What It Is: A picture book biography of Hillary Rodham Clinton
What It’s About: Ostensibly a picture book biography of Hillary Rodham Clinton, this book is championing all the noteworthy things Hillary’s accomplished as a girl/woman. Attention is given to Hillary’s childhood, adolescence, college, and professional life.
What Works: The illustrations are *amazing.* Pham did serious research and peoples the backgrounds with key historical figures. Reading the illustration notes at the end is an education in itself! The illustrations, saturated in bold colors, pop and dance off the page. Hillary is a bright spot of red on nearly every page, regardless of her age. The primary colors are prominent throughout, a nice artistic choice to show Hillary’s patriotism (and an interesting change from many of Hillary’s public appearances where she is notably NOT in red or blue).
What Doesn’t Work: The text! There are folks who are wild over this book, but this is propaganda, folks. I think this book will turn away all non-Hillary lovers (particularly Republicans) and win wild acclaim from many Democrats. That might be part of the author’s intent, but it’s not a solid choice for a picture book biography that should present a more balanced view of its subject.
What I Think: This book is worth tracking down as a lesson in phenomenal illustration. That is definitely its strong suit.
What I Recommend: Regardless of your politics, this is an interesting book to examine in terms of propaganda. For younger children, it’s an okay introduction to Hillary herself as it’s young child friendly (short text and vibrant illustrations). But please pare it with a more balanced view. It would be a fine choice for a school or public library to have on hand....more
I was delighted with how approachable this book still is for today's audiences. Published in 1941, this book is more than 70 years old--how would itsI was delighted with how approachable this book still is for today's audiences. Published in 1941, this book is more than 70 years old--how would its treatment of Native Americans, for one, translate to today's sensibilities and politically correct emphasis? Quite well. This is a wonderful novel based on the true story of a young girl taken captive by Indians the day before her family was killed by the same group of Indians; after two years in captivity with the Seneca Indians, Molly Jemison, aka Corn Tassel, chose to stay with them. She'd learned much from her Indian family, had grown to love them, and realized that she could indeed make a life as a white girl amongst an Indian tribe. They accepted her as their own, even though she'd been technically a captive. The Seneca Indians are shown to be a hard-working, beauty-loving, stern-yet-loving people. I read this from a netgalley ARC from Open Road Media--I believe they're reissuing the book as an e-book. It had a nicely done short biography of Lenski complete with some author photos. All of Lenski's original illustrations are also in the e-book format. I've labeled it historical fiction partly because I think it would be shelved with fiction in a traditional library; it's really closer to a biography covering 2 years of Mary/Molly Jemison's extraordinary life....more
Rather than looking at school segregation through the lens of Brown v. Board of Education, Goodman takes readers back 100First reviewed on Literaritea
Rather than looking at school segregation through the lens of Brown v. Board of Education, Goodman takes readers back 100 years to the 1840s when a young African American Bostonian named Sarah bravely went to an all-white school. When Sarah was kicked out, her parents hired one of the first African American lawyers to plead their case. He ended up working closely with a white lawyer, and the two together presented Sarah’s case to a packed courtroom. They lost.
Goodman walks readers through this “first step” for school integration, ending with Brown v. Board of Education to give readers some context. Goodman’s tone throughout is matter of fact and clear. She lets the story speak for itself with rare intrusion.
Lewis’s illustrations are stunning. Composition, perspective, palette–it’s all used to wonderful effect. The title page shows Sarah in a blue dress set against a sepia city backdrop. Our eyes are focused on her, and we want to turn the page to see what she’s walking into. She’s all but eclipsed in the first courtroom scene, reminding us how young she is. The Brown v. Board of Education scene is particularly moving. Linda Brown in her rosy dress stands in front of a unified group of all-white justices in their black robes, the rosy backdrop echoing her dress. Stark, momentous, and effective.
What helps set this picture book biography above the rest is the end matter. Goodman includes a timeline of integration milestones and events with directions to the young reader to decide for themselves if a given event is a step forward or backward. Her notes on the following pages invite young readers into the research process, give more information to “our heroes” from the story, and offer a nice list of sources and resources (including some other good examples of well-written history!).
