Perfunctory and disappointing, this retelling of a classic fairy-tale ballet falls short.


From the Story Orchestra series

One of the ballet world’s most enduring and endearing productions receives a picture-book staging.

Tchaikovsky composed three great ballet scores, and that for The Sleeping Beauty is certainly beautifully enchanting. Productions fill the stage with sumptuous sets and costumes, and the dancers perform every range of steps from delicate to bravura. Unfortunately, none of this is evident in this version. The retelling of the classic fairy tale, told in the present tense, lacks poetic nuance. The mixed-media illustrations, albeit showing a diverse cast, are cartoonish and busy and do not portray anything much resembling ballet steps. The “Rose Adagio,” when the 16-year-old princess dances with four suitors and performs audience-thrilling balances, is only hinted at in the illustrations. Likewise, the very entertaining fairy-tale characters of the wedding scene are here just part of a crowded double-page spread. The fairies are often depicted floating overhead while barefooted. The gimmick of the book, a musical accompaniment, is actually 10 bursts of tinny sounds that are too brief to be of lasting value. At the end of the book, the author does describe the instrumentation for many of the scenes, but this information is inadequate.

Perfunctory and disappointing, this retelling of a classic fairy-tale ballet falls short. (note on Tchaikovsky, glossary) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-78603-093-1

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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Like a concerto for the heart.



Venezuelan pianist Teresa Carreño performs for President Abraham Lincoln amid a raging Civil War in Engle and López’s portrait of an artist.

Thanks to parental encouragement, Teresita learned about “all the beautiful / dark and light keys / of a piano” at an early age. By the age of 6, she composed original songs. Revolución in Venezuela soon drove an 8-year-old Teresa and her family to sail across the stormy sea to the United States, but the Carreño family arrived only to find another violent conflict—“the horrible Civil War”—in their adopted country. Despite the initial alienation that comes from being in an unfamiliar country, Teresita continued to improve and play “graceful waltzes and sonatas, / booming symphonies, and lively folk songs.” The Piano Girl’s reputation spread far, eventually garnering the attention of Lincoln, who invited the 10-year-old to perform at the White House! Yet the Civil War festered on, tormenting Teresita, who wished to alleviate the president’s burdens for at least one night. “How could music soothe / so much trouble?” Half biographical sketch, half wide-eyed tribute, Engle and López’s collaboration endearingly builds to Teresa’s fateful meeting with Lincoln like a gravitational pull, with bursts of compassion and admiration for both artist and public servant. Engle’s free verse whirls and twirls, playful and vivacious, while López’s vivid, colorful artwork elevates this story to heavenly heights.

Like a concerto for the heart. (historical note) (Informational picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8740-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 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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