SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI

A LIFE OF JOY

A saint’s biography written by a celebrity author and illustrated by an artist best known for Fairy Wings, one is hard pressed to treat this with respect. Francis of Assisi is so engaging a character—the wealthy merchant’s son who gives up all to serve the poor and bless the beasts of the field. Kennedy treats the story as if it were a legal brief, making sure we don’t miss A Single Point he’s trying to make. Sometimes, though, the facts are unclear: Francis’s mother, named Consuela in this account, is named Pica in the Catholic Encyclopedia and one wonders if a 13th-century Italian would have known British Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. The narrative in any case neither flows nor sings. While Nolan’s pictures have a wonderful texture, whether of cloth, stone or landscape, it looks as though a different model for Francis was used in each panel, and the one of Francis falling from his horse is just laughable. Skip the “Frameable portrait inside” and go with Michael Bedard’s The Wolf of Gubbio (2001) or Guido Visconti’s Clare and Francis (2004). (author’s note, timeline) (Picture book/biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7868-1875-1

Page Count: 31

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2005

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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BEATRIX

VARIOUS EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF BEATRIX POTTER

Winter follows up Emily Dickinson’s Letters to the World (p. 111) with a similarly evocative character portrait, pairing small, formal, closely-framed portraits of Beatrix Potter—at various ages, and usually in the company of small animals, as she so often was—with a first person narrative into which she folds Potter’s own words (set off in italics). The general tone is grave, often melancholy: “No one has time for me. I talk to the birds, who have the time.” Reflecting the loneliness of her childhood, Potter’s face is the only human one to be seen (with a single, late exception), and an occasional slight smile is the only outward sign of her inner pleasure at drawing, photographing, or just being with her many animal friends. Winter traces Potter’s burgeoning interest in observing and recording the natural world, covers the genesis of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and closes with a “happily-ever-after” image of rabbits and fairies dancing in the dooryard of the farm where Potter spent her last decades. “I live so much out of the world,” she ruefully averred, but, just as her works have helped to connect generations of children to the natural one, so will this diminutive keepsake bring her private one into focus. (Picture book/biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 4, 2003

ISBN: 0-374-30655-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

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