A stellar biography, as creepy and fun as its subject.



The story of Edward Gorey and his creepy “brand of silliness.”

“In 1925, a boy was born / in Chicago / who loved words / and pictures, too. / A brilliant boy, / An only boy.” That boy was Edward Gorey, “And oh, did he read! / He gobbled up adventures / and mysteries. / Comics and poetry. / The entire works / of French novelist / Victor Hugo, / for goodness’ sake.” The strange combination of whimsy and gruesomeness he found when reading Alice in Wonderland and Dracula one after the other when he was young is what he became famous for in his own books. Mortensen’s poetic text with spare rhythmic lines perfectly complements Bristol’s illustrations, which echo Gorey’s stylistically but bring color to the tale of an artist known for his “seas of black sketchy lines” rendered in pen and ink. Together, the text and illustrations brilliantly evoke the world of Edward Gorey’s books, providing young readers with just enough to know what Gorey was all about, even plaiting in key lines from The Gashlycrumb Tinies to prime the pump. A thorough author’s note fleshes out Gorey’s life, ending with a note about how his “sweet and sinister” style is seen nowadays in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.

A stellar biography, as creepy and fun as its subject. (sources) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-03368-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Versify/HMH

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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A larger-than-life subject is neatly captured in text and images.


The life journey of the first African American to serve on the United States Supreme Court and the incidents that formed him.

Thurgood Marshall grew up in segregated Baltimore, Maryland, with a family that encouraged him to stand for justice. Despite attending poor schools, he found a way to succeed. His father instilled in him a love of the law and encouraged him to argue like a lawyer during dinner conversations. His success in college meant he could go to law school, but the University of Maryland did not accept African American students. Instead, Marshall went to historically black Howard University, where he was mentored by civil rights lawyer Charles Houston. Marshall’s first major legal case was against the law school that denied him a place, and his success brought him to the attention of the NAACP and ultimately led to his work on the groundbreaking Brown v. Board of Education, which itself led to his appointment to the Supreme Court. This lively narrative serves as an introduction to the life of one of the country’s important civil rights figures. Important facts in Marshall’s life are effectively highlighted in an almost staccato fashion. The bold watercolor-and-collage illustrations, beginning with an enticing cover, capture and enhance the strong tone set by the words.

A larger-than-life subject is neatly captured in text and images. (author’s note, photos) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6533-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston...


A memorable, lyrical reverse-chronological walk through the life of an American icon.

In free verse, Cline-Ransome narrates the life of Harriet Tubman, starting and ending with a train ride Tubman takes as an old woman. “But before wrinkles formed / and her eyes failed,” Tubman could walk tirelessly under a starlit sky. Cline-Ransome then describes the array of roles Tubman played throughout her life, including suffragist, abolitionist, Union spy, and conductor on the Underground Railroad. By framing the story around a literal train ride, the Ransomes juxtapose the privilege of traveling by rail against Harriet’s earlier modes of travel, when she repeatedly ran for her life. Racism still abounds, however, for she rides in a segregated train. While the text introduces readers to the details of Tubman’s life, Ransome’s use of watercolor—such a striking departure from his oil illustrations in many of his other picture books—reveals Tubman’s humanity, determination, drive, and hope. Ransome’s lavishly detailed and expansive double-page spreads situate young readers in each time and place as the text takes them further into the past.

A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston Weatherford and Kadir Nelson’s Moses (2006). (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2047-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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