Out of context, visually radiant; as an introduction to Kahlo herself, almost irrelevant

VIVA FRIDA

This luminescent homage to Frida Kahlo doesn’t hew to her artwork’s mood but entrances on its own merit.

Adults will recognize Kahlo’s signature eyebrows, but readers of all ages will be caught immediately by the bewitchingly bright colors and detailed photographs. Morales makes her figures from steel, polymer clay and wool, and the illustrations come together with acrylic paint, digital manipulation and O’Meara’s dramatically angled photographs of the scenes. Kahlo has the thin, posable arms and stiff legs of a fashion doll, with earrings, a necklace and flowered dresses. Her vibe is contented curiosity as she and her monkey explore a box and find a skeleton marionette. A second thread shows Kahlo as two-dimensional (possibly doll-Kahlo’s dream?), rescuing a wounded deer; doll-Kahlo then includes the deer in a self-portrait. Vivid textures and high-saturation colors enthrall. However, the text (in English and Spanish) is platitudinous and vague: “I realize… / that… / I feel / And I understand… / that I love / And create / And so… / I live!” It would be impossible (and undesirable) to translate the violence, pain and anger of Kahlo’s work for an audience this young; these illustrations, while including some of her visual motifs, don’t even try. The final spread is downright festive. Morales’ author’s note (also in English and Spanish) provides a brief biographical sketch that makes clear the artist’s profound effect on her.

Out of context, visually radiant; as an introduction to Kahlo herself, almost irrelevant . (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59643-603-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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A memorable life—a forgettable presentation.

I AM JACKIE ROBINSON

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

Baseball’s No. 42 strikes out.

Even as a babe in his mother’s arms, Robinson is depicted wearing his Brooklyn Dodgers baseball cap in this latest entry in the Ordinary People Change the World series. He narrates his childhood alongside cartoon panels that show him as an expert runner and thrower. Racism and poverty are also part of his growing up, along with lessons in sharing and courage. Incredibly, the Negro Leagues are not mentioned beyond a passing reference to “a black team” with a picture of the Kansas City Monarchs next to their team bus (still looking like a child in the illustration, Robinson whines, “Gross! Is this food or goo?”). In 1946, Branch Rickey signs him to play for the Dodgers’ farm team, and the rest, as they say, is history. Robinson concludes his story with an exhortation to readers to be brave, strong and use their “power to do what’s right. / Use that power for a cause that you believe in.” Meltzer writes his inspirational biography as a first-person narrative, which risks being construed and used as an autobiography—which it is not. The digitally rendered cartoon illustrations that show Robinson as a perpetual child fall sadly short of capturing his demeanor and prowess.

A memorable life—a forgettable presentation. (photographs, timeline, sources, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8037-4086-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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Another pointless entry in a series intended to inspire more than inform.

I AM ALBERT EINSTEIN

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

The brilliant 20th-century scientist exhorts readers to keep asking questions.

Meltzer presents Einstein from birth through childhood and adulthood as one who always thought carefully before speaking and loved his head of hair. Apparently, one of the white-haired, mustachioed tot’s first sentences was: “My hair is so AWESOME!” As a young boy, he decides to figure out “Why did the universe behave the way it did?” From there, it is a fast trip to playing the violin, studying math and the famous equation E=mc2, which is not well-explained in the text. Of far greater importance is the exhortation that readers should value curiosity, difference and learning—all of which could lead to inspiration. There is no backmatter and no sourcing for a concluding quotation, but two pages of photographs are credited. The author provides no additional biographical information about Einstein’s incredibly multifaceted life. Eliopoulos’ digitally rendered cartoon illustrations are caricature more than representation. As in previous titles in the series, Einstein has a large, round head; his is adorned with the scientist’s signature mop of white hair and full mustache from birth. It is an oxymoron to include his life in a series about “ordinary people.”

Another pointless entry in a series intended to inspire more than inform. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8037-4084-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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