An inviting portrait of a privileged and unconventional woman who shared herself and her art collection with the masses.

WHAT ISABELLA WANTED

ISABELLA STEWART GARDNER BUILDS A MUSEUM

From the mixed-up files of Isabella Stewart Gardner.

In 1867, Isabella fell in love with art and started collecting paintings, sculpture, furniture, and other objects, sometimes having them smuggled into the United States in the way of many superrich art collectors. She eventually decided to build a home within a museum, and for over 20 years, she opened it annually for 20 days, also displaying her personal paraphernalia. She willed it all to the people of Boston, and after her death, the building became a full-time museum. Everything remained as she’d left it—until a mystifying robbery occurred in 1990. Playful, accessible text and engaging illustrations that feature an all-White cast until they reach the present day tell her story, which will be of particular interest to museum visitors. The entitlement she enjoyed (she began collecting during the U.S. Civil War while on a cruise to recover from her young son’s death, and her wealth seemingly enabled her to overcome barriers she may have faced as a woman) is not explicitly mentioned, nor are the many writers and artists—many of them gay—whom she regularly entertained. However, her unconventional nature and love of art are engagingly portrayed, and the unsolved theft of her art reads as a mystery worthy of her scandalous legacy. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An inviting portrait of a privileged and unconventional woman who shared herself and her art collection with the masses. (author's note, bibliography, source notes) (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4263-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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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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