Unusual and fascinating but flawed.



Leyzer Zamenhof hated war and conflict.

He lived in late-19th-century Bialystok (then part of the Russian Empire), where a diverse, distrustful population spoke many languages. He believed that a common language could bring everyone together, so he began the task of inventing that language. His first attempts were failures, lacking predictable patterns. Adjusting words that already existed worked better, especially those that had similar construction or sounds and could be put together in a logical structure. But while he was studying medicine in Moscow, his early work was destroyed. With his wife’s help, he began again, revising and refining his concepts. He signed his work “Dr. Esperanto,” his language’s word for “one who hopes.” Eventually, a large group of followers from all over the world came to love this language of peace and honor the person who created it. Rockliff recounts the events simply, focusing on insights into Leyzer’s motives and processes in the construction of Esperanto vocabulary, but much is omitted from the primary narrative. Material in the afterword more clearly explains the development of the language and further relevant details about Zamenhof, including the fact that he was a Jew. Dzierzawska’s digitally assembled pencil-and-ink illustrations complement the text and depict time and setting, also providing visual mapping of vocabulary development. The languages that Zamenhof used as a base for Esperanto are never named in the text or labeled in the illustrations, nor, frustratingly, are the Esperanto phrases translated.

Unusual and fascinating but flawed. (sources) (Picture book/biography. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8915-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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At its best when the emphasis is on the skill and artistry of Mime’s most accomplished practitioner—alas, too much of the...



The legendary mime is introduced to a new generation, though not entirely successfully.

As a child, Marceau loved to silently entertain his friends, like his idol, Charlie Chaplin. During the Nazi occupation of France, Marcel and his brother took on new identities in the French Underground, where they forged documents for Jewish children and helped many to escape to Switzerland. Spielman assumes that her young audience will understand references to deportation and concentration camps; unfortunately for those that don't, her matter-of-fact tone speaks more of adventure than deadly peril. Her tone subtly changes when she lovingly describes Marceau’s training and development as a mime and his stage persona of Bip the clown, admiring his skills in the “art of silence” that won him international renown. But here too, comparisons to the Little Tramp and Pierrot may be outside readers’ frame of reference. Though the illustrations carefully complement the textual content with period details, Gauthier’s cartoon faces are all nearly identical, with only the screen image of Chaplin and Marceau’s Bip having distinctive features. A double-page spread at the conclusion provides photographs of Bip in action and is the only clear indication of Marceau’s stagecraft.

At its best when the emphasis is on the skill and artistry of Mime’s most accomplished practitioner—alas, too much of the book looks elsewhere. (Picture book/biography. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7613-3961-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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Routine assignment fodder.



From the Gateway Biographies series

A standard-issue profile of the renowned activist—one of a spate launched by his death in December 2013.

Doeden opens with Mandela on trial for treason in 1964, closes with a quote from Barack Obama’s eulogy and in between covers the civil rights leader’s long career from childhood to final illness. Small news photos and boxed discussions of apartheid and Steve Biko’s brief life accompany a narrative that reads like a term paper—though, looking at the paltry lists of notes and sources at the end, an inadequately documented one. Along with plenty of similar bio-trivia, readers will find out that Mandela moved from village schools in Qunu and Mqhekezweni to Clarkebury Boarding Institute, Healdtown and the University of Fort Hare before getting a correspondence-course law degree from the University of South Africa…but not why any of that is worth knowing or what light it sheds on his character, achievements and historical significance. Yona Zeldis McDonough’s Peaceful Protest (illustrated by Malcah Zeldis, 2002) or Kadir Nelson’s terse but masterful Nelson Mandela (2013) supply clearer, more cogent tributes.

Routine assignment fodder. (further reading, websites, index) (Biography. 8-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4677-5197-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Lerner

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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