Despite sparkling prose, look elsewhere.



Moishe Shagal leaves his home in Belarus and grows up to become acclaimed artist Marc Chagall.

Little Moishe looks through his window in the city of Vitebsk and sees a warm and bustling patchwork of people: “Neighbors squabble, rabbis bless, a bowlegged fiddler plays on a rooftop.” The unremarkable theme of looking through a window continues from childhood to prime of life to old age, through political turmoil and danger. But despite the tepid window-gazing motif, Rosenstock’s prose shines, from alliteration (“poets peeling pears, Cubists clinking cups”) to keen evocation (“Two-faced slivers of St. Petersburg, glittering city of czars and princes”) to fond, appropriately fanciful artwork descriptions (“A misty woman on a parti-colored rooster. Frilly acrobats tumble in the sky”). Grandpré’s illustrations, acrylic paint on board, feature plenty of recognizable Chagall images and content but lack Chagall-like vibes: The figures and compositions are too concrete, not dreamlike, and the stained glass isn’t crisp. Bizarrely, Chagall’s Judaism goes unmentioned until the author’s note, which means that anti-Semitism is missing too. Judaism’s hardly irrelevant to a name-change from Moishe Shagal to Marc Chagall, but the text praises his new name as “French, elegant, light as pâtisserie.” Even his flight from occupied France for the United States during World War II summons no reference to Judaism. Rabbis mentioned once in Vitebsk and once in later paintings don’t make up for it.

Despite sparkling prose, look elsewhere. (author’s note, art reproductions, sources) (Picture book/biography. 5-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1751-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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A larger-than-life subject is neatly captured in text and images.


The life journey of the first African American to serve on the United States Supreme Court and the incidents that formed him.

Thurgood Marshall grew up in segregated Baltimore, Maryland, with a family that encouraged him to stand for justice. Despite attending poor schools, he found a way to succeed. His father instilled in him a love of the law and encouraged him to argue like a lawyer during dinner conversations. His success in college meant he could go to law school, but the University of Maryland did not accept African American students. Instead, Marshall went to historically black Howard University, where he was mentored by civil rights lawyer Charles Houston. Marshall’s first major legal case was against the law school that denied him a place, and his success brought him to the attention of the NAACP and ultimately led to his work on the groundbreaking Brown v. Board of Education, which itself led to his appointment to the Supreme Court. This lively narrative serves as an introduction to the life of one of the country’s important civil rights figures. Important facts in Marshall’s life are effectively highlighted in an almost staccato fashion. The bold watercolor-and-collage illustrations, beginning with an enticing cover, capture and enhance the strong tone set by the words.

A larger-than-life subject is neatly captured in text and images. (author’s note, photos) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6533-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston...


A memorable, lyrical reverse-chronological walk through the life of an American icon.

In free verse, Cline-Ransome narrates the life of Harriet Tubman, starting and ending with a train ride Tubman takes as an old woman. “But before wrinkles formed / and her eyes failed,” Tubman could walk tirelessly under a starlit sky. Cline-Ransome then describes the array of roles Tubman played throughout her life, including suffragist, abolitionist, Union spy, and conductor on the Underground Railroad. By framing the story around a literal train ride, the Ransomes juxtapose the privilege of traveling by rail against Harriet’s earlier modes of travel, when she repeatedly ran for her life. Racism still abounds, however, for she rides in a segregated train. While the text introduces readers to the details of Tubman’s life, Ransome’s use of watercolor—such a striking departure from his oil illustrations in many of his other picture books—reveals Tubman’s humanity, determination, drive, and hope. Ransome’s lavishly detailed and expansive double-page spreads situate young readers in each time and place as the text takes them further into the past.

A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston Weatherford and Kadir Nelson’s Moses (2006). (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2047-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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