A reverent introduction to a trailblazing performer.



In the first picture-book biography of Madame Saqui, readers meet the talented, persevering French tightrope walker who defied gravity.

Marguerite-Antoinette Lalanne and her family flip and tumble onstage in late-18th-century Paris. Marguerite longs to dance on a tightrope, like her parents. But political upheaval in revolutionary-era France drives the family to the countryside, where, secretly, Marguerite takes ropewalking lessons. When her parents see her perform, they decide to return to circus life. After Marguerite marries, performing as Madame Saqui in her husband’s family circus, she heads back to Paris, becoming its “darling” and Napoleon’s favored acrobat. An inspirational tone — emphasizing the setbacks Saqui faced, her strong-willed spirit, and her daring feats (including ropewalking between the towers of Notre Dame de Paris)—pervades the story: “And she never fell,” readers learn on the final page, as an elderly Saqui ropewalks in her 70s. Green’s muted, stylized illustrations feature dramatic moments, as when Saqui, clad in a flowing white dress, dances across a tightrope as fireworks and stars twinkle in the Parisian sky. Saqui and most characters are white, but there is some diversity among other performers. Where readers fall on the complex legacy of Napoleon (warmonger or French hero?) may color their feelings about the book’s tone; as he “waged war across Europe, Madame Saqui reenacted his battles.” Italicized French words are sporadically incorporated into the text.

A reverent introduction to a trailblazing performer. (glossary) (Picture book. 6-12)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-57997-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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A measured corrective to pervasive myths about what is often referred to as the “first Thanksgiving.”

Contextualizing them within a Native perspective, Newell (Passamaquoddy) touches on the all-too-familiar elements of the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving and its origins and the history of English colonization in the territory now known as New England. In addition to the voyage and landfall of the Mayflower, readers learn about the Doctrine of Discovery that arrogated the lands of non-Christian peoples to European settlers; earlier encounters between the Indigenous peoples of the region and Europeans; and the Great Dying of 1616-1619, which emptied the village of Patuxet by 1620. Short, two- to six-page chapters alternate between the story of the English settlers and exploring the complex political makeup of the region and the culture, agriculture, and technology of the Wampanoag—all before covering the evolution of the holiday. Refreshingly, the lens Newell offers is a Native one, describing how the Wampanoag and other Native peoples received the English rather than the other way around. Key words ranging from estuary to discover are printed in boldface in the narrative and defined in a closing glossary. Nelson (a member of the Leech Lake Band of Minnesota Chippewa) contributes soft line-and-color illustrations of the proceedings. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Essential. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-72637-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Scholastic Nonfiction

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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A reasonably solid grounding in constitutional rights, their flexibility, lacunae, and hard-won corrections, despite a few...


Shamir offers an investigation of the foundations of freedoms in the United States via its founding documents, as well as movements and individuals who had great impacts on shaping and reshaping those institutions.

The opening pages of this picture book get off to a wobbly start with comments such as “You know that feeling you get…when you see a wide open field that you can run through without worrying about traffic or cars? That’s freedom.” But as the book progresses, Shamir slowly steadies the craft toward that wide-open field of freedom. She notes the many obvious-to-us-now exclusivities that the founding political documents embodied—that the entitled, white, male authors did not extend freedom to enslaved African-Americans, Native Americans, and women—and encourages readers to learn to exercise vigilance and foresight. The gradual inclusion of these left-behind people paints a modestly rosy picture of their circumstances today, and the text seems to give up on explaining how Native Americans continue to be left behind. Still, a vital part of what makes freedom daunting is its constant motion, and that is ably expressed. Numerous boxed tidbits give substance to the bigger political picture. Who were the abolitionists and the suffragists, what were the Montgomery bus boycott and the “Uprising of 20,000”? Faulkner’s artwork conveys settings and emotions quite well, and his drawing of Ruby Bridges is about as darling as it gets. A helpful timeline and bibliography appear as endnotes.

A reasonably solid grounding in constitutional rights, their flexibility, lacunae, and hard-won corrections, despite a few misfires. (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-54728-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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