Watch a Disney film instead.

MARY BLAIR'S UNIQUE FLAIR

THE GIRL WHO BECAME ONE OF THE DISNEY LEGENDS

A girl grows up to be an instrumental Disney artist.

Mary Blair, nee Mary Browne Robinson, enjoys colors and painting in childhood. She dreams of being an artist and earns a spot at an art school. Later, she accepts a job at Walt Disney Studios. Over the course of her career, she paints Dumbo, creates concept art for iconic animated films (Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan), and helps create and design the world-famous Disney park attraction “It’s a small world.” Novesky’s plotline and prose about Blair’s massively influential achievements are oddly lackluster, reporting facts without spirit. Likewise, Lee’s cut-paper and gouache media have a flatness—neither cut paper nor gouache is recognizable on most spreads—and a lack of vitality. Blair’s a generic, tiny-waisted blonde white lady; characters smile almost unceasingly, even when the subject is poverty. This art is styled similarly to Disney art, but it lacks pizzazz. “It’s a small world” is glorified, with no examination of how it stereotypes and exoticizes race, nationality, and ethnicity; Lee’s illustrations reinscribe that very problem while Novesky romantically calls “small world” a celebration of “unity, goodwill, and global peace” leading to “colorful happily ever afters” (for whom?). Amy Guglielmo, Jacqueline Tourville, and Brigette Barrager’s Pocket Full of Colors (2017) is a far livelier Blair biography, although it also ignores racism concerns.

Watch a Disney film instead. (illustrator’s note, note from Mary Blair’s niece, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4847-5720-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney Press

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments.

SUPERHEROES ARE EVERYWHERE

The junior senator from California introduces family and friends as everyday superheroes.

The endpapers are covered with cascades of, mostly, early childhood snapshots (“This is me contemplating the future”—caregivers of toddlers will recognize that abstracted look). In between, Harris introduces heroes in her life who have shaped her character: her mom and dad, whose superpowers were, respectively, to make her feel special and brave; an older neighbor known for her kindness; grandparents in India and Jamaica who “[stood] up for what’s right” (albeit in unspecified ways); other relatives and a teacher who opened her awareness to a wider world; and finally iconic figures such as Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley who “protected people by using the power of words and ideas” and whose examples inspired her to become a lawyer. “Heroes are…YOU!” she concludes, closing with a bulleted Hero Code and a timeline of her legal and political career that ends with her 2017 swearing-in as senator. In group scenes, some of the figures in the bright, simplistic digital illustrations have Asian features, some are in wheelchairs, nearly all are people of color. Almost all are smiling or grinning. Roe provides everyone identified as a role model with a cape and poses the author, who is seen at different ages wearing an identifying heart pin or decoration, next to each.

Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments. (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984837-49-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Sage, soothing ideas for a busy, loud, sometimes-divisive world.

GRANDMA'S GARDENS

In an inviting picture book, Chelsea and Hillary Clinton share personal revelations on how gardening with a grandmother, a mother, and children shapes and nurtures a love and respect for nature, beauty, and a general philosophy for life.

Grandma Dorothy, the former senator, secretary of state, and presidential candidate’s mother, loved gardens, appreciating the multiple benefits they yielded for herself and her family. The Clinton women reminisce about their beloved forebear and all she taught them in a color-coded, alternating text, blue for Chelsea and green for Hillary. Via brief yet explicit remembrances, they share what they learned, observed, and most of all enjoyed in gardens with her. Each double-page spread culminates in a declarative statement set in italicized red text invoking Dorothy’s wise words. Gardens can be many things: places for celebration, discovery and learning, vehicles for teaching responsibility in creating beauty, home to wildlife large and small, a place to share stories and develop memories. Though operating from very personal experience rooted in class privilege, the mother-daughter duo mostly succeeds in imparting a universally significant message: Whether visiting a public garden or working in the backyard, generations can cultivate a lasting bond. Lemniscates uses an appropriately floral palette to evoke the gardens explored by these three white women. A Spanish edition, Los jardines de la abuela, publishes simultaneously; Teresa Mlawer’s translation is fluid and pleasing, in at least one case improving on the original.

Sage, soothing ideas for a busy, loud, sometimes-divisive world. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11535-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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