This soaringly sentimental resolution notwithstanding, the book is a charming introduction to a widely reproduced,...

HENRI'S SCISSORS

In her extensive picture-book–biography oeuvre, Winter has proven to be particularly attuned to selecting the just-right elements of her subjects’ complex lives while making them both accessible to and readily understood by young children. 

Here she limns the major biographical details of Matisse’s long life: A French law student recovering and on bed rest after an appendectomy is given a paint set; he discovers his true calling, abandons the law, moves to Paris and embarks on a long career as a member of the Fauvist movement. Many years later, once again bedridden and frail, he begins the final and perhaps most enduring stage of his work. Winter both describes and employs Matisse’s signature, late-career technique of brilliantly colored, hand-painted, cut-paper compositions. She enlivens the simple text with liberal yet judicious quotes from Matisse’s letters and comments from contemporaries. This is a beautifully designed book that will certainly connect with readers, although the closing spreads may be too poetically obscure for the intended school-age audience. Winter writes that at Matisse’s death, “the rainbow of shapes cradled the old artist and carried him into the heavens.” The book’s final question, “Are some of the stars we see at night coming to us from Henri’s scissors?” seems forced. 

This soaringly sentimental resolution notwithstanding, the book is a charming introduction to a widely reproduced, child-friendly artist, one that children will assuredly encounter and affirmingly embrace. (author’s note) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-6484-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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Stirring encouragement for all “little people” with “big dreams.” (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

MAYA ANGELOU

From the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

“There’s nothing I can’t be,” young Maya thinks, and then shows, in this profile for newly independent readers, imported from Spain.

The inspirational message is conveyed through a fine skein of biographical details. It begins with her birth in St. Louis and the prejudice she experienced growing up in a small Arkansas town and closes with her reading of a poem “about her favorite thing: hope” at Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration. In between, it mentions the (unspecified) “attack” by her mother’s boyfriend and subsequent elective muteness she experienced as a child, as well as some of the varied pursuits that preceded her eventual decision to become a writer. Kaiser goes on in a closing spread to recap Angelou’s life and career, with dates, beneath a quartet of portrait photos. Salaberria’s simple illustrations, filled with brown-skinned figures, are more idealized than photorealistic, but, though only in the cover image do they make direct contact with readers’, Angelou’s huge eyes are an effective focal point in each scene. The message is similar in the co-published Amelia Earhart, written by Ma Isabel Sánchez Vegara (and also translated by Pitt), but the pictures are more fanciful as illustrator Mariadiamantes endows the aviator with a mane of incandescent orange hair and sends her flying westward (in contradiction of the text and history) on her final around-the-world flight.

Stirring encouragement for all “little people” with “big dreams.” (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-84780-889-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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A beautifully designed book that will resonate with children and the adults who wisely share it with them.

NELSON MANDELA

An inspirational ode to the life of the great South African leader by an award-winning author and illustrator.

Mandela’s has been a monumental life, a fact made clear on the front cover, which features an imposing, full-page portrait. The title is on the rear cover. His family gave him the Xhosa name Rolihlahla, but his schoolteacher called him Nelson. Later, he was sent to study with village elders who told him stories about his beautiful and fertile land, which was conquered by European settlers with more powerful weapons. Then came apartheid, and his protests, rallies and legal work for the cause of racial equality led to nearly 30 years of imprisonment followed at last by freedom for Mandela and for all South Africans. “The ancestors, / The people, / The world, / Celebrated.” Nelson’s writing is spare, poetic, and grounded in empathy and admiration. His oil paintings on birch plywood are muscular and powerful. Dramatic moments are captured in shifting perspectives; a whites-only beach is seen through a wide-angle lens, while faces behind bars and faces beaming in final victory are masterfully portrayed in close-up.

A beautifully designed book that will resonate with children and the adults who wisely share it with them. (author’s note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-178374-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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