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

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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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Like other tributes in the series, adequate fare for cluing newer readers in on some worthy role models.

MARIE CURIE

From the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

A very first introduction to the great scientist.

Apparently more concerned with explaining why Marie Curie is worth knowing than compiling biographical details, Sánchez Vegara dispenses with most names and all dates to focus on achievements that reflect her subject’s intellect and character. Opening with Marie’s childhood vow to “be a scientist, not a princess” and her later move from her unnamed home country to become “the best math and science student in Paris,” the author highlights her marriage and Pierre’s “terrible accident,” her discoveries of radium and polonium (no explanation provided), her two Nobel Prizes, and how she helped injured soldiers in an unspecified way during a never-named war and afterward established an institute in Paris to further girls’ educations. Isa idealizes Curie’s features in the illustrations, portraying her as a sweet, smiling child with pale-white skin even in a final view (based on a famous photo) showing her sitting on a pile of books in a row of other great scientists—all of whom are, unsurprisingly, male and white. In the co-published Agatha Christie, illustrator Elisa Munsó at least lets her subject grow up but likewise (with rather more justice) leaves her among stacks of books after Sánchez Vegara’s generalized account of the author’s travels, detectives, and gift for plot twists. Both profiles close with photos, timelines, and afterwords that fill in some of the blanks.

Like other tributes in the series, adequate fare for cluing newer readers in on some worthy role models. (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-84780-962-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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CASEY JONES

Casey Jones, the King of the Iron Horse when the railroads ruled the land, gets polished to a hero's gleam in Drummond's rhymed telling of the stormy night he died. It was a hundred years ago that Casey pulled into the station aboard his Illinois 638, there to get the message from the company to point his train south to Memphis. As the train gets fired up to move through the wild, rain-lashed night, Drummond gives readers a vest-pocket history on the importance of the railroad in binding the nation together (and not incidentally in destroying the Native American way of life; be prepared to do some explaining to young readers here). Once out of town, Casey opens her up: "The train was full of people / from all down the line— / mothers and children / all asleep at the time— / and the milk and the mailbags / from all over the state, / and everyone knew they were / running late." Don't stop to quibble that Casey is being reckless by flying through the dark—“Casey Jones, / he'd never been late"—just be thankful that when he finally sees the flagman alerting him to a stalled freight train around the bend, he manages to save everybody aboard, except himself. You can hear the banjos pickin' in the background to Drummond's verse, which keeps the rhythm of the well-known folk song. His line-and-wash artwork is a transporting thing of beauty, mixing pages of multiple vignettes with double-paged spreads. Sometimes the text is handwritten; sometimes it's typed in the clouds. The variety adds to the bustle. An author's note explaining what little is known of the real Casey rounds out the book. "Wooo . . . oooh!" (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 23, 2001

ISBN: 0-374-31175-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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