SAINT VALENTINE

The most interesting feature of this retelling of a story about a saint martyred in A.D. 270 is the art, a meticulous re- creation of the medium of its subject's period. Using thousands of tiny, rectangular pieces resembling tiles, Sabuda replicates the effect of Roman mosaics. His simple designs and harmonious, gently muted colors are pleasing, and he achieves surprising subtleties of expression, considering the intractability of the medium. Actually, the illustrations work even better from a slight distance (as with a group), so that the demarcations between the tiny pieces are less predominant. The technique, which tends to congeal the action, makes relatively undramatic illustrations; still, it's a fascinating experiment that brings the ancient world to life by paying tribute to its art rather than by picturing it in a modern style. The straightforward narrative centers on Valentine as a physician whose ointment restores the sight of a jailer's blind daughter, long the saint's friend. It's implied that the long-awaited cure takes place at the moment of his offstage death; the story ends with the joy of the child's renewed vision. An unusual and attractive rendition. Historical note. (Nonfiction/Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 1992

ISBN: 0-689-31762-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1992

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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THE FANTASTIC UNDERSEA LIFE OF JACQUES COUSTEAU

This second early biography of Cousteau in a year echoes Jennifer Berne’s Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau (2008), illustrated by Eric Puybaret, in offering visuals that are more fanciful than informational, but also complements it with a focus less on the early life of the explorer and eco-activist than on his later inventions and achievements. In full-bleed scenes that are often segmented and kaleidoscopic, Yaccarino sets his hook-nosed subject amid shoals of Impressionistic fish and other marine images, rendered in multiple layers of thinly applied, imaginatively colored paint. His customarily sharp, geometric lines take on the wavy translucence of undersea shapes with a little bit of help from the airbrush. Along with tracing Cousteau’s undersea career from his first, life-changing, pair of goggles and the later aqualung to his minisub Sea Flea, the author pays tribute to his revolutionary film and TV work, and his later efforts to call attention to the effects of pollution. Cousteau’s enduring fascination with the sea comes through clearly, and can’t help sparking similar feelings in readers. (chronology, source list) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 24, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-375-85573-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2009

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