An eye-catching tale of music and perseverance.

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ITZHAK

A BOY WHO LOVED THE VIOLIN

Newman recounts the childhood of renowned Israeli American violinist and polio survivor Itzhak Perlman.

In his family’s tiny Tel Aviv apartment, the “graceful classical symphonies” and “lively klezmer folk tunes” pouring from the radio enchanted Itzhak; at 3, he begged for a violin. But at 4, polio left him paralyzed. Though “other four-year-olds might have given up,” a “steady melody played inside Itzhak,” spurring him to relearn everyday tasks. But his legs remained paralyzed, requiring him to walk with forearm crutches and play his violin seated. Undaunted, he made the “extraordinary choice” of being neither sad nor angry; barriers, such as stairs, were “ordinary things Itzhak just had to get used to.” After joining Israeli orchestras at 6 and playing solos at 10, he performed on The Ed Sullivan Show in New York at 13 despite knowing little English. The upbeat text, interspersed with quotes from the adult Perlman, amplifies his resilience and passion. But Halpin’s vibrant illustrations take center stage. Bars of Bach and Mendelssohn adorn the pages, bursts of red, yellow, blue, and green reflecting the musical “rainbow” in Itzhak’s mind; tender facial expressions convey Itzhak’s passion and his family’s love. An author’s note mentions Perlman’s advocacy for people with disabilities (jarringly and anachronistically referred to as “the handicapped” and “wheelchair-bound”); a timeline charts Perlman’s extensive career. Most characters, including Itzhak, present white.

An eye-catching tale of music and perseverance. (illustrator’s note, notes, links, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4110-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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Science at its best: informative and gross.

DO NOT LICK THIS BOOK

Why not? Because “IT’S FULL OF GERMS.”

Of course, Ben-Barak rightly notes, so is everything else—from your socks to the top of Mount Everest. Just to demonstrate, he invites readers to undertake an exploratory adventure (only partly imaginary): First touch a certain seemingly blank spot on the page to pick up a microbe named Min, then in turn touch teeth, shirt, and navel to pick up Rae, Dennis, and Jake. In the process, readers watch crews of other microbes digging cavities (“Hey kid, brush your teeth less”), spreading “lovely filth,” and chowing down on huge rafts of dead skin. For the illustrations, Frost places dialogue balloons and small googly-eyed cartoon blobs of diverse shape and color onto Rundgren’s photographs, taken using a scanning electron microscope, of the fantastically rugged surfaces of seemingly smooth paper, a tooth, textile fibers, and the jumbled crevasses in a belly button. The tour concludes with more formal introductions and profiles for Min and the others: E. coli, Streptococcus, Aspergillus niger, and Corynebacteria. “Where will you take Min tomorrow?” the author asks teasingly. Maybe the nearest bar of soap.

Science at its best: informative and gross. (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-17536-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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