A must-have for those who want children to learn about one of the stage’s greatest bards

FEED YOUR MIND

A STORY OF AUGUST WILSON

One of America’s greatest modern playwrights is introduced to generations of younger readers in this lyrical picture book.

August Wilson, the Pulitzer Prize–winning African American dramatist, is best known for his 10-play Century Cycle, which chronicles the African American experience through different decades in the 20th century. Because his work is targeted toward adults, many young readers might be unfamiliar with Wilson’s life or achievements. Thanks to this timely and elegant picture book, that oversight is now corrected. Conceptually separated into two acts, the book frames Wilson’s life as a play in free-verse form, immersing readers in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, a multiracial enclave where Frederick August Kittel Jr. is raised by his hardworking single mother. Act 1 chronicles Wilson’s search for his name and voice, and Act 2 showcases his extraordinary life’s work of using them to bring the African American experience to the stage. The book’s primary goal may be to present Wilson’s life, but it is also an eloquent love letter to literature and a celebration of its power to inspire, to instruct, and to provide hope, guidance, and direction. Bryant’s accomplished free verse and newcomer Chapman’s evocative, realistic illustrations operate in perfect synergy, celebrating the genius of Wilson the playwright while never losing sight of the complications, hardships, and imperfections of Wilson the man.

A must-have for those who want children to learn about one of the stage’s greatest bards . (Picture book/biography. 6-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3653-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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Lacking structure.

BOTTLE TOPS

THE ART OF EL ANATSUI

An introduction to the work of El Anatsui.

In this half-baked biography of the acclaimed Ghanaian artist, Goldberg attempts to string together a comprehensive description of the subject’s life and art—with special attention to his striking sculptures made from bottle caps—and the politics that shaped both. Compelling illustrations—in paint and collage and supported with photographs of Anatsui’s original works in the backmatter—convey aspects of the artist’s life, though they may not hold a young reader’s attention as well as a sparkling, 30-foot-tall fabric sculpture. With little to no background on how Anatsui rose to prominence in the global art scene and only the lightest of touches on the political background in Ghana, why he left to live in Nigeria, or why the trans-Atlantic slave trade might be an important topic for his art, the writing lacks a clear driving theme or message. Passable for those familiar with the work but otherwise flimsy, this book falls prey to the trap of oversimplification on too many fronts, among them the development of an artist, the importance of contemporary African art abroad, and the concept of reusing and recycling; even the “art activity” proposed in the backmatter leaves something to be desired. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Lacking structure. (author’s note, text sources, quotation sources) (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: May 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-62014-966-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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A book to share that celebrates an immigrant and his abiding love for his adopted country, its holidays, and his “home sweet...

IRVING BERLIN, THE IMMIGRANT BOY WHO MADE AMERICA SING

A Jewish immigrant from Russia gives America some of its most iconic and beloved songs.

When Israel Baline was just 5 years old, his family fled pogroms in the Russian Empire and landed in New York City’s Lower East Side community. In the 1890s the neighborhood was filled with the sights, smells, and, most of all, sounds of a very crowded but vibrant community of poor Europeans who sailed past the Statue of Liberty in New York’s harbor to make a new life. Israel, who later became Irving Berlin, was eager to capture those sounds in music. He had no formal musical training but succeeded grandly by melding the rich cantorial music of his father with the spirit of America. Churnin’s text focuses on Berlin’s early years and how his mother’s words were an inspiration for “God Bless America.” She does not actually refer to Berlin as Jewish until her author’s note. Sanchez’s digital illustrations busily fill the mostly dark-hued pages with angular faces and the recurring motif of a very long swirling red scarf, worn by Berlin throughout. Librarians should note that the CIP information and the timeline are on pages pasted to the inside covers.

A book to share that celebrates an immigrant and his abiding love for his adopted country, its holidays, and his “home sweet home.” (author’s note, timeline) (Picture book/biography. 6-9)

Pub Date: June 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-939547-44-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Creston

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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