Interesting enough but not particularly impactful.

I AM MOZART, TOO

THE LOST GENIUS OF MARIA ANNA MOZART

Discover the lost genius of Maria Anna Mozart.

Ades and Lirius’ picture-book biography tells the story of the older sister of great classical music composer and pianist Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Maria, nicknamed Nannerl, narrates the story, recounting how her musical family life inspired her early longing to make music. During her childhood, her father taught her to play the harpsichord. She explains that “Wolfgang always wanted to do everything I did, so Papa taught him, too.” Both children showed prodigious aptitude and spent years performing across Europe. However, the custom of the time precluded women from public performance, never mind musical composition, so as Nannerl grew older, her father arranged for her to marry, bringing her short-lived music career to an end. Nevertheless, Nannerl’s passion for music never died. The book spends little time developing the relationships between its central characters, especially the complex one between Nannerl and her father, in reality not half so tyrannical a figure as the story makes him out to be. The narrative is rather limited in scope, omitting certain key aspects of Nannerl’s biography. The prose is lyrical in its simplicity but otherwise unremarkable; the gouache and digital illustrations, however, are sublime, painted in delicate shades with whimsical touches and flowing floral scroll motifs. The backmatter explains that some liberties were taken in creating this work of “creative nonfiction” and provides biographical and reference information, including a timeline and glossary. All characters are White.

Interesting enough but not particularly impactful. (Picture-book biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-31476-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston...

BEFORE SHE WAS HARRIET

A memorable, lyrical reverse-chronological walk through the life of an American icon.

In free verse, Cline-Ransome narrates the life of Harriet Tubman, starting and ending with a train ride Tubman takes as an old woman. “But before wrinkles formed / and her eyes failed,” Tubman could walk tirelessly under a starlit sky. Cline-Ransome then describes the array of roles Tubman played throughout her life, including suffragist, abolitionist, Union spy, and conductor on the Underground Railroad. By framing the story around a literal train ride, the Ransomes juxtapose the privilege of traveling by rail against Harriet’s earlier modes of travel, when she repeatedly ran for her life. Racism still abounds, however, for she rides in a segregated train. While the text introduces readers to the details of Tubman’s life, Ransome’s use of watercolor—such a striking departure from his oil illustrations in many of his other picture books—reveals Tubman’s humanity, determination, drive, and hope. Ransome’s lavishly detailed and expansive double-page spreads situate young readers in each time and place as the text takes them further into the past.

A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston Weatherford and Kadir Nelson’s Moses (2006). (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2047-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments.

SUPERHEROES ARE EVERYWHERE

The junior senator from California introduces family and friends as everyday superheroes.

The endpapers are covered with cascades of, mostly, early childhood snapshots (“This is me contemplating the future”—caregivers of toddlers will recognize that abstracted look). In between, Harris introduces heroes in her life who have shaped her character: her mom and dad, whose superpowers were, respectively, to make her feel special and brave; an older neighbor known for her kindness; grandparents in India and Jamaica who “[stood] up for what’s right” (albeit in unspecified ways); other relatives and a teacher who opened her awareness to a wider world; and finally iconic figures such as Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley who “protected people by using the power of words and ideas” and whose examples inspired her to become a lawyer. “Heroes are…YOU!” she concludes, closing with a bulleted Hero Code and a timeline of her legal and political career that ends with her 2017 swearing-in as senator. In group scenes, some of the figures in the bright, simplistic digital illustrations have Asian features, some are in wheelchairs, nearly all are people of color. Almost all are smiling or grinning. Roe provides everyone identified as a role model with a cape and poses the author, who is seen at different ages wearing an identifying heart pin or decoration, next to each.

Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments. (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984837-49-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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