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DEAR MR. DICKENS

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. 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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LITTLE DAYMOND LEARNS TO EARN

It’s hard to argue with success, but guides that actually do the math will be more useful to budding capitalists.

How to raise money for a coveted poster: put your friends to work!

John, founder of the FUBU fashion line and a Shark Tank venture capitalist, offers a self-referential blueprint for financial success. Having only half of the $10 he needs for a Minka J poster, Daymond forks over $1 to buy a plain T-shirt, paints a picture of the pop star on it, sells it for $5, and uses all of his cash to buy nine more shirts. Then he recruits three friends to decorate them with his design and help sell them for an unspecified amount (from a conveniently free and empty street-fair booth) until they’re gone. The enterprising entrepreneur reimburses himself for the shirts and splits the remaining proceeds, which leaves him with enough for that poster as well as a “brand-new business book,” while his friends express other fiscal strategies: saving their share, spending it all on new art supplies, or donating part and buying a (math) book with the rest. (In a closing summation, the author also suggests investing in stocks, bonds, or cryptocurrency.) Though Miles cranks up the visual energy in her sparsely detailed illustrations by incorporating bright colors and lots of greenbacks, the actual advice feels a bit vague. Daymond is Black; most of the cast are people of color. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

It’s hard to argue with success, but guides that actually do the math will be more useful to budding capitalists. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-593-56727-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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WILLOW THE WHITE HOUSE CAT

Kids will enjoy the opportunity to “mews” on the doings of a presidential pet.

First Lady Biden and Capucilli, author of the Biscuit series, explain how Willow the cat came to reside at the White House.

Willow lives contentedly in a barn. One day, she’s curious when cars approach and people gather to hear a blond woman speak. Willow draws closer, then is delighted as the woman lifts her up and hugs her. That evening, light-skinned Farmer Rick tells Willow she made “quite an impression”: The visitor has invited Willow to live with her. A car arrives to drive Willow away to the White House, her new home in Washington, D.C. There, she’s welcomed by the first lady—the same woman who tenderly held her at the farm. Willow meets the president and explores her new home, filled with elegantly furnished rooms, grand staircases, and historic portraits. Plus, there’s a toy-filled basket! Best of all, there are wonderful people who work in and visit this beautiful house who show Willow kindness and affection. Willow’s favorite resting spot is at the president’s side in the Oval Office, though she also enjoys watching the first lady read to children on the lawn. Animal lovers will especially appreciate this sweet, cat’s-eye view of the White House, which helps humanize the first family by depicting them as ordinary feline fanciers. The loose ink, acrylic, and paint illustrations are cheerful and cozy. Background characters are racially diverse.

Kids will enjoy the opportunity to “mews” on the doings of a presidential pet. (author’s note from Biden, photos) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 4, 2024

ISBN: 9781665952057

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2024

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