Less mesmerizing than Wilder’s prose but similar in its simple sentences that convey big ideas.

READ REVIEW

LITTLE AUTHOR IN THE BIG WOODS

A BIOGRAPHY OF LAURA INGALLS WILDER

This condensation of the long, peripatetic life of Laura Ingalls Wilder will intrigue fans of the Little House series.

After scant pages of prologue and the early life of Wilder’s mother, the text begins a straightforward chronology with a mind-numbing parade of temporary homes, hardships and triumphs, and many, many descriptions of building construction. (No wonder Ma always seemed so tired.) Those who have read the Little House series will recognize names, places and incidents that went straight from Wilder’s memory into her novels—more so than most works of fiction, as the text notes. (Readers will eventually learn the reason: Wilder initially expected to publish an autobiography for adults). Quotes from Wilder are interspersed with facts about her life, and a few facts are noted as different from her fiction. Ironically, the text sometimes reads like a lifeless summary of episodes that sparkle in the novels. However, there is a noteworthy emphasis on literacy—especially for girls—and on the values of three generations of “strong, smart women.” Also, the biography extends Wilder’s life far beyond the chronological boundaries of her books and into her writing career, relationship with daughter Rose and final years. The illustrations are lovely pencil drawings that pay homage to Garth Williams’ work while maintaining originality.

Less mesmerizing than Wilder’s prose but similar in its simple sentences that convey big ideas. (author’s note, epilogue, craft project, recipes, list of books by Wilder, glossary, further reading) (Biography. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9542-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for...

TWO MEN AND A CAR

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, AL CAPONE, AND A CADILLAC V-8

A custom-built, bulletproof limo links two historical figures who were pre-eminent in more or less different spheres.

Garland admits that a claim that FDR was driven to Congress to deliver his “Day of Infamy” speech in a car that once belonged to Capone rests on shaky evidence. He nonetheless uses the anecdote as a launchpad for twin portraits of contemporaries who occupy unique niches in this country’s history but had little in common. Both were smart, ambitious New Yorkers and were young when their fathers died, but they definitely “headed in opposite directions.” As he fills his biographical sketches with standard-issue facts and has disappointingly little to say about the car itself (which was commissioned by Capone in 1928 and still survives), this outing seems largely intended to be a vehicle for the dark, heavy illustrations. These are done in muted hues with densely scratched surfaces and angled so that the two men, the period backgrounds against which they are posed, and the car have monumental looks. It’s a reach to bill this, as the author does, a “story about America,” but it does at least offer a study in contrasts featuring two of America’s most renowned citizens. Most of the human figures are white in the art, but some group scenes include a few with darker skin.

The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for thought. (timeline, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-88448-620-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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A detail-rich picture book best for readers who enjoy nonfiction and are interested in history or science.

COUNTING THE STARS

THE STORY OF KATHERINE JOHNSON, NASA MATHEMATICIAN

This biography of renowned mathematician Katherine Johnson featuring illustrations by Colón aims for elementary-age readers.

Cline-Ransome (Finding Langston, 2018, etc.) traces Johnson’s love of math, curiosity about the world, and studiousness from her early entry to school through her help sending a man into space as a human computer at NASA. The text is detailed and lengthy, between one and four paragraphs of fairly small text on each spread. Many biographies of black achievers during segregation focus on society’s limits and the subject’s determination to reach beyond them. This book takes a subtler approach, mentioning segregation only once (at her new work assignment, “she ignored the stares and the COLORED GIRLS signs on the bathroom door and the segregated cafeteria”) and the glass ceiling for women twice in a factual tone as potential obstacles that did not stop Johnson. Her work is described in the context of the space race, which helps to clarify the importance of her role. Colón’s signature soft, textured illustrations evoke the time period and Johnson’s feeling of wonder about the world, expressed in the refrain, “Why? What? How?” The text moves slowly and demands a fairly high comprehension level (e.g., “it was the job of these women computers to double-check the engineers’ data, develop complex equations, and analyze the numbers”). An author’s note repeats much of the text, adding quotes from Johnson and more details about her more recent recognition.

A detail-rich picture book best for readers who enjoy nonfiction and are interested in history or science. (Picture book/biography. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0475-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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