Aspects of visual discontinuity detract from this otherwise sensitive treatment of a celebrated guitarist’s early...



This affectionate portrait of guitar great Arthel “Doc” Watson focuses on his formative musical influences during his Appalachian childhood.

Gourley’s lyrical prose incorporates occasional diction derived from the setting. “Yonder, where blue mountains meet the sky, Arthel Watson was born into a world of music.” Arthel listens intently—to farm animals, a distant train, peeping frogs and more. He has “ears like a cat.” A page turn reveals an inky-black double-page spread and one stark, speculative sentence: “Maybe it was because he was blind.” Arthel’s “heart full of melody” can’t be contained. He drums on pots and strums a steel wire strung to the sliding barn door. His Pappy gives him a harmonica, makes him a banjo and buys his first guitar, from which Arthel’s inseparable. Arthel learns farm chores, practicing guitar in between. “He reckoned if he could work like everyone else, he could play music like the folks he heard on the records and the radio.” The narrative ends with a beginning and an image of a taller Arthel, guitar in hand. Gourley’s watercolors, while often lovely, depict Arthel unevenly, with some spreads appearing less finished than others. For example, the boy’s strawberry-blond hair is, at turns, textured with light pencil strokes, heavily crayoned or left untouched.

Aspects of visual discontinuity detract from this otherwise sensitive treatment of a celebrated guitarist’s early inspirations. (biographical note, bibliography, list of websites) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-12988-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization.


If Pluto can’t be a planet—then what is he?

Having been a regular planet for “the better part of forever,” Pluto is understandably knocked out of orbit by his sudden exclusion. With Charon and his four other moons in tow he sets off in search of a new identity. Unfortunately, that only spins him into further gloom, as he doesn’t have a tail like his friend Halley’s comet, is too big to join Ida and the other asteroids, and feels disinclined to try to crash into Earth like meteoroids Gem and Persi. Then, just as he’s about to plunge into a black hole of despair, an encounter with a whole quartet of kindred spheroids led by Eris rocks his world…and a follow-up surprise party thrown by an apologetic Saturn (“Dwarf planet has a nice RING to it”) and the other seven former colleagues literally puts him “over the moon.” Demmer gives all the heavenly bodies big eyes (some, including the feminine Saturn, with long lashes) and, on occasion, short arms along with distinctive identifying colors or markings. Dressing the troublemaking meteoroids in do-rags and sunglasses sounds an off note. Without mentioning that the reclassification is still controversial, Wade closes with a (somewhat) straighter account of Pluto’s current official status and the reasons for it.

Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68446-004-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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Sage, soothing ideas for a busy, loud, sometimes-divisive world.


In an inviting picture book, Chelsea and Hillary Clinton share personal revelations on how gardening with a grandmother, a mother, and children shapes and nurtures a love and respect for nature, beauty, and a general philosophy for life.

Grandma Dorothy, the former senator, secretary of state, and presidential candidate’s mother, loved gardens, appreciating the multiple benefits they yielded for herself and her family. The Clinton women reminisce about their beloved forebear and all she taught them in a color-coded, alternating text, blue for Chelsea and green for Hillary. Via brief yet explicit remembrances, they share what they learned, observed, and most of all enjoyed in gardens with her. Each double-page spread culminates in a declarative statement set in italicized red text invoking Dorothy’s wise words. Gardens can be many things: places for celebration, discovery and learning, vehicles for teaching responsibility in creating beauty, home to wildlife large and small, a place to share stories and develop memories. Though operating from very personal experience rooted in class privilege, the mother-daughter duo mostly succeeds in imparting a universally significant message: Whether visiting a public garden or working in the backyard, generations can cultivate a lasting bond. Lemniscates uses an appropriately floral palette to evoke the gardens explored by these three white women. A Spanish edition, Los jardines de la abuela, publishes simultaneously; Teresa Mlawer’s translation is fluid and pleasing, in at least one case improving on the original.

Sage, soothing ideas for a busy, loud, sometimes-divisive world. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11535-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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