SISTERS

VENUS & SERENA WILLIAMS

A story about the love and friendship of two sisters and the determination of a family to succeed.

From the very opening of the book, the story focuses equally on the loving relationship between African-American tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams and the affection and resilience of the Williams family in a challenging and often violent environment in Compton, California. The dedicated father and his daughters wake early every morning to clean the run-down tennis courts. The girls’ focus as they practice draws the attention and protection of a group of older boys who like to hang out at the courts: their first fans. Well into the night, the girls study hard, supported by their mother and each other. The text and illustrations work together, much as the Williams sisters do, to highlight their history-making challenges and achievements. With changes in scenery and other vivid depictions that encourage readers to consider confrontations of race and class, the book aims for honesty while remaining age-appropriate for young readers. Images of the two brown-skinned sisters, hair in braids, against seas of white spectators speak volumes, as do later scenes that include the additions of some brown faces in those stands as the two adult superstars compete. The love of the family and complicated community is weaved throughout, creating a candid depiction of how love grows in all places and can provide the scaffolding for success.

An ace. (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3121-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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Blandly laudatory.

I AM WALT DISNEY

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

The iconic animator introduces young readers to each “happy place” in his life.

The tally begins with his childhood home in Marceline, Missouri, and climaxes with Disneyland (carefully designed to be “the happiest place on Earth”), but the account really centers on finding his true happy place, not on a map but in drawing. In sketching out his early flubs and later rocket to the top, the fictive narrator gives Ub Iwerks and other Disney studio workers a nod (leaving his labor disputes with them unmentioned) and squeezes in quick references to his animated films, from Steamboat Willie to Winnie the Pooh (sans Fantasia and Song of the South). Eliopoulos incorporates stills from the films into his cartoon illustrations and, characteristically for this series, depicts Disney as a caricature, trademark mustache in place on outsized head even in childhood years and child sized even as an adult. Human figures default to white, with occasional people of color in crowd scenes and (ahistorically) in the animation studio. One unidentified animator builds up the role-modeling with an observation that Walt and Mickey were really the same (“Both fearless; both resourceful”). An assertion toward the end—“So when do you stop being a child? When you stop dreaming”—muddles the overall follow-your-bliss message. A timeline to the EPCOT Center’s 1982 opening offers photos of the man with select associates, rodent and otherwise. An additional series entry, I Am Marie Curie, publishes simultaneously, featuring a gowned, toddler-sized version of the groundbreaking physicist accepting her two Nobel prizes.

Blandly laudatory. (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2875-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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An inspiring introduction to the young Nobel Peace Prize winner and a useful conversation starter

MALALA'S MAGIC PENCIL

The latest of many picture books about the young heroine from Pakistan, this one is narrated by Malala herself, with a frame that is accessible to young readers.

Malala introduces her story using a television show she used to watch about a boy with a magic pencil that he used to get himself and his friends out of trouble. Readers can easily follow Malala through her own discovery of troubles in her beloved home village, such as other children not attending school and soldiers taking over the village. Watercolor-and-ink illustrations give a strong sense of setting, while gold ink designs overlay Malala’s hopes onto her often dreary reality. The story makes clear Malala’s motivations for taking up the pen to tell the world about the hardships in her village and only alludes to the attempt on her life, with a black page (“the dangerous men tried to silence me. / But they failed”) and a hospital bracelet on her wrist the only hints of the harm that came to her. Crowds with signs join her call before she is shown giving her famous speech before the United Nations. Toward the end of the book, adult readers may need to help children understand Malala’s “work,” but the message of holding fast to courage and working together is powerful and clear.

An inspiring introduction to the young Nobel Peace Prize winner and a useful conversation starter . (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-31957-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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