LINCOLN TELLS A JOKE

HOW LAUGHTER SAVED THE PRESIDENT (AND THE COUNTRY)

Not many biographies of the 16th U.S. president begin “Poor Abraham Lincoln.” This one does and goes on to list the reasons why the man’s life was “hardly fun,” but then it gets right to the titular theme: “But Lincoln had his own way of dealing with life. Not many people remember it today. It was all about laughing.” (In a lovely acrylic painting of the famous Lincoln log cabin, an escaping plume of “HaHaHaHas” mirrors the chimney smoke.) It wasn’t just jokes: “Words mattered,” and Lincoln’s witticisms are quoted liberally throughout: “Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.” Innerst’s gorgeous, textured paintings, many of them caricatures, are varied and inventive: When Lincoln’s great height is described in the text, his head and feet are cropped off the page. It’s a quirkily specific biography, but, as with Deborah Chandra and Madeleine Comora’s wonderful George Washington’s Teeth, illustrated by Brock Cole (2003), it reveals the human side of an American icon in an unusual, lively and thought-provoking way. (authors’ note, sources) (Picture book/biography. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-15-206639-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 27, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2010

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TWENTY-ONE ELEPHANTS AND STILL STANDING

Strong rhythms and occasional full or partial rhymes give this account of P.T. Barnum’s 1884 elephant parade across the newly opened Brooklyn Bridge an incantatory tone. Catching a whiff of public concern about the new bridge’s sturdiness, Barnum seizes the moment: “’I will stage an event / that will calm every fear, erase every worry, / about that remarkable bridge. / My display will amuse, inform / and astound some. / Or else my name isn’t Barnum!’” Using a rich palette of glowing golds and browns, Roca imbues the pachyderms with a calm solidity, sending them ambling past equally solid-looking buildings and over a truly monumental bridge—which soars over a striped Big Top tent in the final scene. A stately rendition of the episode, less exuberant, but also less fictionalized, than Phil Bildner’s Twenty-One Elephants (2004), illustrated by LeUyen Pham. (author’s note, resource list) (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2005

ISBN: 0-618-44887-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

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THE FANTASTIC UNDERSEA LIFE OF JACQUES COUSTEAU

This second early biography of Cousteau in a year echoes Jennifer Berne’s Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau (2008), illustrated by Eric Puybaret, in offering visuals that are more fanciful than informational, but also complements it with a focus less on the early life of the explorer and eco-activist than on his later inventions and achievements. In full-bleed scenes that are often segmented and kaleidoscopic, Yaccarino sets his hook-nosed subject amid shoals of Impressionistic fish and other marine images, rendered in multiple layers of thinly applied, imaginatively colored paint. His customarily sharp, geometric lines take on the wavy translucence of undersea shapes with a little bit of help from the airbrush. Along with tracing Cousteau’s undersea career from his first, life-changing, pair of goggles and the later aqualung to his minisub Sea Flea, the author pays tribute to his revolutionary film and TV work, and his later efforts to call attention to the effects of pollution. Cousteau’s enduring fascination with the sea comes through clearly, and can’t help sparking similar feelings in readers. (chronology, source list) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 24, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-375-85573-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2009

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