A LIBRARY FOR JUANA

THE WORLD OF SOR JUANA INÉS

This picture-book biography of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz brings the great 17th-century poet and intellectual, revered throughout Latin America, to the attention of English-speaking children. Graced by Vidal’s (The Magic Bean Tree, not reviewed, etc.) exquisite gouache-and-watercolor illustrations, created with a magnifying glass and small brushes in the style of illuminated manuscripts, this is quite elegant. Graceful flowers, especially roses (the subject of one of Sor Juana’s best-known poems), link text and pictures. The red, flowered pattern of the cover and end papers picks up the vivid color of the young Juana’s dresses. A child prodigy who learned to read at the age of three, Juana studied with tutors in Mexico City, since girls were not allowed to attend the university. Invited to live as a lady-in-waiting in the viceroy’s palace, Juana read endlessly in its large library. A group of distinguished scholars convened to question her, and she was able to answer every one of their questions. “Yes, girls can do more than spin and sew. We can study and prove all we know,” said Juana. Becoming a nun gave her the quiet she needed to think and write. Her library became one of the largest in the Americas. There is a glossary of Spanish words and an author’s note; unfortunately, no sources of additional information (numerous Web sites are available) have been included. Nevertheless, this magnificent offering, interspersed with Spanish phrases, and filled with authentic details in its illustrations will be a welcome addition to most library collections. (Picture book/biography. 5-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2002

ISBN: 0-375-80643-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2002

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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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VISITING LANGSTON

A little girl is going with her daddy to visit the home of Langston Hughes. She too is a poet who writes about the loves of her life—her mommy and daddy, hip-hop, hopscotch, and double-dutch, but decidedly not kissing games. Langston is her inspiration because his poems make her “dreams run wild.” In simple, joyful verse Perdomo tells of this “Harlem girl” from “Harlem world” whose loving, supportive father tells her she is “Langston’s genius child.” The author’s own admiration for Hughes’s artistry and accomplishments is clearly felt in the voice of this glorious child. Langston’s spirit is a gentle presence throughout the description of his East 127th Street home and his method of composing his poetry sitting by the window. The presentation is stunning. Each section of the poem is part of a two-page spread. Text, in yellow, white, or black, is placed either within the illustrations or in large blocks of color along side them. The last page of text is a compilation of titles of Hughes’s poems printed in shades of gray in a myriad of fonts. Collier’s (Martin’s Big Words, 2001, etc.) brilliantly complex watercolor-and-collage illustrations provide the perfect visual complement to the work. From the glowing vitality of the little girl, to the vivid scenes of jazz-age Harlem, to the compelling portrait of Langston at work, to the reverential peak into Langston’s home, the viewer’s eye is constantly drawn to intriguing bits and pieces while never losing the sense of the whole. In this year of Langston Hughes’s centennial, this work does him great honor. (Poetry. 6-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8050-6744-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2002

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