An important story only partially realized.

BEAUTIFUL SHADES OF BROWN

THE ART OF LAURA WHEELER WARING

Laura Wheeler Waring saw “brown [as] a rainbow” and painted it that way.

Growing up in turn-of-the-20th-century Connecticut in a middle-class African American household, Laura works for “hours mixing and blending” paints in order to replicate the shades she sees in her family members. Determined to pursue a career in art, she studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and then in Paris, honing her craft. Attending a concert given by a young Marian Anderson, Laura vows to paint the singer someday. A 1944 commission for “portraits of important African Americans” finds her painting the likenesses of Alice Dunbar Nelson, James Weldon Johnson, W.E.B. Du Bois—and Marian Anderson. Churnin ably conjures the painter’s process, thrillingly describing Laura’s painstaking combination of shades to create just the right browns for each subject. She is less adept at helping readers understand the barriers Laura must have faced, saying only that “there weren’t portraits of African Americans in museums” during Laura’s childhood and that her art education was undertaken among mostly white peers; one sentence in her author’s note acknowledges the limited opportunities available to African Americans of Laura’s time. While the evocation of Laura’s joy in her art is admirable, skimming over the everyday injustices she must have faced paints only half her picture. Marshall’s illustrations are appropriately painterly, capturing the play of light on her characters’ brown faces.

An important story only partially realized. (timeline, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-939547-65-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Creston

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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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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Sage, soothing ideas for a busy, loud, sometimes-divisive world.

GRANDMA'S GARDENS

In an inviting picture book, Chelsea and Hillary Clinton share personal revelations on how gardening with a grandmother, a mother, and children shapes and nurtures a love and respect for nature, beauty, and a general philosophy for life.

Grandma Dorothy, the former senator, secretary of state, and presidential candidate’s mother, loved gardens, appreciating the multiple benefits they yielded for herself and her family. The Clinton women reminisce about their beloved forebear and all she taught them in a color-coded, alternating text, blue for Chelsea and green for Hillary. Via brief yet explicit remembrances, they share what they learned, observed, and most of all enjoyed in gardens with her. Each double-page spread culminates in a declarative statement set in italicized red text invoking Dorothy’s wise words. Gardens can be many things: places for celebration, discovery and learning, vehicles for teaching responsibility in creating beauty, home to wildlife large and small, a place to share stories and develop memories. Though operating from very personal experience rooted in class privilege, the mother-daughter duo mostly succeeds in imparting a universally significant message: Whether visiting a public garden or working in the backyard, generations can cultivate a lasting bond. Lemniscates uses an appropriately floral palette to evoke the gardens explored by these three white women. A Spanish edition, Los jardines de la abuela, publishes simultaneously; Teresa Mlawer’s translation is fluid and pleasing, in at least one case improving on the original.

Sage, soothing ideas for a busy, loud, sometimes-divisive world. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11535-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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