Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Four Picture Book Biographies

Here Come the Girl Scouts!: The Amazing All-True Story of Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low and Her Great Adventure. By Shana Corey. Illustrated by Hadley Hooper. 2012. Scholastic. 40 pages.

Daisy was a girl with gumption. Daisy grew up in Savannah, Georgia, at a time when proper young ladies were supposed to be dainty and delicate. But Daisy came from a family of pathfinders and pioneers. She wanted adventure and excitement! Delicate? thought Daisy. Bosh! How boring! 

There was so much to love about Shana Corey's picture book biography of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts. I loved the text. It was informative, true, but very kid-friendly.
Daisy and her friend Professor Walter Hoxie worked together to write a handbook for the Girl Scouts. The girls read the book and learned all sorts of interesting things such as: How to find the time by the stars or by the sun, how to cure hams, how to secure a burglar with eight inches of cord, how to brush your teeth if a crocodile takes your toothbrush, how to stop a runaway horse, how to get the skin off a sardine. 

I loved the illustrations, thought the style was great! I loved the quotes on each spread, the author's note reveals that many of these quotes come from the very first Girl Scouts Guide published in 1913. Overall, I thought it was very well done! Interesting, informative, relevant, and just fun!

Read Here Come the Girlscouts!
  • If you're interested in learning more about the Girl Scouts, and the founder of the Girl Scouts, Juliette Gordon Low
  • If you are looking for great biographies to share with children
  • If you are looking for a book that highlights the contribution by women to society
Those Rebels, John and Tom. By Barbara Kerley. Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. 2012. Scholastic. 48 pages.

 The true story of how one gentleman--short and stout--and another--tall and lean--formed a surprising alliance, committed treason, and helped launch a new nation. When John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were young, they were very different. John skipped school to fly kites and shoot marbles. He loved swimming, hunting, wrestling--and the occasional boxing match, just for kicks. Tom didn't skip school. He skipped recess--to study Greek grammar. He loved dancing, playing the violin, and reading all the books in his father's library. When John and Tom grew up, they were even more different.

I definitely enjoyed this one. While this one isn't my favorite, favorite picture book biography by Barbara Kerley, I still think it's a great book. (I happen to LOVE, LOVE, LOVE The Extraordinary Mark Twain and What To Do About Alice.) I think the book is informative--there is so much information included for a picture book--but avoids being boring. I think the narrative is strong, which is what it needs to be if you're going to hold a reader's attention.
And then there were all those taxes! A tax on sugar. On coffee and tea. On glass, on pain, and on calico cloth. Newspapers, contracts, even decks of cards! King George and his government taxed them all. They thought America was nothing but a big fat piggy bank to be turned upside down and shaken for coins. And so, in the fall of 1774, a group of Americans planned a meeting in Philadelphia--a Continental Congress--to figure out what to do about it. Something had to change!

I also enjoyed the illustrations by Edwin Fotheringham. Overall, I thought this was a good book about two of the founding fathers, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, a good introduction to the Declaration of Independence. The book does not try to tell every little thing about each man, instead it focuses on how their friendship and cooperation helped lead the way to freedom. By showing that two men--men who held very different ideas on many subjects--could come together with a common goal and accomplish quite a bit!

Read Those Rebels, John and Tom

  • If you're looking for picture book biographies to share with young children (K-3?)
  • If you're looking for patriotic picture books to celebrate America, the fourth of July, etc.
  • If you're looking for strong values--friendship, cooperation, teamwork, compromising, listening, etc.
  • If you're a fan of Barbara Kerley
Just Behave, Pablo Picasso! By Jonah Winter. Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. Scholastic. 48 pages.

One day the world is a peaceful, lovely landscape painting....
The next day--BLAM!--Pablo bursts through the canvas, paintbrush in hand, ready to paint something fresh and new. 

Just Behave, Pablo Picasso is quite an introduction to the artist. It is very creative in its telling, it almost feels too fun to be truly nonfiction. (If that makes sense!) I think it's written in such a way that it will appeal to young readers, it definitely has more of a storybook feel to it. It does cover at least a handful of Picasso's periods as an artists--his styles, moods, techniques, etc. His blue period, his rose period, cubism, etc. It discusses how his art was "received" by the world, by the critics, it discusses how this didn't really have an effect on him, how he did want he wanted, when he wanted, and didn't let anyone tell him what to paint, or how to paint.
All anyone wants is for him to keep painting the same old picture, over and over. Well, guess what? He doesn't want to, he doesn't have to, and he's not going to! HAH! Back in his studio, Pablo starts working on something even more outlandish than his last painting. "Why can't you keep painting beautiful pictures?" asks his wife. "Why can't you keep making art that makes sense?" "The world today doesn't make sense," says Pablo. "Why should I make pictures that do?" And sure enough, much of the world around Pablo doesn't make sense. Everything is changing all the time. New things are being invented: cars, airplanes, telephones, bombs. "But Pablo," says a fellow artist, "your new painting doesn't look real." "Everything you can imagine," says Pablo, "is real."
 I liked this one. I thought it very creative. I thought it would probably make the best read aloud out of all of the picture book biographies I'm reading today.

Read Just Behave, Pablo Picasso
  • If you're looking for a kid-friendly, reader-friendly introduction to the artist Pablo Picasso
  • If you're looking for art-appreciation picture books
Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child. Jessie Hartland. 2012. Random House. 48 pages. 

She bubbled over with effervescence, spoke as if she had marbles in her mouth, and gleefully hammed it up in front of the camera. 
She joined a spy mission during World War II...and later moved to Paris and learned to cook. She wrote a classic French cookbook that still sells oodles of copies. She created and starred in a pioneering TV show loved by millions. How did a gangly girl from Pasadena do it? This is her story.

I really, really, really wanted to LOVE Bon Appetit! I did. But it didn't quite work for me. On the one hand, I really appreciated the amount of information. Julia Child was a very INTERESTING and FASCINATING character, in many ways, one-of-a-kind. And this book is great at capturing that. This isn't just a book highlighting her life, here we get details big and small. But, on the other hand, this one was so very, very, very busy. The way this one is presented makes this one a challenge to read--a challenge to read to yourself, I couldn't imagine trying to read this one aloud to someone else. The design was just very cluttered, very busy. I never knew if I was supposed to read left to right, or up and down. (Some pages were more confusing than others.) There was just a lot of text, a lot of information to be absorbed or processed. And the art was fun, in its way. There is something charming about it. But. There was something about this one that made it an almost for me. I do think this one is for an older audience as well.

Read Bon Appetit
  • If you're a fan of Julia Child
  • If you're looking for children's books about cooking
  • If you want a little French--okay a LOT of French in your picture book
  • If you're looking for a quirky picture book biography

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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