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GIZMOS, GADGETS, AND GUITARS

THE STORY OF LEO FENDER

An engaging mix of biography, social-emotional skills, the development of a musical instrument, and the STEM process.

How did the electric guitar come to be?

Few would guess that the inventor of the mass-produced, solid-body electric guitar couldn’t even play. But what inventor Leo Fender excelled at was creating prototypes, collecting feedback, experimenting, refining, and improving. From childhood, he was interested in how things worked and how to fix what was broken, tinkering with radios and even finding a way to improve his vision when he lost the use of an eye. His parents didn’t see a future in such work, however, so he trained as an accountant. When the Great Depression hit, few had a need to keep track of money, but everyone needed to mend broken belongings, so he opened a repair shop. There he became aware of lap steel guitars, and the rest, accompanied by trial and error, is history. This tale of an idiosyncratic man with a curious mind serves as a virtual textbook on the STEM process and shows the value of applied inquiry, open-mindedness, and resilience. Useful for showing connections between different disciplines and how innovation can be implemented, this interesting story, told with energy and accompanied by appealing illustrations of the bespectacled White tinkerer surrounded by his gadgets, traces the history of the electric guitar we know today.

An engaging mix of biography, social-emotional skills, the development of a musical instrument, and the STEM process. (author’s note, bibliography, further reading, glossary) (Picture book/biography. 5-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-25186-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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BASKETBALL DREAMS

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses.

An NBA star pays tribute to the influence of his grandfather.

In the same vein as his Long Shot (2009), illustrated by Frank Morrison, this latest from Paul prioritizes values and character: “My granddad Papa Chilly had dreams that came true,” he writes, “so maybe if I listen and watch him, / mine will too.” So it is that the wide-eyed Black child in the simply drawn illustrations rises early to get to the playground hoops before anyone else, watches his elder working hard and respecting others, hears him cheering along with the rest of the family from the stands during games, and recalls in a prose afterword that his grandfather wasn’t one to lecture but taught by example. Paul mentions in both the text and the backmatter that Papa Chilly was the first African American to own a service station in North Carolina (his presumed dream) but not that he was killed in a robbery, which has the effect of keeping the overall tone positive and the instructional content one-dimensional. Figures in the pictures are mostly dark-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-81003-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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MALALA'S MAGIC PENCIL

An inspiring introduction to the young Nobel Peace Prize winner and a useful conversation starter.

The latest of many picture books about the young heroine from Pakistan, this one is narrated by Malala herself, with a frame that is accessible to young readers.

Malala introduces her story using a television show she used to watch about a boy with a magic pencil that he used to get himself and his friends out of trouble. Readers can easily follow Malala through her own discovery of troubles in her beloved home village, such as other children not attending school and soldiers taking over the village. Watercolor-and-ink illustrations give a strong sense of setting, while gold ink designs overlay Malala’s hopes onto her often dreary reality. The story makes clear Malala’s motivations for taking up the pen to tell the world about the hardships in her village and only alludes to the attempt on her life, with a black page (“the dangerous men tried to silence me. / But they failed”) and a hospital bracelet on her wrist the only hints of the harm that came to her. Crowds with signs join her call before she is shown giving her famous speech before the United Nations. Toward the end of the book, adult readers may need to help children understand Malala’s “work,” but the message of holding fast to courage and working together is powerful and clear.

An inspiring introduction to the young Nobel Peace Prize winner and a useful conversation starter. (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-31957-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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