THE SINGER AND THE SCIENTIST

Well-known historical figures from wildly different disciplines have a surprising connection.

In 1937 New Jersey, Marian Anderson sings to a White audience in a huge theatre, but the minute the curtain is down, she’s no longer a star. She’s a Black woman who is invisible to most and persona non grata to others—especially nearby hotels. Without a place to stay for the night, she’s on her own, until someone from the front row of the audience approaches her and invites her to stay in his guest room. The man is Albert Einstein, and he knows all too well what it’s like to be treated as less than human in one’s own country, ever since he fled Germany soon after Hitler’s rise to power. The two get along and talk music, and Albert is glad to pull out his violin and play for her. The evening portrayed in this picture book is the start of what would presumably go on to be a lifelong friendship between people known for their professional achievements who were uncomfortable in the spotlight as activists but did their work quietly. Muñoz’s illustrations are inviting, buoyant, and colorful, and the text does not oversimplify the racism Anderson endures. Though the afterword gives quick details on both figures’ lives more generally, it does not cite or give context to their relationship beyond telling readers that the incident is “not well known”—a disappointment. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 61.4% of actual size.)

A charming anecdote. (Informational picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5415-7609-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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This tale of self-acceptance and respect for one’s roots is breathtaking.

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EYES THAT KISS IN THE CORNERS

A young Chinese American girl sees more than the shape of her eyes.

In this circular tale, the unnamed narrator observes that some peers have “eyes like sapphire lagoons / with lashes like lace trim on ballgowns,” but her eyes are different. She “has eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea.” Author Ho’s lyrical narrative goes on to reveal how the girl’s eyes are like those of other women and girls in her family, expounding on how each pair of eyes looks and what they convey. Mama’s “eyes sparkl[e] like starlight,” telling the narrator, “I’m a miracle. / In those moments when she’s all mine.” Mama’s eyes, the girl observes, take after Amah’s. While she notes that her grandmother’s eyes “don’t work like they used to,” they are able to see “all the way into my heart” and tell her stories. Here, illustrator Ho’s spreads bloom with references to Chinese stories and landscapes. Amah’s eyes are like those of the narrator’s little sister. Mei-Mei’s eyes are filled with hope and with admiration for her sister. Illustrator Ho’s textured cartoons and clever use of light and shadow exude warmth and whimsy that match the evocative text. When the narrator comes to describe her own eyes and acknowledges the power they hold, she is posed against swirling patterns, figures, and swaths of breathtaking landscapes from Chinese culture. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 80.5% of actual size.)

This tale of self-acceptance and respect for one’s roots is breathtaking. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-291562-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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