Enjoy this book with every child you know; let Mary Walker become a household name.

READ REVIEW

THE OLDEST STUDENT

HOW MARY WALKER LEARNED TO READ

Mary Walker, who learned to read at the age of 116, is introduced to young readers in this lovingly illustrated picture book.

Born into slavery in Alabama, Mary Walker was not allowed to learn to read. When the Emancipation Proclamation outlawed slavery, she was 15. She was later gifted a Bible, which she couldn’t read, but she kept it and made marks in it when her children were born. She worked hard and took care of her family and kept postponing her goal of learning to read. But she outlived her family, including a son who died at the age of 94. In 1963, she enrolled in a literacy program. “Could someone her age learn to read? She didn’t know, but by God, she was going to try.” By 1969 she had learned to read, been certified the nation’s oldest student (twice), received the key to the city of Chattanooga, and had her birthday celebrated by the city to recognize her achievement. While the author’s note mentions that some of the details that round out the text are invented, the most amazing facts of this story are the ones that are documented. Mary Walker was a living connection to a history people wanted to forget, and her indomitable spirit comes across beautifully in this book. Caldecott honoree Mora’s (Thank You, Omu!, 2018) collages endear Walker to readers, each spread creating an intriguing scene of textures and layers.

Enjoy this book with every child you know; let Mary Walker become a household name. (selected bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6828-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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It’s a bit sketchy of historical detail, but it’s coherent, inspirational, and engaging without indulging in rapturous...

ROSA PARKS

From the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

A first introduction to the iconic civil rights activist.

“She was very little and very brave, and she always tried to do what was right.” Without many names or any dates, Kaiser traces Parks’ life and career from childhood to later fights for “fair schools, jobs, and houses for black people” as well as “voting rights, women’s rights and the rights of people in prison.” Though her refusal to change seats and the ensuing bus boycott are misleadingly presented as spontaneous acts of protest, young readers will come away with a clear picture of her worth as a role model. Though recognizable thanks to the large wire-rimmed glasses Parks sports from the outset as she marches confidently through Antelo’s stylized illustrations, she looks childlike throughout (as characteristic of this series), and her skin is unrealistically darkened to match the most common shade visible on other African-American figures. In her co-published Emmeline Pankhurst (illustrated by Ana Sanfelippo), Kaiser likewise simplistically implies that Great Britain led the way in granting universal women’s suffrage but highlights her subject’s courageous quest for justice, and Isabel Sánchez Vegara caps her profile of Audrey Hepburn (illustrated by Amaia Arrazola) with the moot but laudable claim that “helping people across the globe” (all of whom in the pictures are dark-skinned children) made Hepburn “happier than acting or dancing ever had.” All three titles end with photographs and timelines over more-detailed recaps plus at least one lead to further information.

It’s a bit sketchy of historical detail, but it’s coherent, inspirational, and engaging without indulging in rapturous flights of hyperbole. (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-78603-018-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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