Recommended for use in classrooms, libraries, and at home as a terrific example of how to “do” history. It’s also a nice extension of Civil Rights studies and African American history. Recommended for grades 2-6....more
What It’s About: Young Jackie Woodson grows updating thFINALLY read this gem! First reviewed on Literaritea
What It Is: autobiographical novel-in-verse
What It’s About: Young Jackie Woodson grows updating the tumultuous sixties, born in Ohio, living in South Carolina, and ending up in Brooklyn. Quite a range of locales, particularly given the time period for a young African American! Woodson eloquently recounts her different experiences, her family struggles as her mother leaves her father, and her close relationships with her grandparents. She longs for home, but doesn’t always know where home is.
What Works: The form! This is a stunning example of a novel-in-verse for which the poetry tremendously enhances the storyline. Woodson has such a way with words. Imagery, emotion, action–it’s all here.
What Doesn’t Work: Not much! There’s a reason this book garnered so much praise and so many awards when it first came out.
What I Think/Recommend: This is a fantastic title to use with a number of studies: poetry, Civil Rights, autobiography, African American studies, etc. It would be an excellent read aloud or audio book with the right narrator. Its length might scare some non-readers off, but the poetic form makes for a quick read. I’d recommend it for upper middle grades; there’s some “meat” here that younger readers might not grasp.
Woodson is raised Jehovah’s Witness by her maternal grandmother, and she reflects a good bit on this. She gravitates to the new Islamic faith her uncle acquires from his time in prison (coinciding with the Black Power movement). Helpful to know, depending on the religious affiliation of your family/school!...more
What It’s About: Twelfth century samurai Minamoto Yoshitsune’s turbulent life and the rise of the saFirst reviewed on Literaritea
What It Is: Biography
What It’s About: Twelfth century samurai Minamoto Yoshitsune’s turbulent life and the rise of the samurai culture. Yoshitsune was one of the early samurai to practice a ritual (and gory) suicide in order to avoid being captured by the enemy. But his life up until that point was no less peaceful. On the run from birth, he found refuge first in a monastery and later in wealthy estate before taking on a leadership role in his family. But as his family rose to power, strife between him and his brother, strife between their family and the opposing samurai family, and general instability in Japan meant for a gripping, action-packed, and often violent existence.
What Works: The pacing is excellent in this book–hard to put down! The prose is well done. Words like “probably” and “he might have…” help indicate where the author is making educated guesses based on her research of the time period and culture. Speaking of research…. fully 60 pages are end matter: chapter notes, author’s notes, timelines, glossary, index. This gal has done her homework!
What Doesn’t Work: For a biography, not much. Expertly crafted and researched, this is a terrific example of a biography. But in terms of a biography to “teach” or “inspire” character traits…this might not be the best choice. That’s the subject matter’s fault, though, not the author’s. She attempts to show ways in which Yoshitsune is honorable and treats his comrades with dignity, but a samurai is still a samurai. Violence is the answer.
What I Think/Recommend: If you are studying Medieval Japan with anyone eighth grade or older, this is a fantastic addition. Anyone simply interested in history and/or Japanese culture will also find this a riveting read. But be forewarned: as the back of the book states (accurately), a lot of people die in this book…. and most are NOT from natural causes. The author isn’t overly graphic in her descriptions, by any means. But the samurai solve all their problems with violence and the weapons of the day meant, aside from archery, the battles were up close and personal.
One final note: Yoshitsune’s consort gets good attention (and she was heroic in her own way!), but some families may wish to know this beforehand. There are no graphic scenes; the text merely mentions that the two are not married and, eventually, that she is carrying his child.
