Synopses & Reviews
John F. Kennedy was a popular, charismatic president, beloved by many. But he didn't always believe he had the strength or courage for that office. As a child he was sickly and also overshadowed by his strong, capable, athletic older brother Joe. After Joe Jr.'s death John had to work hard to live up to his own expectations and to those of his father. He overcame pain and self-doubt to see the country through one of the most difficult crises in its history. Doreen Rappaport once again combines real-life quotes with her own lyrical prose to create a moving portrait of a beloved figure. Matt Tavares' stunning artwork vividly depicts this unique time in history.
As with these collaborators' Lady Liberty, the striking cover of this picture-book biography features a closeup portrait of the subject, all the more compelling in this instance with the omission of any type. In her signature succinct style, Rappaport fuses facts about Kennedy's personal and public lives with quotations from his writings and speeches. The author credits the 35th president for such achievements as establishing the Peace Corps and negotiating the first major weapons test-ban treaty with the Soviet Union, yet asserts, "not all of Kennedy's decisions were wise." She calls the U.S.'s 1961 invasion of Cuba "a disaster" and notes that, while violence erupted in the South as blacks protested for equal rights, Kennedy worried that he would alienate white Southern lawmakers. "For two years he hesitated," before "he took a firm stand and called for new laws protecting black Americans." Tavares's light- and shadow-infused paintings balance lifelike portrayals of Kennedy with renderings of dramatic events, notably a Japanese destroyer ramming Kennedy's PT boat during WWII and the planting of the American flag on the moon. An evenhanded, graphically stirring biography.--PW
Looking tan, healthy, and vibrant, a smiling Jack Kennedy greets young readers on the jacket of Rappaport's latest picture-book biography. Following a familiar pattern, she intersperses direct quotes from her subject with basic biographical information, this time stressing Kennedy's bravery and devotion to duty. Readers see JFK's competitive drive both in sports and in his defiance of Khrushchev; his intellectual side as a reader and author; his courage during World War II; and his dedication to service, as a "fill-in" for his dead brother Joe's political plans and as founder of the Peace Corps. Still, Rappaport refuses to turn this life into a hagiography, citing the disaster of the Cuban Missile Crisis and pointing out Kennedy's slow progress toward civil rights for African Americans. Tavares's watercolor and pencil illustrations capture a skinny kid competing in touch football, an unsure author autographing Why England Slept, a shy campaigner running for Congress, and a confident leader delivering his first inaugural address. A soft palette depicts idyllic settings (such as a Cape Cod beach) or suggests a bygone era faded by time, while more dramatic incidents such as the sinking of PT 109 and the moon landing are shown in bright, bold colors. Appended with author and illustrator notes, a bibliography, further readings, and a timeline.--Horn Book
Rappaport, whose credits include Abe's Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln (2008) and Eleanor, Quiet No More (2009), now offers a picture-book biography of John F. Kennedy. Moving quickly through his youth and education, the books tells of his heroism during WWII and the family pressure he felt to succeed in politics, both factors in his becoming president. Besides detailing several challenges of his presidency, the clearly written text offers a sense of his personality and charisma as well. An author's note, an illustrator's note, a chronology, a selected source bibliography, and a recommended-reading list are appended. Though the figures of people sometimes look static, the well-composed, large-scale illustrations are often stately and, at their best, capture some essential quality of the people portrayed. The simply endpapers carry two inspirational quotes from Kennedy, giving him the first and last words in this handsome volume.--Booklist
A striking cover close-up of Kennedy (with the title information on the back of the jacket, la the author's Martin's Big Words, illustrated by Bryan Collier, 2001) introduces the reader to this biography of the 35th president of the United States. It follows his trajectory from childhood, when he struggled to compete with his brother Joe, to his adult life as a writer, war hero, senator and, finally, president. Quotes (primarily from Kennedy's speeches and writings) are interwoven with the text and appear on each double-page spread. These are printed in an enlarged display type and in some instances they dominate the illustrations, but in other spreads the handsome and vivid illustrations pop. This brief but inspiring portrait includes the establishment of the Peace Corps and the Cuban Missile Crisis as well as his physical ailments and his sense of humor. The concluding page credits Kennedy for the sweeping laws and programs that his successor Johnson carried out. Acknowledgement is made that the quotes have been shortened and punctuation has been simplified, and their sources are included. (author's and illustrator's notes, timeline, bibliography, further reading)--Kirkus
About the Author
Doreen Rappaport (www.doreenrappaport.com) has written numerous award-winning books for children, including: Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
, a Caldecott Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Honor Book; and John's Secret Dreams: The Life of John Lennon
, also illustrated by Bryan Collier. She lives and writes in upstate New York.
Matt Tavares (www.matttaveres.com) is the illustrator several books, including Lady Liberty: A Biography, written by Doreen Rappaport. Matt lives in Ogunquit, Maine with his wife, Sarah, and their two daughters.