Unfortunately, this ode to an undeservedly overlooked legend does not hit all the right notes.

BORN TO SWING

LIL HARDIN ARMSTRONG'S LIFE IN JAZZ

A biography of Lil Hardin Armstrong, who “was just born to swing,” one of the first female musicians to make it in the world of jazz.

Lil Hardin was born in Memphis, near Beale Street, “where the music never stopped.” Though her mother said blues was “Devil’s music,” Lil Hardin was allowed to play the family organ and at church, where she jazzed up the old church hymns. The Great Migration swept Lil Hardin and her mother up in its tide to Chicago, where a job playing piano in a music store led to gigs, even though a woman playing the piano in a jazz band was unheard of. As a fixture in Chicago’s jazz scene, she met Louis Armstrong, and the pair eventually married. Lil Hardin—whose reputation was cemented—used her fame to help boost Louis’, and after the couple parted ways, she enjoyed a successful career as a songwriter, musician, and bandleader. Rockliff relates the jazz pioneer’s story in Lil Hardin’s imagined and enthusiastic first person, her conversational address developing an appropriately big personality. Wood’s bright, naïve acrylics complement the narrative style, but they do not evoke the smooth, accomplished sounds that were Lil Hardin’s musical signature. Curiously, despite a closing photograph that evinces many different skin tones in Lil Hardin’s combo, characters are almost all portrayed as the same medium brown color.

Unfortunately, this ode to an undeservedly overlooked legend does not hit all the right notes. (biographical note, discography, timeline, bibliography, author’s note) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62979-555-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments.

SUPERHEROES ARE EVERYWHERE

The junior senator from California introduces family and friends as everyday superheroes.

The endpapers are covered with cascades of, mostly, early childhood snapshots (“This is me contemplating the future”—caregivers of toddlers will recognize that abstracted look). In between, Harris introduces heroes in her life who have shaped her character: her mom and dad, whose superpowers were, respectively, to make her feel special and brave; an older neighbor known for her kindness; grandparents in India and Jamaica who “[stood] up for what’s right” (albeit in unspecified ways); other relatives and a teacher who opened her awareness to a wider world; and finally iconic figures such as Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley who “protected people by using the power of words and ideas” and whose examples inspired her to become a lawyer. “Heroes are…YOU!” she concludes, closing with a bulleted Hero Code and a timeline of her legal and political career that ends with her 2017 swearing-in as senator. In group scenes, some of the figures in the bright, simplistic digital illustrations have Asian features, some are in wheelchairs, nearly all are people of color. Almost all are smiling or grinning. Roe provides everyone identified as a role model with a cape and poses the author, who is seen at different ages wearing an identifying heart pin or decoration, next to each.

Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments. (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984837-49-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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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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