Picture book bios are so interesting: this one is about the Great Blondin, a tight-rope walker, who spent his life longing for the next death-defyingPicture book bios are so interesting: this one is about the Great Blondin, a tight-rope walker, who spent his life longing for the next death-defying adventure. When he decided to walk a rope across Niagara, no one believed he could do it. But of course he did--and many times. He even carried a guy on his back! Tavares' illustrations are excellent, even stronger than the text....more
Written by Harry's great-granddaughter, the text feels as though a mother is indeed telling a family story to her young sFirst reviewed on Literaritea
Written by Harry's great-granddaughter, the text feels as though a mother is indeed telling a family story to her young son. The transition between Harry's relationship with Winnie and Christopher Robin's friendship with her is pitch perfect. Blackall outdoes herself in this book: the art both complements and extends the story. Also combining realism and humor, her artwork somehow finds that perfect balance between "real events/people" and "cuddly bedtime story" that the text conveys. Actual photographs of the real Winnie, the real Harry, and the real Christopher Robin adorn the end papers....more
A solid picture book biography of Booker T. Washington that focus on his childhood and his pursuit of education. Text has a nice rhythm to it--it's noA solid picture book biography of Booker T. Washington that focus on his childhood and his pursuit of education. Text has a nice rhythm to it--it's not verse, but there is some repetition that will help make this a good read aloud/approachable text for younger to middle elementary. Collier's artwork is, as usual, stunning. I love his use of Washington's handwriting in the background of his face on the cover (I'm assuming it's Washington's writing) as well as his use of photographs in the background of one spread with trees (the faces are in the trunks of the trees). Endmatter includes good author's and illustrator's notes as well as a timeline and short bibliography. Endpapers are taken from a primer that Washington probably used when he was learning to read.
This would be stronger with more kid-friendly end matter (such as more resources on Booker T. and related issues that were written for children). Also, the text, while well written, feels distant at times. That may be the combination of the solemn art with the text, but it's hard to really "feel" with young Booker T.
All in all, though, a great picture book biography!!...more
Lynch's illustrations are a wonderful fit for the story he tells of John Howland, the Mayflower, and that harsh first winter for the Pilgrims4.5 stars
Lynch's illustrations are a wonderful fit for the story he tells of John Howland, the Mayflower, and that harsh first winter for the Pilgrims. Much more than a Thanksgiving story, this text-heavy book is a great read about early American history and the Mayflower's voyage. Lynch's text, from the perspective of young Howland himself, doesn't shy away from the Pilgrims' faith, the harshness of their experiences, or the ways in which they may have not dealt well with the Native Americans. Illustrations match the mood of the text expertly; they appear frozen in time, like a painting of the scene might appear. I was pleasantly surprised with this one because I've not felt Lynch's previous books to be this strong (his previous artwork--this is the first book he's written and illustrated).
End matter includes brief author's note and short bibliography--which includes some titles for young readers. This book would have been stronger if the distinction between historical fiction and actual history were made a bit clearer (citations for dialogue and the like).
Recommended for stronger readers, third grade and up. (or average middle grades readers)...more
A powerful example of what a talented author and equally talented illustrator can do with a picture book biography! First person free verse recounts F A powerful example of what a talented author and equally talented illustrator can do with a picture book biography! First person free verse recounts Fannie Lou's story from birth through the end of her life. Subheadings function almost as chapter breaks in the lengthy text. Collage illustrations MAKE the book, though. Holmes does a magnificent job here of evoking the right moods, images, and associations that Weatherford's text alludes to. Note that Hamer is consistently portrayed in sunshiny yellow--and that one her songs is "This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine."
Author's note, bibliography, timeline, source notes--end matter is full of extra information!
Note: for those reading this aloud to a student audience "cold," there is one page that includes a white person shaming Hamer with the "n" word and "bitch." In the context, this provides an excellent place in which to discuss the hatefulness of the phrase used! But be prepared....more
A fantastic angle for this biography: the super-soaker. Kids love to read about things that they connect with. Who hasn't used a super-soaker (or pineA fantastic angle for this biography: the super-soaker. Kids love to read about things that they connect with. Who hasn't used a super-soaker (or pined for one)?! Lonnie Johnson is a likable character to boot, and this picture book biography starts with his childhood and takes the reader up to the present. A great story about someone who just didn't give up, who kept pursuing his dreams, and who kept doing what he was created to do (tinker and invent!). Illustrations are vibrant and enthusiastic, in keeping with the tone of the text. ...more
I'm reviewing a lot of books this summer that start out with "This isn't usually my style...."
And Jimi is the same way: not the type I'm drawn to, buI'm reviewing a lot of books this summer that start out with "This isn't usually my style...."
And Jimi is the same way: not the type I'm drawn to, but I really thought the author/illustrator did a great job with this story. Mixed media/collage, some cut-out drawings, text as part of the illustrations. I like the text itself a lot; "Could someone paint pictures with sound?" What a great line.
