An inspirational must-read for budding scientists and those who teach them.

READ REVIEW

OUT OF SCHOOL AND INTO NATURE

THE ANNA COMSTOCK STORY

Slade and Lanan bring the biography of scientist Anna Comstock to young readers.

A true story about an early champion of nature education, this beautifully illustrated watercolor picture book introduces young readers to Anna Botsford Comstock, a white woman born in 1854. At a time when girls were expected to get married, then stick close to home and take care of their families, Anna’s “heart belonged to her first love—nature.” She attended Cornell University to study entomology and also honed her artistic craft in drawing insects. Anna Comstock insisted that New York state integrate nature study into classroom lessons and allow children to experience nature while in school. “People thought she was crazy. Didn’t she know school rules? Students learn inside. Students play outside!” But eventually, Anna’s ideas prevailed, and science and nature remain vital aspects of American education today, in part because of Anna’s early advocacy. The story opens with a barefoot Anna sitting on a fallen log, dipping her toes into the water, and it ends with Anna as an old woman, perched on that same log with her feet and the bottom of her skirt dangling in the water. Quotes from her writing augment the illustrations in a complementary display type. The informative backmatter fills in more details about the life and accomplishments of this naturalist, writer, scholar, and forward-thinking female pioneer.

An inspirational must-read for budding scientists and those who teach them. (notes, bibliography) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-58536-9-867

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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Stirring encouragement for all “little people” with “big dreams.” (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

MAYA ANGELOU

From the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

“There’s nothing I can’t be,” young Maya thinks, and then shows, in this profile for newly independent readers, imported from Spain.

The inspirational message is conveyed through a fine skein of biographical details. It begins with her birth in St. Louis and the prejudice she experienced growing up in a small Arkansas town and closes with her reading of a poem “about her favorite thing: hope” at Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration. In between, it mentions the (unspecified) “attack” by her mother’s boyfriend and subsequent elective muteness she experienced as a child, as well as some of the varied pursuits that preceded her eventual decision to become a writer. Kaiser goes on in a closing spread to recap Angelou’s life and career, with dates, beneath a quartet of portrait photos. Salaberria’s simple illustrations, filled with brown-skinned figures, are more idealized than photorealistic, but, though only in the cover image do they make direct contact with readers’, Angelou’s huge eyes are an effective focal point in each scene. The message is similar in the co-published Amelia Earhart, written by Ma Isabel Sánchez Vegara (and also translated by Pitt), but the pictures are more fanciful as illustrator Mariadiamantes endows the aviator with a mane of incandescent orange hair and sends her flying westward (in contradiction of the text and history) on her final around-the-world flight.

Stirring encouragement for all “little people” with “big dreams.” (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-84780-889-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Though the text works hard to convey it, getting an aesthetic sense of Cassatt’s famous body of work will require another...

MARY CASSATT

EXTRAORDINARY IMPRESSIONIST PAINTER

Starting in childhood, impressionist artist Mary Cassatt carves her own path.

Mary grows up “tall and temperamental,” absolutely set on being an artist despite the 1860s social mores dictating that “proper girls weren’t artists. They had polite hobbies—flower arranging, needlepoint.” She attends art school and goes to Paris, sitting in the Louvre to copy the old masters. Connecting with Edgar Degas gives her a community that supports her independent streak: “We paint as we please. We break the judges’ rules.” Herkert’s bold phrasing—“Mary swept jewel tones across her canvas”—implies artistic zest. However, despite varied media (gouache, watercolor, acrylic, enamel, and tempera), Swiatkowska’s illustrations don’t match the text’s descriptions. A spread of “canary yellow, radiant pink, vibrant blue” shows no yellow at all (tan instead) and pleasant but low-intensity blue and pink. “Brilliant tones” and “lightning bolts of white” are narrated but not shown. Skin tones and backgrounds lean toward gray. Readers sophisticated enough to appreciate sentences like “she rendered cropped angles” will notice how much more is told than shown, including the fact that Cassatt is portrayed actually painting only once. Regrettably, Asian art is labeled “exotic.”

Though the text works hard to convey it, getting an aesthetic sense of Cassatt’s famous body of work will require another source. (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62779-016-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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