrative, valuable side notes supply specific lengths or distances and define their units of measure, accurately explain astronomical phenomena, and close with the provocative observation that “the observable universe is centered on us, but we are not in the center of the entire universe.”

A stimulating outing to the furthest reaches of our knowledge, certain to inspire deep thoughts. (afterword, websites, further reading) (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4623-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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