Author/illustrator notes plus information and resources on addiction as well as further resources for information about Jimi himself....more
What It Is: A middle grades biography of Buffalo Bill
What It’s About: Buffalo Bill may be the title character of this wilFirst reviewed on Literaritea
What It Is: A middle grades biography of Buffalo Bill
What It’s About: Buffalo Bill may be the title character of this wild ride, but Bleeding Kansas just prior to the Civil War takes center stage. Billy Cody came of age during a particularly turbulent, violent time right on the border of Kansas and Missouri. Pro-slave factions were set out to kill his anti-slave father; that combined with the usual suspects (disease, general economic hardship, pioneer struggles, etc.) meant that young Billy had to grow up in a hurry.
What Works: The narrative is fast-paced and sprinkled with terrific photographs and artwork from the time period. Short chapters end on a suspenseful note, keeping readers hooked. Warren’s end matter is outstanding: copious source notes, a thorough bibliography plus extra resources on supporting characters and the time period, author’s notes on research and information on characters such as Wild Bill Hickok (who makes an appearance).
What Doesn’t Work: Some young readers may pick this up hoping for a more straightforward biography of Buffalo Bill. This is more a book about tensions in Kansas and the country during the mid-1800s (slavery, Native Americans, Mormons, westward expansion) with young Billy Cody as the focal point.
What I Think: A great read all in all. Bill’s mother is clearly religious/Christian, but it’s unclear whether he shares any of that faith. It would be interesting to see that explored further. Regardless, he seemed to treat those with whom he came into contact with dignity, even if they were different from himself.
What I Recommend: Target audience is middle grades (4th-8th), but advanced readers as young as third could get into this story easily and older readers will also enjoy it. A good choice for independent reading for fun, to go along with a study of U.S. History during this time period, to offer a nonfiction “Western” alternative....more
What It Is: Part historical fiction and part picture book biography about Beatrix Potter
What It’s About: Beatrix Potter kFirst reviewed on Literaritea
What It Is: Part historical fiction and part picture book biography about Beatrix Potter
What It’s About: Beatrix Potter kept copious journals as a child, writing them in a secret code. She also loved to draw and paint. Hopkinson takes stories and anecdotes from the journals to recreate a story based on the truth. She changes some facts (such as Potter’s age) to make the story more engaging. Essentially, Potter (a young child in Hopkinson’s version) borrows a guinea pig to paint it. Tragedy strikes, and the guinea pig owner is not happy.
What Works: The format of this book is lovely. Voake’s illustration style, although looser and less precise than Potter’s, is still reminiscent of Potter’s, especially in the palette used. Hopkinson’s text is charming, taking the form of a letter to the reader much like Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit started out. Solid back matter includes a select bibliography, source credits, plus a mini biography of Potter complete with photographs.
What Doesn’t Work: I’m on the fence about the tweaking Hopkinson did with the facts. Making Potter a young girl instead of a 20-something year old woman certainly makes the story of the guinea pig more interesting to children. And I think Hopkinson keeps the spirit of Potter’s childhood intact. And yet, can we call this a biography if it changes significant details?
What I Think: I like it. This is a lovely little picture book to share with children who are enjoy Potter’s own stories. Hopkinson humanizes Potter, and children will enjoy this story even if they don’t know who Beatrix Potter is.
What I Recommend: Share this with the children in your life as a read aloud, especially with ages 3-8. Encourage the older children to look up extra information on Potter. A must buy? Probably not; check with your local library first.
Picture book biographies tackle such interesting subjects! Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea shows how the undersea map weFirst reviewed on Literaritea
Picture book biographies tackle such interesting subjects! Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea shows how the undersea map we take for granted in elementary school these days first came to be.
Marie Tharp, inheriting her map-making father’s love of cartography, wanted to map the ocean’s floor–something that had never been done. Unfortunately, when Tharp was entering the workforce, women weren’t sought after as scientists and some still believed that a woman on board ship was unlucky!
Tharp’s friend Bruce shared the soundings he took, and Tharp worked to place them on a map. Even though Bruce disagreed with Tharp’s hypothesis about the tectonic plates, he helped her persevere through the decades to painstakingly map the Atlantic ocean floor. When her work was complete, her map helped prove the existence of the tectonic plates and their continual activity.
Raúl Colón’s illustrations add a lovely, watery feel to this story told in first person. With one exception, Tharp is depicted looking at her work or off the screen rather than directly at the reader. The reader is therefore drawn to also look at her work rather than directly at her. Burleigh alludes to Tharp’s uphill road against various challenges without making those challenges the driving point of the story. Rather, the reader is fully drawn into Tharp’s passion and story, not into a history or anthropological lesson.
