SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI

A LIFE OF JOY

A saint’s biography written by a celebrity author and illustrated by an artist best known for Fairy Wings, one is hard pressed to treat this with respect. Francis of Assisi is so engaging a character—the wealthy merchant’s son who gives up all to serve the poor and bless the beasts of the field. Kennedy treats the story as if it were a legal brief, making sure we don’t miss A Single Point he’s trying to make. Sometimes, though, the facts are unclear: Francis’s mother, named Consuela in this account, is named Pica in the Catholic Encyclopedia and one wonders if a 13th-century Italian would have known British Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. The narrative in any case neither flows nor sings. While Nolan’s pictures have a wonderful texture, whether of cloth, stone or landscape, it looks as though a different model for Francis was used in each panel, and the one of Francis falling from his horse is just laughable. Skip the “Frameable portrait inside” and go with Michael Bedard’s The Wolf of Gubbio (2001) or Guido Visconti’s Clare and Francis (2004). (author’s note, timeline) (Picture book/biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7868-1875-1

Page Count: 31

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2005

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GEORGE WASHINGTON’S TEETH

Now It Can Be Told: that severe, square-jawed look that the Father of Our Country flashes in his portraits reveals not only strength of character, but also his struggle to hide the fact that he was nearly (entirely, later in life) toothless by keeping a succession of spring-loaded false teeth in place. Drawing information from Washington’s own writings, the authors deliver a double account of his dental tribulations: first in sprightly rhyme—Martha “fed him mush and pickled tripe, / But when guests came to dine, / He sneaked one of his favorite nuts. / Then he had only nine”—followed by a detailed, annotated timeline. Cole’s (Larky Mavis, 2001, etc.) freely drawn, rumpled-looking watercolors document the countdown as well, with scenes of the unhappy statesman at war and at home, surrounded by family, attendants (including dark-skinned ones), and would-be dentists, all in authentic 18th-century dress. Contrary to popular belief, Washington’s false teeth were made not of wood, but of real teeth and hippo ivory; a photo of his last set closes this breezy, sympathetic, carefully-researched vignette on a note that will have readers feeling the great man’s pain—and never looking at his painted visage the same way again. (source notes) (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2003

ISBN: 0-374-32534-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

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SAWDUST AND SPANGLES

THE AMAZING LIFE OF W.C COUP

Though so sketchy that his death (and the fact that the title is borrowed from his autobiography) isn’t even mentioned, this profile of the indefatigable and once-renowned circus impresario captures the fascination with spectacle that drove him, alone and in partnership with P.T. Barnum, to organize a number of circuses, sideshows and other popular attractions. The authors tally his innovations, which included the idea of a “circus train,” multiple rings under the Big Top and the magnificent New York Aquarium, and then close with a page of further colorful anecdotes. Potter depicts Coup and some of the circus and sideshow acts he presented in broadly brushed, typically stylized scenes, taking him from dazzled small-town lad to nattily dressed showman proudly presenting his array of marine life to viewers. Barnum tends to outshine all of his contemporaries and successors, but here’s at least a suggestion that his story wasn’t the only one. (Picture book/biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-8109-9351-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2007

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