Despite its impressive amount of information, this ultimately comes across as a sanitized list of facts about each artist...

ARTISTS AND THEIR PETS

TRUE STORIES OF FAMOUS ARTISTS AND THEIR ANIMAL FRIENDS

Illustrated profiles of 20 famous artists and the pets they owned.

This intriguing concept—telling stories of artists and their pets—unfortunately doesn’t get off the ground. Each artist’s life is summarized with a chapter of uncontroversial facts: when and where born (late 19th and 20th centuries predominate), where educated, exhibitions, movements founded, fame, and what pets they owned. Even Andy Warhol’s life comes across as pretty ordinary. Of the 20, three are women—Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Suzanne Valadon—and the majority, 16, are white. One is black (Romare Bearden), one is Mexican (Kahlo), and two are Asian (Ai WeiWei and Tsuguharu Foujita). Although David Hockney, openly gay, is profiled, his sexual orientation is not mentioned. What the book does well is to impart to readers the value of persistence (many artists had to overcome early rejection), and it presents a clear overview of the many named art movements, with a helpful glossary included. Lemay’s illustrations are simple spots of the artists and their pets scattered throughout, and she also offers her interpretation of some of the recognizable paintings of each artist “to familiarize the reader with certain iconic works.”

Despite its impressive amount of information, this ultimately comes across as a sanitized list of facts about each artist and the names and types of pets they owned. (glossary, sources, art citations, index) (Collective biography. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-9460-6401-1

Page Count: 193

Publisher: Duo Press

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere.

1001 BEES

This book is buzzing with trivia.

Follow a swarm of bees as they leave a beekeeper’s apiary in search of a new home. As the scout bees traverse the fields, readers are provided with a potpourri of facts and statements about bees. The information is scattered—much like the scout bees—and as a result, both the nominal plot and informational content are tissue-thin. There are some interesting facts throughout the book, but many pieces of trivia are too, well trivial, to prove useful. For example, as the bees travel, readers learn that “onion flowers are round and fluffy” and “fennel is a plant that is used in cooking.” Other facts are oversimplified and as a result are not accurate. For example, monofloral honey is defined as “made by bees who visit just one kind of flower” with no acknowledgment of the fact that bees may range widely, and swarm activity is described as a springtime event, when it can also occur in summer and early fall. The information in the book, such as species identification and measurement units, is directed toward British readers. The flat, thin-lined artwork does little to enhance the story, but an “I spy” game challenging readers to find a specific bee throughout is amusing.

Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere. (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-500-65265-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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Pretty but insubstantial.

THE BIG BOOK OF BIRDS

Zommer surveys various bird species from around the world in this oversized (almost 14 inches tall tall) volume.

While exuberantly presented, the information is not uniformly expressed from bird to bird, which in the best cases will lead readers to seek out additional information and in the worst cases will lead to frustration. For example, on spreads that feature multiple species, the birds are not labeled. This happens again later when the author presents facts about eggs: Readers learn about camouflaged eggs, but the specific eggs are not identified, making further study extremely difficult. Other facts are misleading: A spread on “city birds” informs readers that “peregrine falcons nest on skyscrapers in New York City”—but they also nest in other large cities. In a sexist note, a peahen is identified as “unlucky” because she “has drab brown feathers” instead of flashy ones like the peacock’s. Illustrations are colorful and mostly identifiable but stylized; Zommer depicts his birds with both eyes visible at all times, even when the bird is in profile. The primary audience for the book appears to be British, as some spreads focus on European birds over their North American counterparts, such as the mute swan versus the trumpeter swan and the European robin versus the American robin. The backmatter, a seven-word glossary and an index, doesn’t provide readers with much support.

Pretty but insubstantial. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-500-65151-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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