The handsome design, large format, and beautiful artwork make this very attractive, but the lack of source notes or...

TALKIN’ ABOUT BESSIE

THE STORY OF AVIATOR ELIZABETH COLEMAN

“Brave Bessie Coleman,” the first black woman in the world to earn a pilot’s license, has been the subject of several recent picture book biographies: (Fly, Bessie, Fly, by Lynn Joseph, 1998; Fly High!, by Louise Borden and Mary Kay Kroeger, 2001; Nobody Owns the Sky, by Reeve Lindbergh, 1996).

Grimes takes an unusual, fictionalized approach to portraying this determined, undaunted woman who made aviation history. She recreates the voices of 20 people who supposedly knew Bessie, expressing their point of view in a free-verse format. Each double spread has the person’s monologue with his or her name or role running down the edge of the page with a cameo drawing like a photo at the top; opposite is a full-page illustration in Lewis’s typical style that strikingly adds dimension and context to the times and the woman. From her father, who left the large family in Texas, to sisters to flight instructor to news reporter to young fan, the monologue device succeeds somewhat in piecing together a portrait of this woman who braved hardships of both poverty and prejudice. Her dream was to open an aviation school for African-Americans, but a plane crash in 1926 ended her life at age 34.

The handsome design, large format, and beautiful artwork make this very attractive, but the lack of source notes or clarification of what’s fictionalized—especially quotes—and the strange opening scene set at Bessie’s wake as she speaks to her mother from her photo on the mantel, will leave many readers confused. (Picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-439-35243-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2002

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FIVE TRUCKS

Floca (The Frightful Story of Harry Walfish, 1997, etc.) offers a great explication of the small trucks that airline passengers see scurrying around jets on the runways. In brightly painted illustrations and simple descriptions, he introduces each vehicle, explains what it does, and shows it in action, e.g., the truck called the baggage conveyor is shown hoisting suitcases into the belly of the plane. All five trucks’ duties point to a big finale when the plane takes off. Given preschoolers’ well-documented fascination with heavy machinery, this book will strike a chord with young air travelers, and answer the questions of older travelers as well. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-7894-2561-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: DK Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1999

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ISAAC THE ICE CREAM TRUCK

Newcomer Santoro’s story of the ice cream truck that pined for a more important role in life suffers from a premise that’s well-worn and still fraying—the person or object that longs to be something “more” in life, only to find out that his or its lot in life is enough, after all. Isaac the ice cream truck envies all the bigger, larger, more important vehicles he encounters (the big wheels are depicted as a rude lot, sullen, surly, and snarling, hardly a group to excite much envy) in a day, most of all the fire trucks and their worthy occupants. When Isaac gets that predictable boost to his self-image—he serves up ice cream to over-heated firefighters after a big blaze—it comes as an unmistakable putdown to the picture-book audience: the children who cherished Isaac—“They would gather around him, laughing and happy”—weren’t reason enough for him to be contented. Santoro equips the tale with a tune of Isaac’s very own, and retro scenes in tropical-hued colored pencil that deftly convey the speed of the trucks with skating, skewed angles. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-5296-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1999

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