Roth persuasively argues that “all artists…seek praise,” and this ambitious hybrid demands to be seen.

READ REVIEW

BIRDS OF A FEATHER

BOWERBIRDS AND ME

Meet fellow artists Roth and her avian counterpart, the bowerbird.

Blending memoir and nonfiction with deep ruminations on what constitutes an artist, Roth presents parallels between her life as an illustrator and the life of an Australian bowerbird. The bowerbird uses both colorful natural materials and “manufactured junk” to elaborately decorate a bower to entice a mate, which Roth presents as a kind of bird “artist’s studio.” It’s heady stuff, and those looking for straight nonfiction should look elsewhere, as most of the factual information on bowerbirds appears in the backmatter. Those willing to follow the metaphor will marvel at the similarities between the two as Roth deftly depicts the bird creating his bower while she metafictively creates this book. Bold, decisively cut collages capture the artists at work, highlighting their shared tools, their uses of artistic principles like space and color, and their equal penchant for collecting “unusual objects of manageable size.” Bird and human are further connected by the black bird’s lush feathers and the white woman’s feathery gray hair. Occasionally, the profusion of stuff feels dizzying, and sometimes comparisons feel lofty—“We each try hard to give our delicate compositions some solidity”—but introspective readers will be satisfied by the reflective nature of the text and the behind-the-scenes look at dual artistic processes.

Roth persuasively argues that “all artists…seek praise,” and this ambitious hybrid demands to be seen. (bibliography) (Picture book/memoir. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4282-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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A sanitized version of a too-short life.

I AM ANNE FRANK

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

A bobblehead avatar of the teenage writer and symbol of the Holocaust presents her life as an inspiration.

From a big-eared babyhood and a childhood spent “writing stories” to fleeing Germany for Amsterdam, Anne’s pre-Annex life is sketched. Narrating in the first person, the cartoon Anne explains that Nazis “didn’t like those of us who were Jewish or other groups who were different from them.” Hitler is presented as a leader “who blamed the Jews for all of Germany’s problems, even though we hadn’t done anything wrong.” Then in short order Anne receives her diary as a birthday present, the family goes into hiding, and Anne finds solace in the attic looking at the chestnut tree and writing. Effectively, Annex scenes are squeezed between broad black borders. Illustrations present four snippets of quotes from her diary, including “I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.” Narrator Anne says, “You can always find light in the darkest places. That’s what hope is,” as she clutches the diary with Shabbat candles on one side and a menorah burning brightly on the other. In the next double-page spread, an international array of modern-day visitors standing outside the Anne Frank House briefly, in speech bubbles, wraps up the story of the Holocaust, the diary, the Annex, and the chestnut tree. Anne’s wretched death in a concentration camp is mentioned only in a concluding timeline. I Am Benjamin Franklin publishes simultaneously. (This book was reviewed digitally with 7.5-by-15-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

A sanitized version of a too-short life. (photos, sources, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-55594-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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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 Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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