Routine assignment fodder.

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NELSON MANDELA

WORLD LEADER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

MARCEL MARCEAU

MASTER OF MIME

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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WALT DISNEY

DRAWN FROM IMAGINATION

A squeaky-clean biography of the original Mouseketeer.

Scollon begins with the (to say the least) arguable claim that Disney grew up to “define and shape what would come to be known as the American Century.” Following this, he retraces Disney’s life and career, characterizing him as a visionary whose only real setbacks came from excess ambition or at the hands of unscrupulous film distributors. Disney’s brother Roy appears repeatedly to switch between roles as encourager and lead doubter, but except in chapters covering his childhood, the rest of his family only puts in occasional cameos. Unsurprisingly, there is no mention of Disney’s post–World War II redbaiting, and his most controversial film, Song of the South, gets only a single reference (and that with a positive slant). More puzzling is the absence of Mary Poppins from the tally of Disney triumphs. Still, readers will come away with a good general picture of the filmmaking and animation techniques that Disney pioneered, as well as a highlight history of his studio, television work and amusement parks. Discussion questions are appended: “What do you think were Walt Disney’s greatest accomplishments and why?” Brown’s illustrations not seen. An iconic success story that has often been told before but rarely so one-dimensionally or with such firm adherence to the company line. (bibliography) (Biography. 8-10)

 

Pub Date: July 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9647-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Disney Press

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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