Out of context, visually radiant; as an introduction to Kahlo herself, almost irrelevant

VIVA FRIDA

This luminescent homage to Frida Kahlo doesn’t hew to her artwork’s mood but entrances on its own merit.

Adults will recognize Kahlo’s signature eyebrows, but readers of all ages will be caught immediately by the bewitchingly bright colors and detailed photographs. Morales makes her figures from steel, polymer clay and wool, and the illustrations come together with acrylic paint, digital manipulation and O’Meara’s dramatically angled photographs of the scenes. Kahlo has the thin, posable arms and stiff legs of a fashion doll, with earrings, a necklace and flowered dresses. Her vibe is contented curiosity as she and her monkey explore a box and find a skeleton marionette. A second thread shows Kahlo as two-dimensional (possibly doll-Kahlo’s dream?), rescuing a wounded deer; doll-Kahlo then includes the deer in a self-portrait. Vivid textures and high-saturation colors enthrall. However, the text (in English and Spanish) is platitudinous and vague: “I realize… / that… / I feel / And I understand… / that I love / And create / And so… / I live!” It would be impossible (and undesirable) to translate the violence, pain and anger of Kahlo’s work for an audience this young; these illustrations, while including some of her visual motifs, don’t even try. The final spread is downright festive. Morales’ author’s note (also in English and Spanish) provides a brief biographical sketch that makes clear the artist’s profound effect on her.

Out of context, visually radiant; as an introduction to Kahlo herself, almost irrelevant . (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59643-603-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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A memorable life—a forgettable presentation.

I AM JACKIE ROBINSON

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

Baseball’s No. 42 strikes out.

Even as a babe in his mother’s arms, Robinson is depicted wearing his Brooklyn Dodgers baseball cap in this latest entry in the Ordinary People Change the World series. He narrates his childhood alongside cartoon panels that show him as an expert runner and thrower. Racism and poverty are also part of his growing up, along with lessons in sharing and courage. Incredibly, the Negro Leagues are not mentioned beyond a passing reference to “a black team” with a picture of the Kansas City Monarchs next to their team bus (still looking like a child in the illustration, Robinson whines, “Gross! Is this food or goo?”). In 1946, Branch Rickey signs him to play for the Dodgers’ farm team, and the rest, as they say, is history. Robinson concludes his story with an exhortation to readers to be brave, strong and use their “power to do what’s right. / Use that power for a cause that you believe in.” Meltzer writes his inspirational biography as a first-person narrative, which risks being construed and used as an autobiography—which it is not. The digitally rendered cartoon illustrations that show Robinson as a perpetual child fall sadly short of capturing his demeanor and prowess.

A memorable life—a forgettable presentation. (photographs, timeline, sources, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8037-4086-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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I AM AMELIA EARHART

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

The ever-popular pioneering female pilot gets a breezy and very incomplete biography.

Meltzer gives Amelia a first-person voice and, in a very sketchy narrative laced with comic-book speech bubbles, presents her as a dare-devil tomboy. The flying bug hits her when she goes up for a flight with Frank Hawks at the age of 23. She tries her hand at different jobs to earn money for flying lessons; Meltzer, writing too glibly, calls stenography, one of those failed efforts, a “fancy-schmancy word.” As Amelia makes her solo trans-Atlantic flight, she shouts, “This is AWESOME!”—a word no doubt intended to resonate with contemporary readers but unlikely to have occurred to Earhart at the moment. The text concludes with an exhortation to “Never let anyone stop you. / Whatever your dream is, chase it. / Work hard for it.” There is nary a mention of her final, disastrous around-the-world flight and disappearance over the Pacific. Eliopoulos’ digitally rendered art is cartoon in style, with Earhart resembling a bobblehead doll and wearing an aviator hat and goggles. The audience for this mixed-up comic/bio is not at all clear. Given its incomplete information and lack of source material (an actual quote from Earhart is unreferenced), there is no justifying calling it a biography. Nor is there enough entertainment to call this a comic book.

Skip. (photographs) (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8037-4082-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2013

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