A fascinating introduction to one of the greatest hoaxes of all time, deftly pitched to elementary-age children.

Long before there was Photoshop, in the days when photography was an infant technology, a teenager produced photographs that convinced the world fairies are real.

When 9-year-old Frances Griffiths told her disbelieving parents she saw fairies by the waterfall behind their country house in England, Frances’ 16-year-old cousin, Elsie Wright, wanted to prove Frances’ story. She painted paper fairies and photographed them. Then she took photos showing the girls interacting with the dainty winged creatures in the valley behind Elsie’s house. The girls never meant to fool the world, but the photographs fell into the hands of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Like Frances, Conan Doyle believed in fairies, and in 1920 he published the photographs in the widely read Strand magazine and wrote that he believed they were conclusive proof of the existence of fairies. After experts declared the pictures genuine and Conan Doyle’s article appeared, an innocent prank turned into a hoax that lasted until Frances and Elsie finally revealed their secret over 60 years later. Nobleman introduces readers to this remarkable story in a compact, engaging narrative that’s respectful to its young audience. Complementing Wheeler’s delicate, detailed illustrations of the all-white human cast and its middle-class English milieu are reproductions of the famed photographs.

A fascinating introduction to one of the greatest hoaxes of all time, deftly pitched to elementary-age children. (author’s note, not seen) (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-69948-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018


From the Celebrate the World series

Lovely illustrations wasted on this misguided project.

The Celebrate the World series spotlights Lunar New Year.

This board book blends expository text and first-person-plural narrative, introducing readers to the holiday. Chau’s distinctive, finely textured watercolor paintings add depth, transitioning smoothly from a grand cityscape to the dining room table, from fantasies of the past to dumplings of the present. The text attempts to provide a broad look at the subject, including other names for the celebration, related cosmology, and historical background, as well as a more-personal discussion of traditions and practices. Yet it’s never clear who the narrator is—while the narrative indicates the existence of some consistent, monolithic group who participates in specific rituals of celebration (“Before the new year celebrations begin, we clean our homes—and ourselves!”), the illustrations depict different people in every image. Indeed, observances of Lunar New Year are as diverse as the people who celebrate it, which neither the text nor the images—all of the people appear to be Asian—fully acknowledges. Also unclear is the book’s intended audience. With large blocks of explication on every spread, it is entirely unappealing for the board-book set, and the format may make it equally unattractive to an older, more appropriate audience. Still, readers may appreciate seeing an important celebration warmly and vibrantly portrayed.

Lovely illustrations wasted on this misguided project. (Board book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3303-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019



From the Holidays Around the World series

A good-enough introduction to a contested festivity but one that’s not in step with the community it’s for.

An overview of the modern African-American holiday.

This book arrives at a time when black people in the United States have had intraracial—some serious, some snarky—conversations about Kwanzaa’s relevance nowadays, from its patchwork inspiration that flattens the cultural diversity of the African continent to a single festive story to, relatedly, the earnest blacker-than-thou pretentiousness surrounding it. Both the author and consultant Keith A. Mayes take great pains—and in painfully simplistic language—to provide a context that attempts to refute the internal arguments as much as it informs its intended audience. In fact, Mayes says in the endnotes that young people are Kwanzaa’s “largest audience and most important constituents” and further extends an invitation to all races and ages to join the winter celebration. However, his “young people represent the future” counterpoint—and the book itself—really responds to an echo of an argument, as black communities have moved the conversation out to listen to African communities who critique the holiday’s loose “African-ness” and deep American-ness and moved on to commemorate holidays that have a more historical base in black people’s experiences in the United States, such as Juneteenth. In this context, the explications of Kwanzaa’s principles and symbols and the smattering of accompanying activities feel out of touch.

A good-enough introduction to a contested festivity but one that’s not in step with the community it’s for. (resources, bibliography, glossary, afterword) (Nonfiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4263-2849-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2017

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