A soft, sad, lovely introduction to a masterpiece.



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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She said, “Failure is impossible,” and she was right, but unfortunately her steely determination does not come through in...


Susan B. Anthony worked to win women the right to vote her whole long life, but she did not live to see it done.

Wallner uses her flat decorative style and rich matte colors to depict Susan B. Anthony’s life, layering on details: Susan catching snowflakes behind her parents’ house; working in her father’s mill (briefly) and then departing school when the money ran out; writing at her desk; speaking passionately in front of small groups and rowdy crowds. It’s a little too wordy and a little less than engaging in describing a life in which Anthony traveled alone, hired her own halls, spoke tirelessly about women’s suffrage, published, created forums where women could speak freely and was arrested for registering to vote. Her life-long friendship with suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton is touched on, as are the virulent attacks against her ideas and her person. She died in 1906. Votes for women did not come to pass in the United States until 1920.

She said, “Failure is impossible,” and she was right, but unfortunately her steely determination does not come through in this book. (timeline, bibliography, source notes) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8234-1953-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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A true and inspiring story of a refugee hero


Yusra, a young Syrian woman, travels at the age of 17 with her older sister to escape the war in her country.

Having trained since childhood, Yusra dreams of swimming at the Olympics. The sisters, now refugees, pay smugglers and end up on a small inflatable loaded with people and headed to Greece. Shortly after the boat takes off from the Turkish shore, the engine fails. However, Yusra and her sister jump into the water and help guide it to safety despite the rough sea. They arrive on the shore tired and cold. Strangers stare at them with accusing looks, but there is also “sudden kindness” when a child gives Yusra shoes. They walk for miles on rough terrain, then take buses and trains until reaching safety in Germany. There, Yusra starts training to swim again, eventually achieving her dream. In clipped quatrains—no line exceeds four syllables—the story relates Yusra Mardini’s journey from Syria in 2015, culminating in her participation in the 2016 Olympics as part of a team of refugees. Abery’s choice of spare, rhythmic verse gives the narrative a gripping and dramatic feel while Deng’s illustrations convey the struggles of war and displacement. Yusra is portrayed throughout as a strong and resilient young woman, determined and full of courage. A note from the author provides additional information about Yusra’s journey, including her becoming a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. refugee agency.

A true and inspiring story of a refugee hero . (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-56846-329-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Creative Editions/Creative Company

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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