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

THE SLEEPING BEAUTY

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

HARBOR BOUND

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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Best read in addition to watching the video, this piece represents an important moment in U.S. history.

THE PRESIDENT SANG AMAZING GRACE

Mulford’s song about the tragic church shooting in Charleston in 2015 is transformed into a picture book.

The rhyming lyrics are simple, describing how a stranger came to a house of worship and was “let…in,” though “he was not friend, he was not kin.” The stranger “seemed to pray” but then he “drew a gun / and killed nine people, old and young.” On this spread, white text contrasts with an all-black painted background. President Barack Obama’s appearance with the community of mourners is then pictured with the chorus: “no words could say what must be said / for all the living and the dead // So on that day and in that place / the president sang Amazing Grace.” The painted pictures, with tones of blue, black, and purple, move from the church to a montage of clasped hands, a crowd of mourners, various pictures of Obama, and a spread showing each of the nine victims. The song can be found online, and its performance is deeply moving; in the video, the lyrics and paintings are a stunning combination, making this book seem like a great idea. Without the music though, the book lacks the soulfulness of the video, and the unfinished look of the static paintings is not nearly so effective. Endnotes describe each contributor’s relationship to the work (including performer Joan Baez and filmmaker Rick Litvin) and contain a QR code to access the video; endpapers provide sheet music.

Best read in addition to watching the video, this piece represents an important moment in U.S. history. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-944903-84-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Cameron + Company

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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