Eleanor, Quiet No More

Doreen Rappaport, Author, Gary Kelley, Illustrator , illus. by Gary Kelley. Disney-Hyperion $16.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-7868-5141-6

Rappaport's spare text and Kelley's handsome paintings, evocative of WPA murals, reclaim the legendary first lady's story for the younger set, revealing the person behind the icon. Writing in clipped, one-or-two-sentence paragraphs that have the feel of blank verse, Rappaport is vivid and frank about Eleanor's unhappy childhood and overbearing mother-in-law (“Sara told Eleanor what clothes to buy and what food to serve.... She even chose their furniture”), although she demurs when it comes to the Roosevelts' own marital problems. Each spread is anchored by a quote from Eleanor herself, set in large type to convey her voice, growing sense of confidence and moral conviction (the opening endpapers read, “Do something every day that scares you,” setting a powerful tone from the outset). Kelley's muted palette conveys the gravity of the times and provides a striking visual counterpoint to his dramatic, strongly geometric compositions. Even if readers have little sense of history, they will close the book understanding that it was America's great fortune to have Eleanor's life coincide with some of its darkest hours. Ages 5–8. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 02/16/2009
Release date: 02/01/2009
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