From School Library Journal
Grade 7 Up—Pablo Picasso couldn't sit still in class; Winston Churchill took the entrance exams to military school three times before he passed. Who would believe that one day they would be famous? This collection of biographical sketches introduces 26 figures in literature, art, science, and history, all of whom had "chaotic beginnings." Most are familiar to American students, though some, like Olympe de Gouges and François Truffaut, may be new. The chapters center on the subjects' early lives, though sidebars provide some context and explanation of their adult accomplishments. Some sections are written in first person: John Lennon's begins, "I am one of the Beatles. No, not Paul. The other one, John." Walt Disney's story is told by his cartoon characters. Bloch has altered existing paintings and photographs to add to the informal tone (for example, he has drawn a group of soldiers marching up Churchill's shoulders). The biographies are reminiscent of Kathleen Krull's Lives of the Artists: Masterpieces, Messes (And What the Neighbors Thought)
(Harcourt, 2005), though for more sophisticated readers. Unfortunately, the translation is awkward at times, and the creativity of the text (and lack of an index) limit the book's use for student research. However, the unusual format will attract readers, who will likely find it comforting to know that not everyone who becomes successful has an easy start.—Jackie Partch, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR
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About the Author
Jean-Bernard Pouy, a big name in French detective fiction, turns his attention here to some real life characters, with humor, bit and tenderness. Serge Bloch's illustrations have appeared in newspapers, magazines and both adult and children's books. His easily recognizable caricatures, which are both witty and humane, brilliantly succeed in overturning cultural icons. About his own style he has said: "I like to combine illustration and photography more and more because a photograph really makes us believe that it's true." Anne Blanchard currently thinks up and oversees books on various themes, occasionally writing them herself. She was formerly a social science and children's book editor. Another of her brainstorms, The Big Book of Dummies, Rebels and Other Geniuses, has also been published by Enchanted Lion Books.