A fine tribute to an unsung African-American hero. (Picture book. 3-7)

READ REVIEW

MARVELOUS CORNELIUS

HURRICANE KATRINA AND THE SPIRIT OF NEW ORLEANS

An almost-true story of a man who loved his job and did it well.

In this colorful mélange of fact and fiction, Bildner tells the tale of Cornelius Washington, a sanitation worker who cleans the streets of the French Quarter of New Orleans and performs his job with flair. Cornelius does flips, lobs bags of trash into his garbage truck as if shooting hoops in the gym, makes trash-can lids into cymbals, and entertains locals while making the streets sparkle. Hurricane Katrina changes all of that, leaving trash, death, and decay in its wake, “a gumbo of mush and mud.” After weeping for his city, Cornelius joins forces with his neighbors and the waves of people who come to New Orleans post-Katrina from all over to help make New Orleans sparkle once again. Parra’s lively, rustic illustrations look textured, as if they were painted on wooden boards—appropriate for a book that depicts only outdoor scenes. Notably, the images of the French Quarter post-Katrina suggest a much more diverse population than those of pre-Katrina New Orleans; perhaps some who came to help stayed. The illustrator fills every page with activity, while the text comments on individual people readers can find if they look.

A fine tribute to an unsung African-American hero. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4521-2578-7

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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Stirring encouragement for all “little people” with “big dreams.” (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

MAYA ANGELOU

From the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

“There’s nothing I can’t be,” young Maya thinks, and then shows, in this profile for newly independent readers, imported from Spain.

The inspirational message is conveyed through a fine skein of biographical details. It begins with her birth in St. Louis and the prejudice she experienced growing up in a small Arkansas town and closes with her reading of a poem “about her favorite thing: hope” at Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration. In between, it mentions the (unspecified) “attack” by her mother’s boyfriend and subsequent elective muteness she experienced as a child, as well as some of the varied pursuits that preceded her eventual decision to become a writer. Kaiser goes on in a closing spread to recap Angelou’s life and career, with dates, beneath a quartet of portrait photos. Salaberria’s simple illustrations, filled with brown-skinned figures, are more idealized than photorealistic, but, though only in the cover image do they make direct contact with readers’, Angelou’s huge eyes are an effective focal point in each scene. The message is similar in the co-published Amelia Earhart, written by Ma Isabel Sánchez Vegara (and also translated by Pitt), but the pictures are more fanciful as illustrator Mariadiamantes endows the aviator with a mane of incandescent orange hair and sends her flying westward (in contradiction of the text and history) on her final around-the-world flight.

Stirring encouragement for all “little people” with “big dreams.” (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-84780-889-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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I AM AMELIA EARHART

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

The ever-popular pioneering female pilot gets a breezy and very incomplete biography.

Meltzer gives Amelia a first-person voice and, in a very sketchy narrative laced with comic-book speech bubbles, presents her as a dare-devil tomboy. The flying bug hits her when she goes up for a flight with Frank Hawks at the age of 23. She tries her hand at different jobs to earn money for flying lessons; Meltzer, writing too glibly, calls stenography, one of those failed efforts, a “fancy-schmancy word.” As Amelia makes her solo trans-Atlantic flight, she shouts, “This is AWESOME!”—a word no doubt intended to resonate with contemporary readers but unlikely to have occurred to Earhart at the moment. The text concludes with an exhortation to “Never let anyone stop you. / Whatever your dream is, chase it. / Work hard for it.” There is nary a mention of her final, disastrous around-the-world flight and disappearance over the Pacific. Eliopoulos’ digitally rendered art is cartoon in style, with Earhart resembling a bobblehead doll and wearing an aviator hat and goggles. The audience for this mixed-up comic/bio is not at all clear. Given its incomplete information and lack of source material (an actual quote from Earhart is unreferenced), there is no justifying calling it a biography. Nor is there enough entertainment to call this a comic book.

Skip. (photographs) (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8037-4082-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2013

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