Aims for charm and historical import but achieves neither.

THE HOUSE BY THE LAKE

THE TRUE STORY OF A HOUSE, ITS HISTORY, AND THE FOUR FAMILIES WHO MADE IT HOME

Between 1927 and 1999, a house sees four families move in and depart in a picture book adapted from the author’s 2016 book for adults of the same name.

As in Virginia Lee Burton’s classic The Little House (1942), the house itself is the story’s hub. Perched lakeside near Berlin, this house alternately feels “happy,” “abandoned and unloved,” and “alive.” Descriptions of the residents are similarly romantic: “a kind doctor and his cheery wife”; “the musical family”; “a man with a fluffy hat.” How jarring, then, for the families to be coming and going due to events such as genocide, and how much more jarring for those events to be only vaguely implied. Little boys grow from playing in the sand to wearing Hitler Youth uniforms, but the uniforms aren’t identified. World War II and the Berlin Wall go unnamed too, while Nazis are called only “angry men.” The fluffy-hatted man “spie[s] on his neighbors”—huh? Why? This evasive piece sidesteps atrocities and even bare historical details. Readers who already know enough pertinent history to understand Harding’s subtle allusions aren’t the same readers who’d enjoy a lakeside house’s seasonal and emotional cycles. An author’s note supplies names and dates but still never delves into explaining the Nazis, Hitler Youth, or the Berlin Wall; it identifies which families were Jewish but never says why that’s relevant. Teckentrup’s textured artwork is similarly allusive, including a terrifying scene of aerial bombardment and another of a line of tanks but still failing to fill in the narrative gaps. All characters depicted have pale skin.

Aims for charm and historical import but achieves neither. (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1274-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Candlewick Studio

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Blandly laudatory.

I AM WALT DISNEY

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

The iconic animator introduces young readers to each “happy place” in his life.

The tally begins with his childhood home in Marceline, Missouri, and climaxes with Disneyland (carefully designed to be “the happiest place on Earth”), but the account really centers on finding his true happy place, not on a map but in drawing. In sketching out his early flubs and later rocket to the top, the fictive narrator gives Ub Iwerks and other Disney studio workers a nod (leaving his labor disputes with them unmentioned) and squeezes in quick references to his animated films, from Steamboat Willie to Winnie the Pooh (sans Fantasia and Song of the South). Eliopoulos incorporates stills from the films into his cartoon illustrations and, characteristically for this series, depicts Disney as a caricature, trademark mustache in place on outsized head even in childhood years and child sized even as an adult. Human figures default to white, with occasional people of color in crowd scenes and (ahistorically) in the animation studio. One unidentified animator builds up the role-modeling with an observation that Walt and Mickey were really the same (“Both fearless; both resourceful”). An assertion toward the end—“So when do you stop being a child? When you stop dreaming”—muddles the overall follow-your-bliss message. A timeline to the EPCOT Center’s 1982 opening offers photos of the man with select associates, rodent and otherwise. An additional series entry, I Am Marie Curie, publishes simultaneously, featuring a gowned, toddler-sized version of the groundbreaking physicist accepting her two Nobel prizes.

Blandly laudatory. (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2875-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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A solid introduction to fascinating artists, some familiar, others less so.

WOMEN ARTISTS A TO Z

Contemporary and historical female artists are showcased for younger readers.

The artists’ names aren’t presented in A-to-Z order. The alphabetical arrangement actually identifies signature motifs (“D is for Dots” for Yayoi Kusama); preferred media (“I is for Ink” for Elizabeth Catlett); or cultural, natural, or personal motives underlying artworks (“N is for Nature” for Maya Lin). Various media are covered, such as painting, box assemblage, collage, photography, pottery, and sculpture. One artist named isn’t an individual but rather the Gee’s Bend Collective, “generations of African American women in Gee’s Bend, Alabama,” renowned for quilting artistry. Each artist and her or their work is introduced on a double-page spread that features succinct descriptions conveying much admiring, easily comprehensible information. Colorful illustrations include graphically simplified representations of the women at work or alongside examples of their art; the spreads provide ample space for readers to understand what the artists produced. Several women were alive when this volume was written; some died in the recent past or last century; two worked several hundred years ago, when female artists were rare. Commendably, the profiled artists are very diverse: African American, Latina, Native American, Asian, white, and multiethnic women are represented; this diversity is reflected in their work, as explained via texts and illustrations.

A solid introduction to fascinating artists, some familiar, others less so. (minibiographies, discussion questions, art suggestions) (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-10872-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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