This book was so close to soaring!

FLYING HIGH

THE STORY OF GYMNASTICS CHAMPION SIMONE BILES

Simone Biles enchanted the nation at the 2016 Summer Olympics, and this book aims to introduce her to young readers.

Readers watch as little Simone and her three siblings are placed in a foster home, then separated, before she and one sister are adopted by their biological grandparents. Simone is always in motion from toddlerhood, “shooting off the vault / like a rocket blast” when she discovers gymnastics. There is a simple beauty in showing how Biles’ rise to Olympic gold medalist was not smooth. Children will be saddened by her failure at making the national team and heartened by her determination to keep pursuing her dream. Meadows emphasizes resilience, demonstrating how Biles met each failure with persistence, getting back up and trying again. Glenn’s clean line-and-color illustrations are reminiscent of animation, at their best in the many vignettes of Biles in motion. One double-page spread, in which 10 separate images trace Biles doing her trademark double layout with a half-twist landing, is electrifying. The text does not equal the illustrations’ effectiveness; scansion is sometimes spotty, and the jaunty rhythms are at odds with the challenges and drive depicted. Its lightness seems particularly inapt when juxtaposed against Biles’ powerful muscularity. Two pages of backmatter include a few more facts and selected sources.

This book was so close to soaring! (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20566-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments.

SUPERHEROES ARE EVERYWHERE

The junior senator from California introduces family and friends as everyday superheroes.

The endpapers are covered with cascades of, mostly, early childhood snapshots (“This is me contemplating the future”—caregivers of toddlers will recognize that abstracted look). In between, Harris introduces heroes in her life who have shaped her character: her mom and dad, whose superpowers were, respectively, to make her feel special and brave; an older neighbor known for her kindness; grandparents in India and Jamaica who “[stood] up for what’s right” (albeit in unspecified ways); other relatives and a teacher who opened her awareness to a wider world; and finally iconic figures such as Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley who “protected people by using the power of words and ideas” and whose examples inspired her to become a lawyer. “Heroes are…YOU!” she concludes, closing with a bulleted Hero Code and a timeline of her legal and political career that ends with her 2017 swearing-in as senator. In group scenes, some of the figures in the bright, simplistic digital illustrations have Asian features, some are in wheelchairs, nearly all are people of color. Almost all are smiling or grinning. Roe provides everyone identified as a role model with a cape and poses the author, who is seen at different ages wearing an identifying heart pin or decoration, next to each.

Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments. (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984837-49-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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A captivating tale guaranteed to keep youngsters wide awake in wonder.

GOODNIGHT, ASTRONAUT

From childhood, an astronaut dreamed of adventurous exploration.

Famed NASA astronaut Kelly played imaginative games with his twin brother, Mark (also an astronaut), from the time they were kids, presaging both men’s future space careers by wearing cardboard-box helmets. Their mother supported their high-flying dreams at bedtime. Ever entranced by the sky, the brothers imagined aboveground adventures in the backyard treehouse and on a family cruise, where they fantasized about being weightless as the boat was tossed by the waves. In adulthood, Kelly undertook hardier journeys, and his dreams continued to spark his longings for space navigation: He steered Navy vessels and piloted jets; camped out in icy climates and explored the seas; and climbed Mount Everest. Kelly attained his astronaut goal by joining the crew of the space shuttle Discovery, then earned renown for his yearlong stint on the International Space Station. Though Kelly acknowledges home is best, he encourages readers to dream about having adventures; a charming concluding illustration features a brown-skinned girl dreaming of myriad possibilities. The engaging, gently poetic text describes the author’s ambitious, lifelong skyward trajectory and his stops along the way to space, helping youngsters understand what goes into astronaut training. Colorful, appealing illustrations capture Kelly’s fascinating odyssey, beginning in childhood, and the starry reaches of space. Scott and Mark Kelly present White; some background characters are people of color. The backmatter includes two pages of color photos. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 49.9% of actual size.)

A captivating tale guaranteed to keep youngsters wide awake in wonder. (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6428-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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