Young readers will kick up their heels at such frivolity.


Steinberg and Neubecker go for baroque in this tale of Louis XIV.

King Louis XIV had the biggest palace in the world, the biggest army, and the biggest parties, and he gave the biggest gifts. Unfortunately for someone who cared about size, “King Louie (which is how you say ‘Louis’ in French) was a shrimp.” So, in Steinberg’s humorous account, he compensates. His Royal Carpenter builds him a big throne. The Royal Hairdresser makes him the biggest wig ever. The Royal Shoemaker fashions ridiculously big heels for his shoes. And each effort at making the king larger goes hilariously awry. Predictably, the message of the story is that Louie’s size did not matter; the people liked him anyway because he had created a “proud and mighty nation,” where they were happy and safe. With no sense of real history, this silly, enjoyable story is enlivened with Neubecker’s bright palette and lively caricatures, the highlight being the full-bleed illustration of Louie’s wig, too big for the page to contain, later seen drooping in the rain. The endpapers, showing Louie’s colorful and high-heeled shoes, are a fitting visual footnote. Young readers will understand Louie’s desire to be bigger, to impress people with his importance. Unusually, brown-skinned people are among supporting characters pictured, although it is unclear whether they are courtiers, servants, or slaves.

Young readers will kick up their heels at such frivolity. (biographical facts) (Picture book/biography. 3-8)

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-2657-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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Both a beautiful celebration of black culture and an excellent first black history book for young children.


A young black child ponders the colors in the rainbow and a crayon box and realizes that while black is not a color in the rainbow, black culture is a rainbow of its own.

In bright paints and collage, Holmes shows the rainbow of black skin tones on each page while Joy’s text describes what “Black is” physically and culturally. It ranges from the concrete, such as “the braids in my best friend’s hair,” to the conceptual: “Black is soft-singing, ‘Hush now, don’t explain’ ”—a reference to the song “Don’t Explain” made popular by Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, the former depicted in full song with her signature camellia and the latter at her piano. Joy alludes throughout the brief text to poetry, music, figures, and events in black history, and several pages of backmatter supply the necessary context for caregivers who need a little extra help explaining them to listeners. Additionally, there is a playlist of songs to accompany reading as well as three poems: “Harlem,” by Langston Hughes, and “We Wear the Mask” and “Sympathy,” by Paul Laurence Dunbar. The author also includes a historical timeline describing some of the names that have been used to describe and label black people in the United States since 1619.

Both a beautiful celebration of black culture and an excellent first black history book for young children. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62672-631-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A life devoted to freedom and dignity, worthy of praise and remembrance.


With the words of Massachusetts colonial rebels ringing in her ears, a slave determines to win her freedom.

In 1780, Mumbet heard the words of the new Massachusetts constitution, including its declaration of freedom and equality. With the help of a young lawyer, she went to court and the following year, won her freedom, becoming Elizabeth Freeman. Slavery was declared illegal and subsequently outlawed in the state. Woelfle writes with fervor as she describes Mumbet’s life in the household of John Ashley, a rich landowner and businessman who hosted protest meetings against British taxation. His wife was abrasive and abusive, striking out with a coal shovel at a young girl, possibly Mumbet’s daughter. Mumbet deflected the blow and regarded the wound as “her badge of bravery.” Ironically, the lawyer who took her case, Theodore Sedgwick, had attended John Ashley’s meetings. Delinois’ full-bleed paintings are heroic in scale, richly textured and vibrant. Typography becomes part of the page design as the font increases when the text mentions freedom. Another slave in the Ashley household was named in the court case, but Woelfle, keeping her young audience in mind, keeps it simple, wisely focusing on Mumbet.

A life devoted to freedom and dignity, worthy of praise and remembrance. (author’s note, selected bibliography, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7613-6589-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2013

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