A fascinating bit of history and much food for thought.


Eliza Davis was a strong, intelligent woman and a great admirer of Charles Dickens.

Dickens’ enormously popular works portraying the social ills of his day had the power to inspire reforms. But Eliza was Jewish, and she was greatly disturbed when she read Dickens’ Oliver Twist. Dickens’ use of pejorative language in describing the character of Fagin was intensely hurtful. He was described as “dishonest, selfish, cruel, and ugly”; instead of his name, he was nearly always just called “the Jew.” So Eliza wrote to the author asking him to right the wrong he perpetrated. His answer was unfeeling, blaming Jewish readers for any hurt, but Eliza did not give up. She wrote again, reminding him that his Jewish characters did not represent reality and, most importantly, that readers would judge him for his prejudices. Dickens finally paid attention. His later work Our Mutual Friend notably included a positive, sympathetic Jewish character; he took measures to reedit new editions of Oliver Twist; and he wrote essays decrying antisemitism. Churnin presents this well-researched, little-known episode to young readers in simple, direct language that both conveys Eliza’s pain and her determination to right a wrong and provides them with a thoughtful comparison to their own time. Stancliffe’s deeply hued illustrations sympathetically depict Eliza in accurate mid-19th-century surroundings, with Dickens looking as he appears in contemporary portraits. All characters have pale skin. Inclusion of line-drawn scenes from Ivanhoe and Dickens’ books adds gravitas to Eliza’s viewpoint.

A fascinating bit of history and much food for thought. (author’s note, source note, acknowledgements) (Informational picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1530-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...


Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.


From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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