A gloriously illustrated volume appropriately emphasizes process in its examination of Degas’s ballet paintings. “[Degas] learned that ballet training was very much like studying art. It took hard work and hours and hours of practice. Degas drew the same poses again and again, just as the dancers repeated their positions and steps again and again.” From this opening, Rubin (The Yellow House, 2001, etc.) proceeds to describe Degas’s fascination with the discipline of the ballet and his determination to capture both the beauty and the work of the dance. The simple text draws on primary-source material, including Degas’s own writings and those of his contemporaries and subjects, itself painting a portrait of an extraordinarily dedicated artist whose perfectionism led him to reclaim a gift made to a friend in order to tweak it. After ruining it and providing a different painting in apology, the friend reportedly chained the replacement to his wall. Such humanizing anecdotes accompany a host of thoroughly and thoughtfully captioned reproductions of his work; studies frequently appear next to the finished paintings to demonstrate his process. Degas’s experiments with media are succinctly described and illustrated, as is the effect of his increasing blindness on his art. One small flaw is the narrative’s assignment of Degas to the Impressionist school; many art historians place him, with his supremely humane depictions of weary dancers, in the school of Realism. The narrative’s focus is exclusively on Degas’s work with the dance; a biographical note (in forbiddingly dense type) follows, sketching out in more detail his full career. An author’s note and bibliography (in equally forbidding tiny type) round out this altogether lovely offering. (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-8109-0567-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2002

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A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering.


An honestly told biography of an important politician whose name every American should know.

Published while the United States has its first African-American president, this story of John Roy Lynch, the first African-American speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, lays bare the long and arduous path black Americans have walked to obtain equality. The title’s first three words—“The Amazing Age”—emphasize how many more freedoms African-Americans had during Reconstruction than for decades afterward. Barton and Tate do not shy away from honest depictions of slavery, floggings, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, or the various means of intimidation that whites employed to prevent blacks from voting and living lives equal to those of whites. Like President Barack Obama, Lynch was of biracial descent; born to an enslaved mother and an Irish father, he did not know hard labor until his slave mistress asked him a question that he answered honestly. Freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, Lynch had a long and varied career that points to his resilience and perseverance. Tate’s bright watercolor illustrations often belie the harshness of what takes place within them; though this sometimes creates a visual conflict, it may also make the book more palatable for young readers unaware of the violence African-Americans have suffered than fully graphic images would. A historical note, timeline, author’s and illustrator’s notes, bibliography and map are appended.

A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering. (Picture book biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5379-0

Page Count: 50

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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