Ultimately, the heroine in this story is more complicated than the text makes out.

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AWAY WITH WORDS

THE DARING STORY OF ISABELLA BIRD

A daring Victorian woman raised in England leaves ladylike behavior behind to travel the world and write.

The child of an English clergyman, Isabella Bird suffers from fragile health and depression. Thwarted by constrictive social mores, she is unable to go to school or spend time in nature. A doctor suggests she cure her aches with fresh air, and she is suddenly allowed to ride horseback in the countryside with her father. When she receives correspondence from her uncles in Colonial India, as well as letters from Christian missionaries in Africa, her adventurous spirit becomes further piqued. Still sick but responding well to the outdoors, Isabella is prescribed a long sea voyage. From all over the world, she collects stories for her publications. Mortensen describes Isabella as “like a wild vine stuck in a too-small pot,” yet Isabella seems unable to criticize Victorian society, and her Eurocentric attitude and lack of self-awareness shine through in some of her quoted observations about other cultures. She calls the land in Cheyenne territory “nameless” and celebrates how people are “free as the winds” there, exoticizes a meal in Malaysia, and depicts Chinese locals as violent. While Isabella’s imperialistic perspective is historically accurate—and fairly quiet in this picture book—it will quickly become appallingly apparent to any young reader inspired by the book to seek out Isabella’s actual writing. Caldwell’s illustrations are clean and beautiful.

Ultimately, the heroine in this story is more complicated than the text makes out. (author’s note, timeline, sources, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68263-005-1

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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It’s a bit sketchy of historical detail, but it’s coherent, inspirational, and engaging without indulging in rapturous...

ROSA PARKS

From the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

A first introduction to the iconic civil rights activist.

“She was very little and very brave, and she always tried to do what was right.” Without many names or any dates, Kaiser traces Parks’ life and career from childhood to later fights for “fair schools, jobs, and houses for black people” as well as “voting rights, women’s rights and the rights of people in prison.” Though her refusal to change seats and the ensuing bus boycott are misleadingly presented as spontaneous acts of protest, young readers will come away with a clear picture of her worth as a role model. Though recognizable thanks to the large wire-rimmed glasses Parks sports from the outset as she marches confidently through Antelo’s stylized illustrations, she looks childlike throughout (as characteristic of this series), and her skin is unrealistically darkened to match the most common shade visible on other African-American figures. In her co-published Emmeline Pankhurst (illustrated by Ana Sanfelippo), Kaiser likewise simplistically implies that Great Britain led the way in granting universal women’s suffrage but highlights her subject’s courageous quest for justice, and Isabel Sánchez Vegara caps her profile of Audrey Hepburn (illustrated by Amaia Arrazola) with the moot but laudable claim that “helping people across the globe” (all of whom in the pictures are dark-skinned children) made Hepburn “happier than acting or dancing ever had.” All three titles end with photographs and timelines over more-detailed recaps plus at least one lead to further information.

It’s a bit sketchy of historical detail, but it’s coherent, inspirational, and engaging without indulging in rapturous flights of hyperbole. (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-78603-018-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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Sage, soothing ideas for a busy, loud, sometimes-divisive world.

GRANDMA'S GARDENS

In an inviting picture book, Chelsea and Hillary Clinton share personal revelations on how gardening with a grandmother, a mother, and children shapes and nurtures a love and respect for nature, beauty, and a general philosophy for life.

Grandma Dorothy, the former senator, secretary of state, and presidential candidate’s mother, loved gardens, appreciating the multiple benefits they yielded for herself and her family. The Clinton women reminisce about their beloved forebear and all she taught them in a color-coded, alternating text, blue for Chelsea and green for Hillary. Via brief yet explicit remembrances, they share what they learned, observed, and most of all enjoyed in gardens with her. Each double-page spread culminates in a declarative statement set in italicized red text invoking Dorothy’s wise words. Gardens can be many things: places for celebration, discovery and learning, vehicles for teaching responsibility in creating beauty, home to wildlife large and small, a place to share stories and develop memories. Though operating from very personal experience rooted in class privilege, the mother-daughter duo mostly succeeds in imparting a universally significant message: Whether visiting a public garden or working in the backyard, generations can cultivate a lasting bond. Lemniscates uses an appropriately floral palette to evoke the gardens explored by these three white women. A Spanish edition, Los jardines de la abuela, publishes simultaneously; Teresa Mlawer’s translation is fluid and pleasing, in at least one case improving on the original.

Sage, soothing ideas for a busy, loud, sometimes-divisive world. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11535-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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