This lovely, child-friendly biography evokes and celebrates this fabulous naif.

A charming, affecting picture-book life of France’s most celebrated naive painter—Henri Rousseau.

Around 1884, when he was in his 40s, Rousseau determined that he needed to transcend his life as a customs officer and began to recreate himself as an artist. Though he had no formal training and few financial resources, he persevered and created countless canvases that showcased his unique, almost magical personal visions, visions that continue to resonate with young and old alike. Rousseau was ridiculed repeatedly by critics and artists, yet he continued to create his exotic, seemingly unsophisticated paintings. His lush tropical scenes were fueled by visits to the botanic gardens; his exotic animals were inspired by visits to the zoo. Though he remained a perpetual outsider, the Parisian avant-garde eventually embraced the visionary Rousseau, honoring him at a 1908 banquet (organized by Picasso himself). Markel’s simple, poetic text (“tropical plants fruit and flower into garlands, rockets, and rosettes of color”) is matched with Hall’s vivid, venturesome illustrations. The bright watercolor-and-acrylic paintings have an impressive vitality and wonderfully channel Rosseau’s fantastic motifs and his characteristic use of flattened shapes and perspectives.

This lovely, child-friendly biography evokes and celebrates this fabulous naif. (author and illustrator notes) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5364-6

Page Count: 34

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012



One determined man brings two villages together with a hammer, chisel, and an iron will.

Deep in the heart of India, a mighty mountain separates two villages. Manjhi lives on one side, where nothing grows. On the other, rice and wheat flourish. The people there are affluent, while Manjhi’s village struggles with hunger. Manjhi climbs to the top of the mountain to ponder this problem. When he throws a stone, it triggers a sprinkle of powder, which gives him an idea. Manjhi trades his trio of goats for a hammer and chisel. Hurrying back to the top of the mountain, he positions the chisel and strikes it with the hammer. Powdered rock and tiny chips spray. He continues until he’s exhausted, but he’s also filled with hope. Even though people tell him he’s “crazy,” day after day Manjhi returns to the mountain. After a year, Majhi is a little stronger, and the hole he has made a little deeper. He perseveres and, when he returns to his task each day, notices that others have continued his work. It takes 22 years, but Manjhi lives to see the day that two villages become one, sharing water, hopes, and dreams. Churnin’s prose has an elegance appropriate for her inspiring tale, which is based on a true story. Popovich’s double-page illustrations use a warm palette and are nicely composed.

Heartening. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-939547-34-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Creston

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017


A worthy message delivered with a generous dose of inclusivity.

Sharing books brings children from multiple backgrounds together in this companion to Stacey’s Extraordinary Words (2021).

Again lightly burnishing actual childhood memories, voting rights activist and former gubernatorial candidate Abrams recalls reaching out as a young book lover to Julie, a new Vietnamese classmate shy about reading in English. Choosing books to read and discuss together on weekly excursions to the school’s library, the two are soon joined by enough other children from Gambia, South Korea, and elsewhere that their beaming librarian, Mr. McCormick, who is dark-skinned, sets up an after-school club. Later, Julie adds some give and take to their friendship by helping Stacey overcome her own reluctance to join the other children on the playground. Though views of the library seen through a faint golden haze flecked with stars go a little over the top (school librarians may disagree), Thomas fills the space with animated, bright-eyed young faces clustering intimately together over books and rendered in various shades beneath a range of hairstyles and head coverings. The author underscores the diversity of the cast by slipping scattered comments in Spanish, Wolof, and other languages into the dialogue and, after extolling throughout the power of books and stories to make new friends as well as open imaginations to new experiences and identities, brings all of her themes together in an afterword capped by an excellent list of recommended picture books. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A worthy message delivered with a generous dose of inclusivity. (Picture-book memoir. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-327185-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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