LINCOLN TELLS A JOKE

HOW LAUGHTER SAVED THE PRESIDENT (AND THE COUNTRY)

Not many biographies of the 16th U.S. president begin “Poor Abraham Lincoln.” This one does and goes on to list the reasons why the man’s life was “hardly fun,” but then it gets right to the titular theme: “But Lincoln had his own way of dealing with life. Not many people remember it today. It was all about laughing.” (In a lovely acrylic painting of the famous Lincoln log cabin, an escaping plume of “HaHaHaHas” mirrors the chimney smoke.) It wasn’t just jokes: “Words mattered,” and Lincoln’s witticisms are quoted liberally throughout: “Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.” Innerst’s gorgeous, textured paintings, many of them caricatures, are varied and inventive: When Lincoln’s great height is described in the text, his head and feet are cropped off the page. It’s a quirkily specific biography, but, as with Deborah Chandra and Madeleine Comora’s wonderful George Washington’s Teeth, illustrated by Brock Cole (2003), it reveals the human side of an American icon in an unusual, lively and thought-provoking way. (authors’ note, sources) (Picture book/biography. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-15-206639-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 27, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2010

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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SAINT VALENTINE

The most interesting feature of this retelling of a story about a saint martyred in A.D. 270 is the art, a meticulous re- creation of the medium of its subject's period. Using thousands of tiny, rectangular pieces resembling tiles, Sabuda replicates the effect of Roman mosaics. His simple designs and harmonious, gently muted colors are pleasing, and he achieves surprising subtleties of expression, considering the intractability of the medium. Actually, the illustrations work even better from a slight distance (as with a group), so that the demarcations between the tiny pieces are less predominant. The technique, which tends to congeal the action, makes relatively undramatic illustrations; still, it's a fascinating experiment that brings the ancient world to life by paying tribute to its art rather than by picturing it in a modern style. The straightforward narrative centers on Valentine as a physician whose ointment restores the sight of a jailer's blind daughter, long the saint's friend. It's implied that the long-awaited cure takes place at the moment of his offstage death; the story ends with the joy of the child's renewed vision. An unusual and attractive rendition. Historical note. (Nonfiction/Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 1992

ISBN: 0-689-31762-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1992

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