End matter includes a thorough note on “Marie Tharp, Scientist,” a glossary, a bibliography, internet links, and “things to wonder about and do,” ensuring that this is a book that draws the young reader to follow in Marie’s footsteps. Recommended for 2nd-4th grade....more
I really enjoyed Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor, so I was eager to read this earlier work by Burleigh and Colon. II really enjoyed Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor, so I was eager to read this earlier work by Burleigh and Colon. It's not as strong--perhaps partly as a reflection of just what we expect out of nonfiction books for kids a couple of years after this book was first published. The story is engaging enough for science-lovers, and Burleigh does a good job explaining what Leavitt was facing in terms of adversity, what she was looking at in terms of the stars, and what she ended up discovering. However, without the end material, it's not very clear in the story itself exactly what she was really doing or even when she lived. A bit more specificity in the text would have been helpful. Colon's art is suitable for the text, but I think he's done better work, too (such as in the book mentioned above!). A good biography to accompany a study of astronomy and/or women scientists, but not one I think I'd rush to buy for my personal library....more
What It Is: A picture book biography about Beatrix Potter.
What It’s About: This book focuses primarily on Potter’s youngFirst reviewed on Literaritea
What It Is: A picture book biography about Beatrix Potter.
What It’s About: This book focuses primarily on Potter’s young life. She had a lonely childhood because her brother was away at school (except for the summers), and she had no other siblings. She spent much of her childhood painting, taking care of small animals, and the like.
What Works: Focusing on Potter’s childhood is an easy access point for the target audience of this book. Watercolor illustrations are bright and in keeping with the focus on Potter’s painting.
What Doesn’t Work: The book as a whole feels “okay” rather than remarkable. Lack of end matter and lack of depth to Potter’s story make this feel like a sweet story rather than a robust biography of a famous author.
What I Think: A suitable picture book biography about a beloved author, but not one to rush out and buy.
What I Recommend: This is a solid library checkout. If you’re enjoying Potter’s works with your children (home or classroom), consider checking this out to enjoy alongside. If your children are reading Potter’s stories on their own, then I’d recommend Who Was Beatrix Potter? for a more rounded, fleshed out biography.
What It Is: A picture book biography about Hillary Rodham Clinton
What It’s About: Hillary Clinton! Although Winter beginsFirst reviewed on Literaritea
What It Is: A picture book biography about Hillary Rodham Clinton
What It’s About: Hillary Clinton! Although Winter begins with Hillary’s childhood, the majority of the book is about her life as an adult. Winter emphasizes Hillary’s accomplishments, particularly the ones in which she is the first to do something (either as a woman or the First Lady in particular) or rises to overcome significant obstacles.
What Works: Winter’s text is dispassionate in a good way. I’ve seen accusations of propaganda and that it’s not exciting enough (ironic that those have both come up). However, when you are writing a book about a major Presidential candidate during the campaign season, a more dispassionate tone will bring more bipartisan readership. Additionally, Winter humanizes Hillary a bit more than similar books, showing her real life obstacles (fatigue, balancing work/family, etc.). Colon’s art is a bit static–the snapshot effect in a sense that captures an event frozen in time. It’s a good accompaniment to the tone of Winter’s text.
What Doesn’t Work: The opening sequence lauding Queen Elizabeth, Joan of Arc, Rosie the Riveter and then… Hillary… feels a bit disjointed and smacks of hagiography (although Hillary isn’t presented as a saint, per se). Additionally, given that this book has just been published and some of Hillary’s less saintly actions have been in the public eye for some time (ahem, the issue of her email comes to mind), a bit more nuance in the text would have been helpful. Additionally, there is scant end matter: no bibliography, no documentation. (There is an author’s note.)
What I Think: Of the three Hillary picture book bios I’ve read, I like this one the best for its dispassionate tone. It’s a good starting point to learn more about this remarkable woman, whether or not you agree with her politics.
