An engaging story for young readers eager to look at the world with an artist’s eye.

THE MAGIC MUSEUM

A reluctant schoolboy is sent to study the works of Edgar Degas at the fictional Museum of Fine Art in Isaacson’s debut, which features full-color reproductions.

When Jack Hughes, a skateboard enthusiast, arrives at school one morning, his teacher sends him off to the city’s art museum in a bid to get the young boy to improve his essay writing. With its “polished ivory marble floors” and a “humorless, uniformed man” standing around, the museum intimidates the young lad. The 13 Degas paintings—featuring “[s]cenes of girls in frilly ballet tutus,” “a plump lady singing in an outrageous red dress” and “a shopping scene in a lady’s hat shop”—don’t do much to raise his spirits. At first, this may not seem to be the most exciting premise, yet Isaacson’s attempt to make fine art exciting in the form of a story for children is nevertheless a satisfying examination of Edgar Degas’ artwork, as well as a painting by Frederic Remington, which “[m]agnetically” pulls Jack in. (Not that it’s a wholly original idea; readers might be reminded in particular of James Mayhew’s Katie series.) Degas, who had a lifelong love of music and opera, acquired a reputation as a painter of dancers. Together with Jack, readers are able to study the paintings in impressive detail, while the author’s enthusiasm becomes infectious as the book looks deeper into 19th-century rooms and parlors; eventually, the voice of one of the painting’s subjects also discusses the various paintings with Jack. With its fairly wordy text and analyses of art, this book might not sit easily on picture-book shelves, but it will appeal to a relatively older audience looking for a quirky intro to Degas’ place in impressionism.

An engaging story for young readers eager to look at the world with an artist’s eye.

Pub Date: May 30, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-9844938-4-5

Page Count: 34

Publisher: Lexingford Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some...

RALPH TELLS A STORY

With a little help from his audience, a young storyteller gets over a solid case of writer’s block in this engaging debut.

Despite the (sometimes creatively spelled) examples produced by all his classmates and the teacher’s assertion that “Stories are everywhere!” Ralph can’t get past putting his name at the top of his paper. One day, lying under the desk in despair, he remembers finding an inchworm in the park. That’s all he has, though, until his classmates’ questions—“Did it feel squishy?” “Did your mom let you keep it?” “Did you name it?”—open the floodgates for a rousing yarn featuring an interloping toddler, a broad comic turn and a dramatic rescue. Hanlon illustrates the episode with childlike scenes done in transparent colors, featuring friendly-looking children with big smiles and widely spaced button eyes. The narrative text is printed in standard type, but the children’s dialogue is rendered in hand-lettered printing within speech balloons. The episode is enhanced with a page of elementary writing tips and the tantalizing titles of his many subsequent stories (“When I Ate Too Much Spaghetti,” “The Scariest Hamster,” “When the Librarian Yelled Really Loud at Me,” etc.) on the back endpapers.

An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some budding young writers off and running. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0761461807

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Amazon Children's Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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