Next book



A fundamental mismatch between book and audience.

A picture-book biography introduces mystery writer Agatha Christie to young readers.

Sheaves of papers and pictures of characters and plot elements swirl around the protagonist as she struggles to translate the stories in her head into a publishable manuscript. These scenes of artistic creation follow depictions of the young girl, then woman, in late-Victorian interiors rendered in sunny pastel hues. Visual easter eggs from Christie’s mystery novels appear here and there, but they will likely be lost on young readers who have not yet encountered the legendary author. Likewise, the plot—curious, observant child grows into determined writer—may also prove less than engaging to youngsters. McGrath’s spare, present-tense text emphasizes her subject’s love of stories and curiosity as a child, then her struggles to bring her observations and ideas into a coherent plot. The techniques she uses—taking notes, exploring characters’ voices, tightening and pacing plots—make for solid advice for budding writers but thin gruel for children hoping for a story. A plot requires conflict, and though young Christie suffered the early loss of her father and discouragement from teachers, McGrath is unable or unwilling to lean into these experiences to deepen her characterization. A two-page biographical note written for an older audience than the primary text provides a fuller picture, underscoring the inadequacy of the effort as a whole.

A fundamental mismatch between book and audience. (author’s and illustrator’s notes, glossary) (Picture-book biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: May 28, 2024

ISBN: 9781665917933

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

Next book


Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses.

An NBA star pays tribute to the influence of his grandfather.

In the same vein as his Long Shot (2009), illustrated by Frank Morrison, this latest from Paul prioritizes values and character: “My granddad Papa Chilly had dreams that came true,” he writes, “so maybe if I listen and watch him, / mine will too.” So it is that the wide-eyed Black child in the simply drawn illustrations rises early to get to the playground hoops before anyone else, watches his elder working hard and respecting others, hears him cheering along with the rest of the family from the stands during games, and recalls in a prose afterword that his grandfather wasn’t one to lecture but taught by example. Paul mentions in both the text and the backmatter that Papa Chilly was the first African American to own a service station in North Carolina (his presumed dream) but not that he was killed in a robbery, which has the effect of keeping the overall tone positive and the instructional content one-dimensional. Figures in the pictures are mostly dark-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-81003-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

Next book


A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston...

A memorable, lyrical reverse-chronological walk through the life of an American icon.

In free verse, Cline-Ransome narrates the life of Harriet Tubman, starting and ending with a train ride Tubman takes as an old woman. “But before wrinkles formed / and her eyes failed,” Tubman could walk tirelessly under a starlit sky. Cline-Ransome then describes the array of roles Tubman played throughout her life, including suffragist, abolitionist, Union spy, and conductor on the Underground Railroad. By framing the story around a literal train ride, the Ransomes juxtapose the privilege of traveling by rail against Harriet’s earlier modes of travel, when she repeatedly ran for her life. Racism still abounds, however, for she rides in a segregated train. While the text introduces readers to the details of Tubman’s life, Ransome’s use of watercolor—such a striking departure from his oil illustrations in many of his other picture books—reveals Tubman’s humanity, determination, drive, and hope. Ransome’s lavishly detailed and expansive double-page spreads situate young readers in each time and place as the text takes them further into the past.

A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston Weatherford and Kadir Nelson’s Moses (2006). (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2047-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

Close Quickview