A fine, accessible introduction to Wood’s art.

AMERICAN GOTHIC

THE LIFE OF GRANT WOOD

The story of Grant Wood and his iconic painting.

A breezy tour of the white Midwestern artist’s life first shows him drawing with charred sticks on brown wrapping paper (since his family didn’t have much money). Later, he drew in crayon, made scenery for school plays and publications, and won art awards. As a young adult, he traveled to Europe, and three double-page spreads show him creating impressionist, cubist, and abstract paintings just like those of Monet, Picasso, and Mondrian, though it’s unclear from text and illustrations if he did imitations or simply experimented with different styles. (The page on abstract artists shows a Mondrian knockoff on Wood’s easel.) But traveling in Germany, he realized he most appreciated the realistic portraits of the Gothic period—Hans Memling’s and Jan van Eyck’s, in particular. Wood went home to Iowa and got to work creating art based on the real people and places of his region. Using his sister and his dentist as models, he created his most famous work, American Gothic, shown at the Chicago Art Institute in 1930. Young readers are treated to a crash course in modern art while witnessing Wood’s evolution as an artist. A sunny palette of yellows, greens, and browns is perfect for Wood’s regionalist art and the inspirational tone of the volume.

A fine, accessible introduction to Wood’s art. (author’s note, sources, timeline) (Picture book/biography. 7-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2533-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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IF YOU LIVED DURING THE PLIMOTH THANKSGIVING

A measured corrective to pervasive myths about what is often referred to as the “first Thanksgiving.”

Contextualizing them within a Native perspective, Newell (Passamaquoddy) touches on the all-too-familiar elements of the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving and its origins and the history of English colonization in the territory now known as New England. In addition to the voyage and landfall of the Mayflower, readers learn about the Doctrine of Discovery that arrogated the lands of non-Christian peoples to European settlers; earlier encounters between the Indigenous peoples of the region and Europeans; and the Great Dying of 1616-1619, which emptied the village of Patuxet by 1620. Short, two- to six-page chapters alternate between the story of the English settlers and exploring the complex political makeup of the region and the culture, agriculture, and technology of the Wampanoag—all before covering the evolution of the holiday. Refreshingly, the lens Newell offers is a Native one, describing how the Wampanoag and other Native peoples received the English rather than the other way around. Key words ranging from estuary to discover are printed in boldface in the narrative and defined in a closing glossary. Nelson (a member of the Leech Lake Band of Minnesota Chippewa) contributes soft line-and-color illustrations of the proceedings. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Essential. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-72637-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Scholastic Nonfiction

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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A visually striking, compelling recollection.

FROM THE TOPS OF THE TREES

The author recounts a formative childhood experience that continues to inspire her today.

Born to Hmong refugees, Kalia has only ever known the confines of the Ban Vinai refugee camp in Thailand. Even while playing with her cousins, reminders of the hardships of their life are always present. She overhears the aunties sharing their uncertainty and fear of the future. They are a people with no home country and are still trying to find peace. Kalia asks her father why they live behind a gate and wonders what lies beyond the fences that surround the camp. The next day they climb a tall tree, and he shows her the vast expanse around them, from familiar camp landmarks to distant mountains “where the sky meets earth.” This story of resilience and generational hope is told in an expressive, straightforward narrative style. The simplicity of the text adds a level of poignancy that moves readers to reflection. The layered and heavily textured illustrations complement the text while highlighting the humanity of the refugees and providing a quiet dignity to camp life. The militarylike color palette of olive greens, golden yellows, and rich browns reinforces the guarded atmosphere but also represents the transitional period from winter to spring, a time ripe with anticipation and promise.

A visually striking, compelling recollection. (author's note, glossary, map.) (Picture book/memoir. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5415-8130-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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An empowering choice.

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT ELECTIONS

Shamir and Faulkner take readers on a trip through various moments in U.S. history as they explore the democratic process.

The text begins in 1884, when a young man rides for hours to deliver his local ballot box in the state of Nebraska. The book then jumps in nonlinear fashion from key moment to key moment, explaining its importance: Native Americans were granted citizenship in 1924 (their status as members of sovereign nations goes unmentioned); the emergency number 911 was created in 1968; George Washington was the only presidential candidate ever to run unopposed. The information is divided into general paragraphs that begin with a question and text boxes that supply trivia and provide additional context to the paragraphs. Children’s and teens’ roles are often cited, such as their participation in the civil rights movement and the lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18. The information ranges from national elections to local, expanding on what can be done on a national level and what can occur locally. Along the way, Faulkner includes a diverse mixture of citizens. A range of ethnic groups, minorities, and people of various body sizes and abilities are included, making the book visually welcoming to all readers. An early image depicting a blind woman with both guide dog and cane appears to be the only visual misstep. The backmatter includes a timeline and sources for additional reading.

An empowering choice. (Informational picture book. 7-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-3807-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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