A soft, sad, lovely introduction to a masterpiece.

VINCENT CAN'T SLEEP

VAN GOGH PAINTS THE NIGHT SKY

Vincent van Gogh’s lifelong insomnia leads to his masterwork The Starry Night.

Starting as a toddler, wide awake in a cradle, “Vincent can’t sleep.” He sees “pink and yellow starlit shapes that twinkle on the ceiling”; the illustration uses those starlit reflections and the real stars outside to begin the visual theme of The Starry Night. A bit older, he runs outdoors at night, lies down in a field, and “snuggles under a blanket of sapphire sky.” He’s at peace right then, but the text is poetically clear that peace wasn’t plentiful: he “runs into the soothing darkness and is brought back to the harsh light over and over again.” He “draws, writes, and sighs alone”; he drifts, lost, creating “canvas after canvas like radiant chapters in a book only Vincent can read.” He’s hospitalized for an unnamed illness. He works hard to know: “Does darkness have a texture? / Thick? / Thin?…Is the night sky at rest? Or do eleven stars pulse like a beating heart?” Together, text and pictures balance his unsettled melancholy against beauty and harmony. Facially, van Gogh looks much like any GrandPré face; however, GrandPré’s acrylic, pen, and watercolor spreads make marvelous use of dark blues with yellows, putty hues and pinks with swirls, and curving lines, all building to a tender, magnificent final spread.

A soft, sad, lovely introduction to a masterpiece. (images of original art, author’s note, sources) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93710-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering.

THE AMAZING AGE OF JOHN ROY LYNCH

An honestly told biography of an important politician whose name every American should know.

Published while the United States has its first African-American president, this story of John Roy Lynch, the first African-American speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, lays bare the long and arduous path black Americans have walked to obtain equality. The title’s first three words—“The Amazing Age”—emphasize how many more freedoms African-Americans had during Reconstruction than for decades afterward. Barton and Tate do not shy away from honest depictions of slavery, floggings, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, or the various means of intimidation that whites employed to prevent blacks from voting and living lives equal to those of whites. Like President Barack Obama, Lynch was of biracial descent; born to an enslaved mother and an Irish father, he did not know hard labor until his slave mistress asked him a question that he answered honestly. Freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, Lynch had a long and varied career that points to his resilience and perseverance. Tate’s bright watercolor illustrations often belie the harshness of what takes place within them; though this sometimes creates a visual conflict, it may also make the book more palatable for young readers unaware of the violence African-Americans have suffered than fully graphic images would. A historical note, timeline, author’s and illustrator’s notes, bibliography and map are appended.

A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering. (Picture book biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5379-0

Page Count: 50

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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