Swans abound and good defeats evil in a simplified retelling.


From the Story Orchestra series

A look-and-listen (albeit briefly) adaptation of a favorite ballet story.

A diverse cast of dancers fills the pages of this very basic retelling of a Russian classic of the ballet repertoire. The spread-spanning illustrations are busily filled with lakeside swans sporting fancy, feathery costumes along with many trees, deer, foxes, and rabbits. The palace is pink and glittery and replete with chandeliers, curtains, and fancily costumed guests. There, Odile, malevolent-looking daughter of the evil sorcerer Rothbart, dances with Prince Siegfried and tricks him into believing that she is the lovely Odette, the enchanted swan, who looks bereft. The audience-pleasing national dances of Act 3 are not mentioned in the text nor depicted in the illustrations. Stagings of Swan Lake have always had various endings, some happy and some not so, as Prince Siegfried and his beloved Odette are united only in the afterlife. This version has them living happily ever after on Earth. The gimmick of this title is the 10 brief (10 seconds or so) sound clips that barely hint at the very beautiful score. Adults taking children to a performance may find this useful as an introduction, but listening to a suite of the music would be a better idea. The refreshingly inclusive casting—Siegfried, Odette, and Odile have brown skin, and there are many courtiers of color—does not mitigate the book’s flaws.

Swans abound and good defeats evil in a simplified retelling. (author’s note, glossary) (Picture book/novelty. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7112-4150-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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For adult Hepburn completists and their extremely patient children.



Audrey Hepburn’s life, presented in a temporally unusual structure by her son and daughter-in-law.

“I was born on May 4, 1929, in Brussels, Belgium,” opens the first-person narration. Newborn Audrey’s short dark hair is already arranged in Hepburn’s signature pixie cut; her tiny-waisted mother wears a fashionista dress and chic hat even while saving infant Audrey from whooping cough. As Audrey grows, there’s a move to Holland, where ice skating is overtaken by war: the Occupation, air raids, and hunger (“the soldiers took all our food. So we ate green-pea bread, dog cookies, and tulip bulbs”). Midbook, the narrative voice changes to the present tense, but it is still wartime. Audrey now rests in bed to “preserve…calories,” daydreaming—still in present tense—adult Hepburn’s (true) future. Audrey playacts “little plays and musicals” (illustrated as her most acclaimed future roles); raises kids (dolls, stuffed animals); and engages in charitable work. The illustrations, featuring pale colors, white space, and neat, skinny-limbed characters, are whimsical and delicate; a scene of Audrey, hungry, standing in the snow to watch officers feast inside a restaurant renders the soldiers goofy and the overall feeling romantic. Hepburn’s adult accomplishments, ensconced inside wartime childhood fancies, sound both milder than reality and vaguer. Readers without vivid Hepburn images already dancing in their minds (that is, most children) will find this bland, with nothing to latch onto. Because child-Audrey never grows up here, her satisfaction at a life well lived strikes a peculiar note.

For adult Hepburn completists and their extremely patient children. (afterwords) (Picture book/biography. 4-7, adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61689-991-2

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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While the logical concerns don’t sink this ship, muffed details have it awash at the scuppers.


A father-and-child team venture out together on their tugboat, rescuing a small boat and navigating a storm before returning safely to their harbor.

Evocative watercolor illustrations effectively convey the ocean and harbor setting with azure skies, puffy clouds, swirling seas, and a rip-roaring thunderstorm with lightning streaking across purplish skies. While the intriguing illustrations are the book’s strongest feature, several illustrations do not have exact picture-to-text correlation. Some perplexing depictions that could disorient coastal readers include an ocean liner on a direct path for collision with a sailboat and the tugboat (as well as the nearby shore) and a jet shown in the hangar bay of an aircraft carrier, which would not likely be anywhere near this small harbor. Safety-conscious readers will be concerned by the lack of clearly depicted personal flotation devices on the child and father. The child (who is androgynous) is shown wearing a slim vest, but it isn’t clearly a life jacket. Sharp-eyed readers will note that the line that’s towing the dinghy the tug rescues disappears in some pictures, as does the dinghy’s occupant. The cast of characters includes people of color; the child’s father has light skin and dark hair, and the mother presents as Asian. The short, rhyming text conveys a dramatic and interesting story, but in the pictures, too many extraneous types of boats make unnecessary and illogical appearances. Nautical terms used in the story are defined in a glossary.

While the logical concerns don’t sink this ship, muffed details have it awash at the scuppers. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4847-9952-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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