Visually busy and humming with ego, but Muniz’s art is splendid.



Kids see how one artist creates with unorthodox media.

Narrating in first person, acclaimed artist Muniz, a white Brazilian-American, showcases his techniques, unconventional materials, and finished work. Some is original imagery: a cotton sculpture resembling a cloud. Much is fascinating homage: an eye-popping re-creation, in chocolate syrup, of Hans Namuth’s photograph of Jackson Pollock at work; a tender re-creation, in confetti, of Paul Cézanne’s Still Life with Apples; a spiky re-creation, in toy soldiers, of a photo of a 14-year-old Civil War soldier. Liftable flaps playfully reveal the classic artwork he’s re-creating or Muniz’s own piece in a second scale. The original art Muniz re-creates often gets short shrift visually. Instead, bromidic assertions and a surfeit of autobiography congest the pages in large speech bubbles. Humility is in short supply. Muniz’s Double Mona Lisa, one peanut butter, one jelly, is truly fabulous, but, shadily, only the footnote and backmatter—not the primary text—credit Andy Warhol with having done a Double Mona Lisa first. The text portrays Muniz as a slight savior figure to black and brown people; he sounds content to use their lives for career fodder, as when he renders portraits of black Saint Kitts children in sugar to contrast them with their “very bitter” parents who work on sugarcane plantations.

Visually busy and humming with ego, but Muniz’s art is splendid. (timeline, resources, glossary, list of illustrations, index) (Nonfiction. 6-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2575-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A lovely encouragement to young writers to persist.


This follow-up to How To Read a Story (2005) shows a child going through the steps of creating a story, from choosing an idea through sharing with friends.

A young black child lies in a grassy field writing in a journal, working on “Step 1 / Search for an Idea— / a shiny one.” During a walk to the library, various ideas float in colorful thought bubbles, with exclamation points: “playing soccer! / dogs!” Inside the library, less-distinct ideas, expressed as shapes and pictures, with question marks, float about as the writer collects ideas to choose from. The young writer must then choose a setting, a main character, and a problem for that protagonist. Plotting, writing with detail, and revising are described in child-friendly terms and shown visually, in the form of lists and notes on faux pieces of paper. Finally, the writer sits in the same field, in a new season, sharing the story with friends. The illustrations feature the child’s writing and drawing as well as images of imagined events from the book in progress bursting off the page. The child’s main character is an adventurous mermaid who looks just like the child, complete with afro-puff pigtails, representing an affirming message about writing oneself into the world. The child’s family, depicted as black, moves in the background of the setting, which is also populated by a multiracial cast.

A lovely encouragement to young writers to persist. (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-5666-8

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Energetic enough to carry younger rocketeers off the launch pad if not into a very high orbit.


From the Professor Astro Cat series

The bubble-helmeted feline explains what rockets do and the role they have played in sending people (and animals) into space.

Addressing a somewhat younger audience than in previous outings (Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space, 2013, etc.), Astro Cat dispenses with all but a light shower of “factoroids” to describe how rockets work. A highly selective “History of Space Travel” follows—beginning with a crew of fruit flies sent aloft in 1947, later the dog Laika (her dismal fate left unmentioned), and the human Yuri Gagarin. Then it’s on to Apollo 11 in 1969; the space shuttles Discovery, Columbia, and Challenger (the fates of the latter two likewise elided); the promise of NASA’s next-gen Orion and the Space Launch System; and finally vague closing references to other rockets in the works for local tourism and, eventually, interstellar travel. In the illustrations the spacesuited professor, joined by a mouse and cat in similar dress, do little except float in space and point at things. Still, the art has a stylish retro look, and portraits of Sally Ride and Guion Bluford diversify an otherwise all-white, all-male astronaut corps posing heroically or riding blocky, geometric spacecraft across starry reaches.

Energetic enough to carry younger rocketeers off the launch pad if not into a very high orbit. (glossary) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-911171-55-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flying Eye Books

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet