As disingenuous a profile as ever was.

THE EFFICIENT, INVENTIVE (OFTEN ANNOYING) MELVIL DEWEY

A panegyric for modern library science’s most renowned and despicable founder.

Leaving all reference to Dewey’s long history of sexual harassment and open racism and anti-Semitism confined to two sentences in the small-type afterword, O’Neill presents him as a man on a mission—obsessed with efficiency, determined “to make the biggest difference in the world in the least amount of time,” and fired up with the notion that success for this country’s immigrants hinged on free public libraries that were professionally staffed (by women, because they were capable but, wink wink, cheaper than men) and filled with materials that could actually be found. In a staccato narrative replete with boldface words in ALL-CAPS and exclamation points (“Hardworking! Determined! Visionary!” “Controlling! Demanding! Manipulative!”), the author tallies many of his achievements, from the Dewey Decimal System (given only quick mention here) and the first library school to professional associations and specialized library furniture. She also tacks on a complimentary quote from him about women…as if that would somehow make his behavior excusable. Fotheringham captures his manic sense of purpose by twice depicting a locomotive smashing through books and points to his actions’ common result by surrounding Dewey elsewhere with much smaller, uniformly White colleagues and contemporaries looking, mostly, bemused or outright peeved. “A pretty good legacy,” the author concludes, “don’t you think?” “Checkered” might be a better description. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 75% of actual size.)

As disingenuous a profile as ever was. (timeline, source list, photos) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68437-198-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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A dazzling picture book cut through with the thread and thrum of an inspiring but unsung life.

STITCH BY STITCH

ELIZABETH HOBBS KECKLY SEWS HER WAY TO FREEDOM

Schofield-Morrison fashions a poignant tribute to the remarkable life and craft of Elizabeth “Lizzy” Hobbs Keckly, a formerly enslaved woman who broke the color line in haute couture.

In straightforward prose seamlessly woven through with excerpts from Keckly’s 1868 autobiography, the text traces Keckly’s unlikely journey from a slave plantation to the White House. Born enslaved in Virginia in 1818, she survived a childhood of unutterable cruelty but set her mind to learning the craft of sewing from her mother. Sent by her master to work for a White tailor without pay, Keckly endured further hardships, but her talent and toil eventually earned her a clientele of affluent women. After purchasing freedom for herself and her son, she went on to become a successful businesswoman, highly sought-after tailoress, and trendsetting fashionista, even serving as the official dresser for first lady Mary Todd Lincoln. Zunon’s breathtaking and masterful mixed-media illustrations—incorporating oil, paint, fabric, ribbon, paper, embroidery, and appliqué—beautifully capture the artistry of Keckly’s dresses.

A dazzling picture book cut through with the thread and thrum of an inspiring but unsung life. (author’s note, timeline, bibliography) (Picture book biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3963-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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Inspirational but occasionally unclear.

JUST LIKE ME

Gooding's debut profiles 40 famous people with disabilities.

The author, a mother of children with disabilities, opens the book with a note about her desire to find role models for her children. To that end, she alphabetically introduces racially diverse disabled people from around the world and throughout history. Diagnoses range from autism to limb difference. Historical figures include Japanese peace advocate Sadako Sasaki, who developed leukemia after the bombing of Hiroshima, and American abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who led fellow slaves to freedom despite epilepsy. Contemporary figures include athletes, authors, and entertainers: Polio survivor and Paralympian Malathi Krishnamurthy-Holla remains "one of the fastest female Indian athletes in a wheelchair"; Japanese nonverbal author Naoki Higashida penned popular books describing autism; English actor Daniel Radcliffe deals with dyspraxia, a coordination disorder; and Australian Madeline Stuart is the first professional model with Down syndrome. Each profile begins with an uplifting quote and concludes with a sidebar explaining the subject’s disability. Unfortunately, some sidebars emphasize colloquial over scientific terms. For instance, Stephen Hawking’s disability is named eponymously (Lou Gehrig's disease), “also known as ALS,” instead of with its scientific name, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Occasionally, vague phrasing creates confusion, such as when the author writes that a speech-generating device enabled Hawking to communicate by using a “touchpad.” (A hand clicker became his primary input method.) Various illustrators’ realistic renditions of smiling subjects complement the upbeat (albeit somewhat dry) text.

Inspirational but occasionally unclear. (glossary, quote sources) (Collective biography. 8-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-78741-848-6

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Bonnier/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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