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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THE LORAX

The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves

MAYBE

A young child explores the unlimited potential inherent in all humans.

“Have you ever wondered why you are here?” asks the second-person narration. There is no one like you. Maybe you’re here to make a difference with your uniqueness; maybe you will speak for those who can’t or use your gifts to shine a light into the darkness. The no-frills, unrhymed narrative encourages readers to follow their hearts and tap into their limitless potential to be anything and do anything. The precisely inked and colored artwork plays with perspective from the first double-page spread, in which the child contemplates a mountain (or maybe an iceberg) in their hands. Later, they stand on a ladder to place white spots on tall, red mushrooms. The oversized flora and fauna seem to symbolize the presumptively insurmountable, reinforcing the book’s message that anything is possible. This quiet read, with its sophisticated central question, encourages children to reach for their untapped potential while reminding them it won’t be easy—they will make messes and mistakes—but the magic within can help overcome falls and failures. It’s unlikely that members of the intended audience have begun to wonder about their life’s purpose, but this life-affirming mood piece has honorable intentions. The child, accompanied by an adorable piglet and sporting overalls and a bird-beaked cap made of leaves, presents white.

More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves . (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946873-75-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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