In enjoying the art, readers will pick up some bits of history along the way.

LOOKING AT LINCOLN

Kalman’s narrator sees a man who reminds her of Abraham Lincoln and goes to the library to find out more about the 16th president in this appealingly childlike introduction.

She finds information about Lincoln’s family life, his education, how he dressed, his presidency and his death. She wonders what he thought about, and she offers information about his anti-slavery views and his meetings with Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass. Kalman’s artwork is the main attraction here, with appealing naive illustrations done in gouache. Each page offers visual treats in a Matisse-like palette, unusual for a biography of a president, but fun in their own right—images of various people and items related to the president, including pancakes, a vanilla cake, a whistle, apples and, toward the end, an ominous-looking gun facing a rocking chair with a top hat on the floor. In the compression necessary to the picture-book form, however, history is regrettably oversimplified. Lincoln did indeed hate slavery and did say, as the narrator states, “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong,” But to assert that “[t]he Northern states (the Union) believed that slavery should be abolished. And so they went to war,” is to offer children a not-quite-accurate version of history adults should be ready to contextualize.

In enjoying the art, readers will pick up some bits of history along the way. (notes, sources) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-24039-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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Stirring encouragement for all “little people” with “big dreams.” (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

MAYA ANGELOU

From the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

“There’s nothing I can’t be,” young Maya thinks, and then shows, in this profile for newly independent readers, imported from Spain.

The inspirational message is conveyed through a fine skein of biographical details. It begins with her birth in St. Louis and the prejudice she experienced growing up in a small Arkansas town and closes with her reading of a poem “about her favorite thing: hope” at Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration. In between, it mentions the (unspecified) “attack” by her mother’s boyfriend and subsequent elective muteness she experienced as a child, as well as some of the varied pursuits that preceded her eventual decision to become a writer. Kaiser goes on in a closing spread to recap Angelou’s life and career, with dates, beneath a quartet of portrait photos. Salaberria’s simple illustrations, filled with brown-skinned figures, are more idealized than photorealistic, but, though only in the cover image do they make direct contact with readers’, Angelou’s huge eyes are an effective focal point in each scene. The message is similar in the co-published Amelia Earhart, written by Ma Isabel Sánchez Vegara (and also translated by Pitt), but the pictures are more fanciful as illustrator Mariadiamantes endows the aviator with a mane of incandescent orange hair and sends her flying westward (in contradiction of the text and history) on her final around-the-world flight.

Stirring encouragement for all “little people” with “big dreams.” (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-84780-889-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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A beautifully designed book that will resonate with children and the adults who wisely share it with them.

NELSON MANDELA

An inspirational ode to the life of the great South African leader by an award-winning author and illustrator.

Mandela’s has been a monumental life, a fact made clear on the front cover, which features an imposing, full-page portrait. The title is on the rear cover. His family gave him the Xhosa name Rolihlahla, but his schoolteacher called him Nelson. Later, he was sent to study with village elders who told him stories about his beautiful and fertile land, which was conquered by European settlers with more powerful weapons. Then came apartheid, and his protests, rallies and legal work for the cause of racial equality led to nearly 30 years of imprisonment followed at last by freedom for Mandela and for all South Africans. “The ancestors, / The people, / The world, / Celebrated.” Nelson’s writing is spare, poetic, and grounded in empathy and admiration. His oil paintings on birch plywood are muscular and powerful. Dramatic moments are captured in shifting perspectives; a whites-only beach is seen through a wide-angle lens, while faces behind bars and faces beaming in final victory are masterfully portrayed in close-up.

A beautifully designed book that will resonate with children and the adults who wisely share it with them. (author’s note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-178374-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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