This ambitious project delivers fascinating history and beautiful illustrations but attempts too many creative connections.

In this longer-than-usual picture book, the Swedish alphabet is paired with illustrations of selected objects in the collection of the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis.

The concept is ambitious: to give readers a taste of the Swedish language, culture, and migration story to America by organizing simple Swedish words in alphabetical order (with their English translations but no pronunciation guide) and pairing them with paintings of objects displayed in the Turnblad Mansion, the former residence of 19th-century Swedish immigrants and ASI founders Swan and Christina Turnblad. Following this alphabet section, the book becomes an exploration of history, presenting photos of the previously illustrated objects and relaying stories of their provenance alongside sidebars of the people connected with them. While the watercolor illustrations are gorgeous, masterfully imbuing delicate light and shadow, and the historical information is fascinating, the project bogs down in attempting too many connections. The Swedish word accompanying the object illustration is often not the object’s name (as readers may logically expect) but rather a simple action word (or words) that begins with the necessary alphabet letter. Trying to connect the word and the illustration, small pen-and-ink figures, related “historically or via…imagination” to the object, are drawn on and around the watercolor (and too often in the gutter). It’s a neat concept, but it becomes confusing and, since the figures are cumulative, crowded.

This ambitious project delivers fascinating history and beautiful illustrations but attempts too many creative connections. (authors’ notes) (Informational picture book. 8-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5179-0788-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Univ. of Minnesota

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019



In the same format as Georgia O'Keeffe (above), a biography of a painter (1822-99) known for her animal paintings in the realistic Academy style, whose subjects, drama, and often heroic treatment have special appeal for the young. The emphasis on the problems faced by women artists is repeated here; the text is informative but undistinguished (and it's ridiculous to state that the French Bonheur learned her letters by noticing that ``C'' stood for ``cow'' and ``B'' for ``bird''). Still, an adequate introduction to an artist of merit. (Biography. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-316-85648-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1991



Hartling's Old John (1990), set in a German milieu evoked with perfectly selected detail, exquisitely demonstrated that the verities of the human condition transcend their setting. Here, a disastrous decision has been made (presumably by the publisher): a gentle story about a ten-year-old schoolboy's friendship with a Polish refugee in his class is completely undermined by pretending that it takes place in America, though almost every incident and detail—e.g., the characters' names, a teacher's assignment, Ben's gift of flowers to Anna's mother on his first visit, even how jobs and housing are acquired—seems European, and is certainly not American. Set in Hartling's homeland (Austria), this would be a quiet but pleasingly warm-hearted story; as it stands, it's an exasperating travesty.~(Fiction. 8- 11)

Pub Date: April 29, 1991

ISBN: 0-87951-401-9

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1991

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