Subtitle notwithstanding, crafted more to amuse than edify.

READ REVIEW

A VOYAGE IN THE CLOUDS

THE (MOSTLY) TRUE STORY OF THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL FLIGHT BY BALLOON IN 1785

This embellished tale is loosely based on a true event: the first international balloon flight, from England to France, in 1785.

Pierre Blanchard, a Frenchman with design and flight experience, makes the crossing with his English financial backer, Dr. John Jeffries. The two don’t get along well, and their invented squabbling drives much of the dialogue-heavy narrative. Their historical flight suffers a near miss during its two-hour, 47–minute crossing. For dramatic flair, Olshan invents Blanchard’s “little nap” and Jeffries’ bungled attempt to relieve pressure in the balloon. With the balloon losing elevation, the men shed sandbags, the winglike oars, rudder, anchor, violin, and most of their clothing. They even pee over the sides. (That’s apparently a documented fact). The near-sinking engenders a shift, with the two men cooperative and mutually congratulatory, as they disembark—in their underdrawers and clutching their respective pet dogs—to cheering crowds. Blackall’s signature watercolors, featuring pale, pink-cheeked, white figures, stylized period clothing, and pastel backgrounds, alternate with inked comics-styled panels conjuring such events as the precipitous near-sinking and the balloon’s tree-snagged landing. The men’s disagreeable carping, which preoccupies much of the story, ultimately diminishes its child appeal.

Subtitle notwithstanding, crafted more to amuse than edify. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-32954-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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A fair choice, but it may need some support to really blast off.

TINY LITTLE ROCKET

This rocket hopes to take its readers on a birthday blast—but there may or may not be enough fuel.

Once a year, a one-seat rocket shoots out from Earth. Why? To reveal a special congratulatory banner for a once-a-year event. The second-person narration puts readers in the pilot’s seat and, through a (mostly) ballad-stanza rhyme scheme (abcb), sends them on a journey toward the sun, past meteors, and into the Kuiper belt. The final pages include additional information on how birthdays are measured against the Earth’s rotations around the sun. Collingridge aims for the stars with this title, and he mostly succeeds. The rhyme scheme flows smoothly, which will make listeners happy, but the illustrations (possibly a combination of paint with digital enhancements) may leave the viewers feeling a little cold. The pilot is seen only with a 1960s-style fishbowl helmet that completely obscures the face, gender, and race by reflecting the interior of the rocket ship. This may allow readers/listeners to picture themselves in the role, but it also may divest them of any emotional connection to the story. The last pages—the backside of a triple-gatefold spread—label the planets and include Pluto. While Pluto is correctly labeled as a dwarf planet, it’s an unusual choice to include it but not the other dwarfs: Ceres, Eris, etc. The illustration also neglects to include the asteroid belt or any of the solar system’s moons.

A fair choice, but it may need some support to really blast off. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-18949-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: David Fickling/Phoenix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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Both a beautiful celebration of black culture and an excellent first black history book for young children.

BLACK IS A RAINBOW COLOR

A young black child ponders the colors in the rainbow and a crayon box and realizes that while black is not a color in the rainbow, black culture is a rainbow of its own.

In bright paints and collage, Holmes shows the rainbow of black skin tones on each page while Joy’s text describes what “Black is” physically and culturally. It ranges from the concrete, such as “the braids in my best friend’s hair,” to the conceptual: “Black is soft-singing, ‘Hush now, don’t explain’ ”—a reference to the song “Don’t Explain” made popular by Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, the former depicted in full song with her signature camellia and the latter at her piano. Joy alludes throughout the brief text to poetry, music, figures, and events in black history, and several pages of backmatter supply the necessary context for caregivers who need a little extra help explaining them to listeners. Additionally, there is a playlist of songs to accompany reading as well as three poems: “Harlem,” by Langston Hughes, and “We Wear the Mask” and “Sympathy,” by Paul Laurence Dunbar. The author also includes a historical timeline describing some of the names that have been used to describe and label black people in the United States since 1619.

Both a beautiful celebration of black culture and an excellent first black history book for young children. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62672-631-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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