What I Recommend: Use this book with older elementary students to discuss presidential candidates and history, the growth in women’s rights, and to learn more about this particular presidential candidate in particular. Challenge your students to find out information about Hillary that is not in this biography that might offer a bit more balance to the picture....more
The Warm-Up: A well written, well researched account of the Jubilee Singers using the experience of Ella Sheppard as theFirst reviewed on Literaritea
The Warm-Up: A well written, well researched account of the Jubilee Singers using the experience of Ella Sheppard as the focal point. The Jubilee Singers were the former slaves who were the first students at Fisk University.
The Melody: Lowinger gives a fairly thorough account of Sheppard’s life as a whole. The main thrust of the book, though, is the rise and success of the Jubilee Singers. Lowinger doesn’t mince words about the racism and prejudice these brave young people faced, nor does she hide the brutality towards and injustice of the slaves in the U.S. prior to, during, and after the Civil War. The South wasn’t the only bastion of hate and bigotry, and the Civil War didn’t immediately solve all the problems. Lowinger also offers information on various Jubilee Singers and those that helped the Singers. A biography of Ella Sheppard, yes, but this is also a terrific social history of the U.S. during the mid-1800s that is more than a slave narrative, a cry for abolitionist causes, or an account of the differences between the South or the North.
The Applause: Well done, Ms. Lowinger! More emotional connection with Shepherd and her fellow singers might have been too much for middle school and high school readers, but she offers sophisticated writing, well researched information, lyric to old spirituals, and plenty of maps, photographs, and other memorabilia reproductions to interest any reader age 10 and up. Lowinger also alludes to the Christian faith of Shepherd and some of the others without making this a main focus. Those who don’t share Shepherd’s faith will not be offended, but those of us who do very much appreciate this aspect!
Note for concerned parents: there is some heavy content in this book, as is fitting with the subject material. One historical image (not a photograph) shows a mob beating a black man to death. Scenes like this, references at the beginning to male masters taking their female slaves to bed, and the like make this a book better suited for upper middle grades and up if you are dealing with sensitive young readers.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes....more
I wish I could give 3.5 stars here. It would be hard not to write an interesting biography of such a fascinating woman as Abigail Adams. I appreciateI wish I could give 3.5 stars here. It would be hard not to write an interesting biography of such a fascinating woman as Abigail Adams. I appreciate the way this book highlighted her Christian faith and managed to cover her life in a relatively short book.
However, I always get a little concerned when we try to write a historical figure's "autobiography"--that is, to write the biography in first person. After all, it's a little too easy to impose our 20th-21st century sensibilities onto that person in the distant past. And, we don't "know" what someone like AA said to her family and friends--much less thought. AA is probably easier than most to write in first person, though, since she left behind such a volume of letters from which we can construct a fairly accurate picture of her. Witter includes a lengthy biography, so I can only assume she did the research that bibliography implies.
The other quibble I have is with the text/style: it's choppy in places and doesn't always "flow." This is probably in part because of the desired book length; when you begin the story at Abigail's 5th birthday and continue it on until she and John move back "home" after his presidency, you have a LOT of ground to cover.
I think it's certainly worth reading--especially for older elementary and middle school girls--but it's not a perfect book. ...more
I remember reading the story of Helen Keller when I was a kid and being completely caught up in it--I tried to learn Braille and I taught myself fingeI remember reading the story of Helen Keller when I was a kid and being completely caught up in it--I tried to learn Braille and I taught myself finger spelling.... fast forward to now. I read this lovely picture book biography to my children today and my daughter was writing Braille the rest of the day (ok, I realize it's not real Braille since it's not raised and all, but still...).
This is a wonderful introduction to Helen Keller and her teacher Annie Sullivan. The front endpapers show the pivotal scene when Helen is at the well and realizes that Annie's fingers are spelling water. The back endpapers show the finger spelling alphabet. On the cover at the top is the title of the book in Braille. Throughout the book, in addition to narrating Helen's life, Rappaport includes text from Helen herself.
My only complaint--the main thing keeping this book from 5*--is that Helen's eyes are nearly always shown closed. I realize that children need to realize she can't see, but many blind people do not keep their eyes closed. They simply don't focus in the precise direction a seeing person might. In addition, while I enjoy Tavares's art, I often find his faces a touch off.
Good author's note, timeline of events in HK's life, and further resources.
