cover image Eleanor


Barbara Cooney. Viking Children's Books, $15.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-670-86159-0

The privileged though painful childhood of First Lady and humanitarian Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) is chronicled with tenderness and care in Caldecott Medalist Cooney's (Emily; The Ox-Cart Man) memorable picture book biography. Skillfully compressing a bounty of detail, the author/artist focuses on Eleanor's emotional life as a childhood ""ugly duckling"": ""From the beginning the baby was a disappointment to her mother,"" Cooney begins. The tale ends with Eleanor's years at Allenswood, the English boarding school whose gifted headmistress helped transform Eleanor into a confident young woman. Cooney wisely refrains from specifically naming the Roosevelt family, allowing children to experience the text as an entertaining story as well as a piece of history. Creamy, reverently rendered paintings portray fashionable Manhattan, Hudson River Valley and Long Island settings; Cooney's intricate reproductions of houses and her recreations of period clothing and interiors are pleasures to behold as well as visual history lessons. An afterword sheds light on Eleanor Roosevelt's career (but would have benefited from the inclusion of her birth, marriage and death dates); most readers will probably want to explore more fully the groundbreaking achievements outlined here. Ages 5-up. (Oct.)