Decidedly irreverent—but never disrespectful—riffs on a musical masterwork and its creator.




How the self-styled “greatest composer ever!” created the Greatest Music Ever Written Ever for a Rich Dude who could not sleep.

Improvising on a historical anecdote that he admits “may not be true,” Angleberger has Bach himself explain how he created what came to be known as the “Goldberg Variations”—named for the beleaguered personal harpsichordist of a grumpy, insomniac Rich Dude unmoved by sonatinas (“Too slow!!!”), minuets (“Too fast!!!”), or toccatas (“Too toccatally!”). So how did Bach do it? “I took some leftover notes and a dance hall tune and an old folk song or something and mashed them all up, and it was the Greatest Music Ever Written Ever,” he trumpets. “Yes, it’s just that easy for me!” The Dude and all his likewise grumpy, sleep-deprived servants and neighbors are delighted, one of the former sighing, “each note falls into just the right spot in my brain.” Some brown faces in the crowd scenes add diversity to the mostly white cast, and Elio’s broad, simply drawn, loudly colored cartoon scenes otherwise provide worthy accompaniment for the high-volume, exclamation-strewn narrative. An appreciative note from the author citing a free, online recording of the work serves up a proper coda, but readers hoping to learn the Rich Dude’s name or more about Bach will have to look elsewhere.

Decidedly irreverent—but never disrespectful—riffs on a musical masterwork and its creator. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3164-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Blandly laudatory.


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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Timely and stirring.



A shoutout to heroes of nonviolent protest, from Sam Adams to the Parkland students.

Kicking off a proud tradition, “Samuel threw a tea party.” In the same vein, “Harriet led the way,” “Susan cast her vote,” “Rosa kept her seat,” “Ruby went to school,” and “Martin had a dream.” But Easton adds both newer and less-prominent names to the familiar roster: “Tommie and John raised their fists” (at the 1968 Summer Olympics, also depicted on the cover), for instance; “John and Yoko stayed in bed”; “Gilbert sewed a rainbow” (for San Francisco’s Gay Freedom Day parade in 1978); “Jazz wore a dress”; and “America [Ferrera] said, ‘Time’s up.’ ” Viewed from low or elevated angles that give them a monumental look, the grave, determined faces of the chosen subjects shine with lapidary dignity in Chen’s painted, close-up portraits. Variations in features and skin tone are rather subtle, but in general both the main lineup and groups of onlookers are visibly diverse. The closing notes are particularly valuable—not only filling in the context and circumstances of each act of protest (and the full names of the protesters), but laying out its personal consequences: Rosa Parks and her husband lost their jobs, as did Ruby Bridges’ first-grade teacher, and Tommie Smith and John Carlos were banned for life from Olympic competition. Pull quotes in both the art and the endnotes add further insight and inspiration.

Timely and stirring. (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-984831-97-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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