All in all, though, this book is gorgeous and well worth reading. It's well suited for elementary grades in general....more
As I mentioned in my review of a Dominique Dawes biography, one of the Olympic sports I really enjoy watching is the swimming. Cullen Jones is just thAs I mentioned in my review of a Dominique Dawes biography, one of the Olympic sports I really enjoy watching is the swimming. Cullen Jones is just that: an Olympic swimmer. In fact, he's on the 2012 U.S.A. Olympic team for the upcoming London Olympics! You might consider this, then, a partial biography of Cullen Jones since his career is very much in progress.
I like what Zondervan seems to be doing in these middle grade biographies: profiling famous people who claim that their faith is important to them. If Jones' and Dawes' biographies are any indication, they are fairly well researched, easy to read, full of extra information on the sport (or career) in question--including nice bibliographies, and seem to cover a wide variety of interests (sports, politics, etc.). Jones, like Dawes, is now involved in reaching out to communities, trying to encourage kids to be more active physically. He is trying to use his gifts for good. He had a unique start to his swimming career (a near drowning at a water park at age 5), but once he got started swimming, he kept it up.
What I am less pleased about in these biographies is the generic quality of the faith of the person in question. There are occasional references to how much the person's "faith" means to them, and in both Dawes' and Jones' backgrounds, there was frequent church attendance, perhaps mention of a conversion experience, and parents who seemed to place a priority on going to church. But there was no mention of Christ nor much text devoted to object of the person's faith.
All in all, this Cullen Jones biography will be an interesting read for those kids interested in swimming (and/or professional athletes), and it will be a "safe" read and a mildly inspiring one. But it will not be terribly inspiring in terms of Christian faith.
This picture book biography of the famous thesaurus author is another remarkable collaboration by award-winning teamFirst reviewed on Redeemed Reader
This picture book biography of the famous thesaurus author is another remarkable collaboration by award-winning team Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet. It is hard to tell where Bryant’s text ends and Sweet’s collage-style illustrations begin, so perfectly do they complement one another. Bryant tells Roget’s story, walking us alongside him from birth until he published his famous thesaurus near the end of his life. Sweet uses words, lists, and details from the first edition of Roget’s Thesaurus in her illustrations. Back matter includes extensive author’s and illustrator’s notes, a timeline, a bibliography, and a list for further reading. The text does not mention Roget’s spiritual leanings, but he has done a remarkable service to all those who communicate with words in his encouragement to be precise. ...more
Even grown-ups don't "get" much of Einstein's thoughts and experiments, so to write a picture book biography that distills Einstein and his amazing brEven grown-ups don't "get" much of Einstein's thoughts and experiments, so to write a picture book biography that distills Einstein and his amazing brain down into a form that children can appreciate and understand is no small feat. This book is quite well done. The text goes beyond telling us about Einstein (including much of his childhood); it also asks US lots of questions and encourages the reader to keep exploring and questioning and thinking about what's around them...just like Einstein.
Overall, I thought the illustrations were well done. But one spread in particular ruined it for me: the text says that by this point, Albert's hair was quite white. Yet, the illustration still shows him with gray hair. A small point, perhaps, but that bright white hair is rather an Einstein trademark and could have been done well....
Endmatter includes some great further information and the endpages in the back include some nice "favorites" of Einstein's. ...more
Picture book biographies are such great ways to "get to know" someone. e. e. cummings is an interesting fellow, to be sure, and this biography bringsPicture book biographies are such great ways to "get to know" someone. e. e. cummings is an interesting fellow, to be sure, and this biography brings him to life in a way that children will understand. Art is interesting and engaging, often including some of his poetry. There are times when the text feels like it's trying too hard (repetition of "enormous" in the beginning pages, for instance) and the general artistic style reminds me of a book that is a stronger example of this same style/subject matter: A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams. That being said, this is a solid biography and a great introduction to an interesting poet. End matter includes author's note and chronology but limited bibliographic material....more
I didn't realize Harriett Tubman had such a strong Christian faith before I read this book--it's amazing what you can learn from a picture book biograI didn't realize Harriett Tubman had such a strong Christian faith before I read this book--it's amazing what you can learn from a picture book biography!
Kadir Nelson's paintings are stunning (as usual). His use of perspective and light are particularly good.
