A gentle, mind-expanding, and thoroughly lovely experience.

TRYING

A young visitor to a sculptor’s studio is amazed and impressed as he views the artist at work, asking, “How do you do that?”

The visitor, an older elementary-age kid or maybe a young teen, acknowledges wishing to create something like the art on view, but self-doubt at ever being able to produce such beauty prevents the kid from beginning. What follows is an ongoing, almost Socratic discussion between the visitor and the sculptor. The sculptor exhorts the visitor to try, to make an attempt, and encourages, advises, and pushes his interlocutor to learn from failures and disappointments. As the sculptor does so, he is not loath to shares his own vulnerabilities and haunting thoughts of his mortality. Gradually the visitor becomes a protégé, trying and trying again. As in previous works such as What Do You Do With a Problem? (illustrated by Mae Besom, 2016), Yamada deals with both philosophical and practical questions, maintaining a grounded, direct tone without ever becoming preachy or too highly esoteric. The aspiring artist narrates in the first person from a distance of several years, treasuring the memory of the sculptor’s words, only to be interrupted at the end of the book by a new voice from a new visitor, echoing that first question. Hurst’s black, gray, and white drawings are heavily shaded, imparting a mysterious and ethereal quality. There are fleeting bits of color in the form of an orange studio cat and the sculptor’s green-tinged failures. The characters present White. Young readers and their grown-ups will find much to absorb and discuss.

A gentle, mind-expanding, and thoroughly lovely experience. (Picture book. 7-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-970147-28-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering.

THE AMAZING AGE OF JOHN ROY LYNCH

An honestly told biography of an important politician whose name every American should know.

Published while the United States has its first African-American president, this story of John Roy Lynch, the first African-American speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, lays bare the long and arduous path black Americans have walked to obtain equality. The title’s first three words—“The Amazing Age”—emphasize how many more freedoms African-Americans had during Reconstruction than for decades afterward. Barton and Tate do not shy away from honest depictions of slavery, floggings, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, or the various means of intimidation that whites employed to prevent blacks from voting and living lives equal to those of whites. Like President Barack Obama, Lynch was of biracial descent; born to an enslaved mother and an Irish father, he did not know hard labor until his slave mistress asked him a question that he answered honestly. Freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, Lynch had a long and varied career that points to his resilience and perseverance. Tate’s bright watercolor illustrations often belie the harshness of what takes place within them; though this sometimes creates a visual conflict, it may also make the book more palatable for young readers unaware of the violence African-Americans have suffered than fully graphic images would. A historical note, timeline, author’s and illustrator’s notes, bibliography and map are appended.

A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering. (Picture book biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5379-0

Page Count: 50

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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