Perfect for STEAM-infused reading and for grasping the value of serendipity.



An introduction to the life and innovations of William Henry Perkin (1838-1907), an English chemist who tried to find a cure for malaria but instead produced “purple for the people.”

Brown and Dunn establish context by showing a cloth maker’s dismay when Queen Victoria demands a crown of purple velvet: The challenge of producing it was one of the reasons the color was reserved for the rich and royals. Phoenicians had extracted the mucus of mollusks while the English soaked fabric in bark and berries, then urine to make it colorfast. Enter Perkin, son of a London carpenter. His professor at the Royal College of Chemistry, searching for an antidote during a malaria epidemic, gave Perkin a formula to attempt synthesizing quinine from coal tar. While the experiment failed, Perkin refined the scientific methodology and documentation and created—in a last-minute do-over—a gorgeous new color. The narrative is brisk, alliterative, and full of well-chosen details. Children will be intrigued at the ingenious and sometimes gross aspects of dye-making. In compositions brimming with pattern, Sanna controls an orderly palette, allowing the new hue to pop. Bright droplets are a design element throughout, framing key words, emanating from Perkin’s attic laboratory, squirting off the page to celebrate his lasting impact. The conclusion and extraordinarily rich author’s note and period visuals emphasize the White Englishman’s contributions to the fashion, medical, and scientific communities.

Perfect for STEAM-infused reading and for grasping the value of serendipity. (bibliography, experiment) (Picture book/biography. 6-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-03284-1

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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A substantive and affirming addition to any collection.


An impressive array of names, events, and concepts from Black history are introduced in this alphabet book for early-elementary readers.

From A for anthem (“a banner of song / that wraps us in hope, lets us know we belong”) to Z for zenith (“the top of that mountain King said we would reach”), this picture book is a journey through episodes, ideas, and personalities that represent a wide range of Black experiences. Some spreads celebrate readers themselves, like B for beautiful (“I’m talking to you!”); others celebrate accomplishments, such as E for explore (Matthew Henson, Mae Jemison), or experiences, like G for the Great Migration. The rhyming verses are light on the tongue, making the reading smooth and soothing. The brightly colored, folk art–style illustrations offer vibrant scenes of historical and contemporary Black life, with common people and famous people represented in turn. Whether reading straight through and poring over each page or flipping about to look at the refreshing scenes full of brown and black faces, readers will feel pride and admiration for the resilience and achievements of Black people and a call to participate in the “unfinished…American tale.” Endnotes clarify terms and figures, and a resource list includes child-friendly books, websites, museums, and poems.

A substantive and affirming addition to any collection. (Informational picture book. 6-11)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5235-0749-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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A galloping marvel—enlightening and entertaining.


A succinct introduction to art history via a Seussian museum of equine art.

This posthumously published text recently discovered in Ted Geisel’s studio uses horse-focused art pieces to provide historical context to artistic movements. Showing art ranging from the Lascaux cave paintings to an untitled 1994 sculpture by Deborah Butterfield, Joyner’s playful illustrations surround the curated photographs of art pieces. By using horses as the departing point in the artistic journey, Seuss and Joyner are able to introduce diverse perspectives, artifacts, and media, including Harnessed Horse from the northern Wei dynasty, a Navajo pictorial blanket titled Oh, My Beautiful Horses, and photographs by Eadweard Muybridge. Questions to readers prompt thought about the artistic concepts introduced, aided by a cast of diverse museumgoers who demonstrate the art terms in action. Joyner further engages readers by illustrating both general cultural and Seussian references. Glimpses of the Cat in the Hat are seen throughout the book; he poses as a silent observer, genially guarding Seuss’ legacy. For art enthusiasts, some illustrations become an inside joke, as references to artists such as Alexander Calder, Salvador Dalí, Marina Abramovic, and René Magritte make appearances. Thorough backmatter contains notes on each art piece referenced along with a study of the manuscript’s history and Seuss’ artistic style. Absent, probably unsurprisingly, is any acknowledgment of the Cat’s antecedents in minstrelsy and Seuss’ other racist work, but prominent among the museumgoers are black- and Asian-presenting characters as well as a girl wearing hijab and a child who uses a wheelchair.

A galloping marvel—enlightening and entertaining. (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-55912-9

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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