This portrays Tubman's spiritual journey as much or more than her physical journey. Interesting! Good author's note at the end....more
(Long! First posted on RedeemedReader as an example of a great picture book biography)
I’m a HUGE fan of Melissa Sweet’s artwork. She researches her su(Long! First posted on RedeemedReader as an example of a great picture book biography)
I’m a HUGE fan of Melissa Sweet’s artwork. She researches her subjects meticulously, crafts amazingly detailed works of art for her illustrations, and delivers consistently awesome content. My personal favorite: Balloons Over Broadway. So I’ll try not to wax eloquent here. Do know, though, that this isn’t the first product of this team; they also created A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams which won a Caldecott Honor in 2009.
But to the book! A Splash of Red chronicles the life and art of a man named Horace Pippin who was born in 1888. An artist from a young age, Pippin had to drop out of school to help earn money for his family. During WWI, he suffered a hit to his right arm and thought his drawing career was over. But he couldn’t ignore that artist’s nudge, and he eventually figured out how to support his artistic right hand with his strong left arm. N.C. Wyeth “discovered” Pippin, and soon the world noticed this talented black artist.
What makes this a great picture book biography are the following:
Research: impeccable details in the art, quotations from Pippin himself, detailed author’s and illustrator’s notes, and a historical note fill in any gaps the text may give us (after all, this is only 32 pages long) Well Rounded: Pippin’s story is told without rancor, placing him firmly in a historical context in which he can’t get a job (little education, weakened right arm, black man). Pippin the man is a strong character whose weaknesses aren’t explored, but those weaknesses are beyond the scope of this short book. Documentation: check! Every quotation is cited at the end of the book just in case we doubt the author and illustrator Bibliography/Further Reading: not only is there a list for further reading, but there are some titles just for kids! So often, even in a picture book biography, the extra resources listed are for grown-ups. There are some websites listed–especially helpful since this is a book about an artist and we might want to see the man’s art. Quality Book: Even if we weren’t interested in those more academic qualities, this is a book that stands on its own. It’s well illustrated (more on that in a minute), it’s well written, it’s a good fit for an elementary age group, and the book is designed well.
Finally, we come to the illustrations that set picture books apart. On the publisher’s website, you can take a peak inside this book (which I recommend). Sweet uses collage to showcase elements of Pippin’s art and life, his quotations, and even his artistic supplies. The art supplies look very realistic, and the depictions of Pippin’s own art look quite similar to his actual art. The endpapers also give us new information in illustration form. There is so much to look at in this book!
The text alludes to Pippin’s family’s faith, or at least the Bible stories he heard growing up, but that’s as far as it goes. I believe that any creative gift a human has is a reflection of our Creator, so be sure to point that out when you read books like this!...more
Fritz always has a fun, unifying idea for her biographies; for this one, she presents Columbus as a constant wayfarer, always off on an adventure or dFritz always has a fun, unifying idea for her biographies; for this one, she presents Columbus as a constant wayfarer, always off on an adventure or dreaming of one. Fritz mentions how "lucky" some events in Columbus's early life, but she also highlights how convinced Columbus was that God was leading him to do certain things (or sending him signs confirming his "chosen" status for certain events). Around a 5th grade reading level, its length and the cheerful, humorous, engaging prose makes it accessible to strong, younger readers as well. Margot Tomes' illustrations look dated at first glance, but they are a solid accompaniment. There are too few genuinely interesting and readable biographies for this age group! Look for the others by Fritz (there are quite a few about Revolutionary War era heroes)....more
Wow--this is another part picture book, part graphic novel that takes more than one time through to appreciate. Sis's use of palette--phenomenal. TheWow--this is another part picture book, part graphic novel that takes more than one time through to appreciate. Sis's use of palette--phenomenal. The illustrations alone without the text are worth the read. Sis leaves the reader in no doubt as to his personal experience with Communism, growing up behind the Iron Curtain (in then Czechoslovakia), and the influence American pop culture had on him. A fascinating cultural study any way you look at it. I spent some time in Prague just a couple of years after the Velvet Revolution and then again a few years later--the difference in the city's color and "gray-ness" just in those few short years was remarkable. I found it interesting to see that his drawings reflected that gray-ness (with noted instances of red for Communism)....more
Picture book biographies showcase the most interesting parts of history! I read this book when it came out, and am just now rating/reviewing it, so IPicture book biographies showcase the most interesting parts of history! I read this book when it came out, and am just now rating/reviewing it, so I can't speak to specifics. But it was well done and the colors were perfect for this story!...more