A starscape filled with visual drama and brilliance.

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  • Coretta Scott King Book Award Winner

FIREBIRD

A dancer offers encouragement to those who dream of following her onto the stage.

Copeland, a soloist with American Ballet Theater, is a rara avis, an African-American ballerina. In this, her first book for children, she establishes a dialogue with an imaginary young girl, also black, who is full of doubts. Copeland assures her that she too was “a dreaming shooting star of a girl” who worked very hard in class. Likewise, the young girl can “become a swan, a beauty, a firebird for sure.” The text is untrammeled by capital letters or periods, and the language soars into dizzying heights of lyrical fancy that barely contain her message of inspiration. Myers’ artwork, a combination of textured paintings and collage, is the true standout. His vibrant reds, golds and blues, set into the sharp-edged patterns of the backgrounds, evoke the intense drama of the Firebird ballet and pulsate with kinetic synergy. Double-page spreads depict the young girl maturing from loneliness to uncertainty to accomplishment as the ballerina practices at the barre and provides a one-on-one display of bravura technique. The New York City skyline sparkles as Copeland does jetés over a jeweled Brooklyn Bridge.

A starscape filled with visual drama and brilliance. (author’s note) (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-16615-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic.

STICKS AND STONES

Veteran picture-book creator Polacco tells another story from her childhood that celebrates the importance of staying true to one’s own interests and values.

After years of spending summers with her father and grandmother, narrator Trisha is excited to be spending the school year in Michigan with them. Unexpectedly abandoned by her summertime friends, Trisha quickly connects with fellow outsiders Thom and Ravanne, who may be familiar to readers from Polacco’s The Junkyard Wonders (2010). Throughout the school year, the three enjoy activities together and do their best to avoid school bully Billy. While a physical confrontation between Thom (aka “Sissy Boy”) and Billy does come, so does an opportunity for Thom to defy convention and share his talent with the community. Loosely sketched watercolor illustrations place the story in the middle of the last century, with somewhat old-fashioned clothing and an apparently all-White community. Trisha and her classmates appear to be what today would be called middle schoolers; a reference to something Trisha and her mom did when she was “only eight” suggests that several years have passed since that time. As usual, the lengthy first-person narrative is cozily conversational but includes some challenging vocabulary (textiles, lackeys, foretold). The author’s note provides a brief update about her friends’ careers and encourages readers to embrace their own differences. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2622-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization.

A PLACE FOR PLUTO

If Pluto can’t be a planet—then what is he?

Having been a regular planet for “the better part of forever,” Pluto is understandably knocked out of orbit by his sudden exclusion. With Charon and his four other moons in tow he sets off in search of a new identity. Unfortunately, that only spins him into further gloom, as he doesn’t have a tail like his friend Halley’s comet, is too big to join Ida and the other asteroids, and feels disinclined to try to crash into Earth like meteoroids Gem and Persi. Then, just as he’s about to plunge into a black hole of despair, an encounter with a whole quartet of kindred spheroids led by Eris rocks his world…and a follow-up surprise party thrown by an apologetic Saturn (“Dwarf planet has a nice RING to it”) and the other seven former colleagues literally puts him “over the moon.” Demmer gives all the heavenly bodies big eyes (some, including the feminine Saturn, with long lashes) and, on occasion, short arms along with distinctive identifying colors or markings. Dressing the troublemaking meteoroids in do-rags and sunglasses sounds an off note. Without mentioning that the reclassification is still controversial, Wade closes with a (somewhat) straighter account of Pluto’s current official status and the reasons for it.

Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68446-004-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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