A decent choice for music classrooms, but its focus on a white American musician makes it a bust for another seemingly...

STEEL DRUMS

From the Made by Hand series

A chronicle of the history and production of steel drums.

Steel drumming began on Trinidad. Its African roots are made clear: West Africans forced into chattel slavery brought their drumming traditions with them to the island, but oppressive white slaveholders outlawed drumming. Even post-slavery the drumming ban continued, so the people adapted by using found materials such as biscuit tins and paint cans. During World War II, the U.S. built a base on Trinidad, and drummers used the 55-gallon oil containers to make drums. Ellie Mannette, an ingenious black Trini who would come to be known as the “Father of the Modern Steel Drum,” was one of the first to do this. The focus here shifts to Glenn Rowsey, a white U.S. steel drummer and steel-drum maker. Readers follow Rowsey through the fascinating process of creating a steel drum, which makes up the bulk of the book. The choice to highlight a white musician/craftsperson comes off as culturally tone deaf given the African/African diasporic roots of the art. Easy-to-understand text and plentiful full-color photos make this book accessible even for younger readers. Books on steel drumming are scarce, so it’s particularly disappointing that this book, while offering a good historical base, places white voices and experiences at its center.

A decent choice for music classrooms, but its focus on a white American musician makes it a bust for another seemingly natural application in units on Caribbean culture. (DIY instrument instructions, timeline, glossary, resources) (Nonfiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7898-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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It’s nothing new in territory or angle, but it’s still a serviceable survey with reasonably durable moving parts.

THE ULTIMATE BOOK OF PLANET EARTH

Flaps, pull tabs, and pop-ups large and small enhance views of our planet’s inside, outside, atmosphere, biosphere, and geophysics.

It’s a hefty, high-speed tour through Earth’s features, climates, and natural resources, with compressed surveys of special topics on multileveled flaps and a spread on the history of life that is extended by a double-foldout wing. But even when teeming with small images of land forms, wildlife, or diverse groups of children and adults, Balicevic’s bright cartoon illustrations look relatively uncrowded. Although the quality of the paper engineering is uneven, the special effects add dramatic set pieces: Readers need to hold in place a humongous column of cumulonimbus clouds for it to reach its full extension; a volcano erupts in a gratifyingly large scale; and, on the plate-tectonics spread, a pull tab gives readers the opportunity to run the Indian Plate into the Eurasian one and see the Himalayas bulge up. A final spread showing resources, mostly renewable ones, being tapped ends with an appeal to protect “our only home.” All in all, it’s a likely alternative to Dougal Jerram’s Utterly Amazing Earth, illustrated by Dan Crisp and Molly Lattin (2017), being broader in scope and a bit more generous in its level of detail.

It’s nothing new in territory or angle, but it’s still a serviceable survey with reasonably durable moving parts. (Informational novelty. 6-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 979-1-02760-562-0

Page Count: 18

Publisher: Twirl/Chronicle

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Blandly laudatory.

I AM WALT DISNEY

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

The iconic animator introduces young readers to each “happy place” in his life.

The tally begins with his childhood home in Marceline, Missouri, and climaxes with Disneyland (carefully designed to be “the happiest place on Earth”), but the account really centers on finding his true happy place, not on a map but in drawing. In sketching out his early flubs and later rocket to the top, the fictive narrator gives Ub Iwerks and other Disney studio workers a nod (leaving his labor disputes with them unmentioned) and squeezes in quick references to his animated films, from Steamboat Willie to Winnie the Pooh (sans Fantasia and Song of the South). Eliopoulos incorporates stills from the films into his cartoon illustrations and, characteristically for this series, depicts Disney as a caricature, trademark mustache in place on outsized head even in childhood years and child sized even as an adult. Human figures default to white, with occasional people of color in crowd scenes and (ahistorically) in the animation studio. One unidentified animator builds up the role-modeling with an observation that Walt and Mickey were really the same (“Both fearless; both resourceful”). An assertion toward the end—“So when do you stop being a child? When you stop dreaming”—muddles the overall follow-your-bliss message. A timeline to the EPCOT Center’s 1982 opening offers photos of the man with select associates, rodent and otherwise. An additional series entry, I Am Marie Curie, publishes simultaneously, featuring a gowned, toddler-sized version of the groundbreaking physicist accepting her two Nobel prizes.

Blandly laudatory. (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2875-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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