JACKIE ROBINSON

AMERICAN HERO

It’s an often-told story, but the author is still in a position to give it a unique perspective.

The author of Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America (2004) tells her father’s tale again, for younger readers.

Though using a less personal tone this time and referring to herself in the third person, Robinson still devotes as much attention to his family life, youth and post-baseball career as she does to his achievements on the field. Writing in short sentences and simple language, she presents a clear picture of the era’s racial attitudes and the pressures he faced both in the military service and in baseball—offering plenty of clear reasons to regard him not just as a champion athlete, but as a hero too. An early remark about how he ran with “a bunch of black, Japanese, and Mexican boys” while growing up in Pasadena is insensitively phrased, and a sweeping claim that by 1949 “[t]he racial tension was broken” in baseball is simplistic. Nevertheless, by and large her account covers the bases adequately. The many photos include an admixture of family snapshots, and a closing Q-and-A allows the author to announce the imminent release of a new feature film about Robinson.

It’s an often-told story, but the author is still in a position to give it a unique perspective. (Biography. 8-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-54006-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

WALT DISNEY

DRAWN FROM IMAGINATION

A squeaky-clean biography of the original Mouseketeer.

Scollon begins with the (to say the least) arguable claim that Disney grew up to “define and shape what would come to be known as the American Century.” Following this, he retraces Disney’s life and career, characterizing him as a visionary whose only real setbacks came from excess ambition or at the hands of unscrupulous film distributors. Disney’s brother Roy appears repeatedly to switch between roles as encourager and lead doubter, but except in chapters covering his childhood, the rest of his family only puts in occasional cameos. Unsurprisingly, there is no mention of Disney’s post–World War II redbaiting, and his most controversial film, Song of the South, gets only a single reference (and that with a positive slant). More puzzling is the absence of Mary Poppins from the tally of Disney triumphs. Still, readers will come away with a good general picture of the filmmaking and animation techniques that Disney pioneered, as well as a highlight history of his studio, television work and amusement parks. Discussion questions are appended: “What do you think were Walt Disney’s greatest accomplishments and why?” Brown’s illustrations not seen. An iconic success story that has often been told before but rarely so one-dimensionally or with such firm adherence to the company line. (bibliography) (Biography. 8-10)

 

Pub Date: July 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9647-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Disney Press

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

I AM VINCENT VAN GOGH

Apart from the peculiar posthumous narration, a useful addition to the artist-biography shelf.

This Spanish import describes well-known events in van Gogh’s career

Readers first see him as a child and then as an assistant in his uncle’s art dealership, followed by a brief spell as a minister, during which he witnessed and drew mining families living in terrible poverty. Constantly dogged by disapproval and humiliation in the provincial towns, the painter moved to Paris. Here he was exposed to contemporary art movements that were central to the evolution of his distinctive style. His removal to the Arles countryside, the inspiration for many of his most famous works; his complicated friendship with Gauguin; and his eventual descent into madness and suicide are described and illustrated with García’s soft watercolor illustrations and a few reproductions. Sidebars provide background information about art movements, places, and people that influenced van Gogh. The entire book, including the concluding timeline, is in the first person. This is potentially confusing for children who have a limited understanding of chronology. Some of the statements seem particularly jarring owing to this choice of narrative voice. The timeline states: “in a moment of despair, [I] shot myself in the chest. Two days later, I died.” It will be obvious to most readers that he could not be writing when dead, and this adds a layer of absurdity that derails the otherwise factual tone.

Apart from the peculiar posthumous narration, a useful addition to the artist-biography shelf. (list of paintings, websites) (Biography. 8-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59572-770-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Star Bright

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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