The Girl Who Named Pluto: The Story of Venetia Burney

Starred Review, Kirkus - May 14th, 2019

It’s 1930, and an 11-year-old girl in Oxford, England, is about to make history.
McGinty first introduces readers to young Venetia Burney attentively listening to a school lesson about the solar system and quickly establishes Venetia’s voracious curiosity across disciplines. The elegant yet accessible text is packed with historical tidbits that contextualize her scientific contribution without overwhelming readers (for example, the fact that her well-connected grandfather had a friend in the Royal Astronomical Society who shared Venetia’s idea with the Lowell Observatory astronomers). Third-person present-tense narration draws readers into the exact moment when, upon hearing that a ninth planet has been discovered, Venetia suggests a name: “she knows that this planet, so far from the sun, must be frozen, dark, and lifeless…like…the underworld ruled in Roman myths by Neptune’s brother, Pluto.” Haidle’s layered, semiopaque washes of blue-gray ink with rusty red accents impart a gravitas that supports the significance of Venetia’s contribution and, echoing sepia-tone photos, emphasizes her place in history. The muted color palette somewhat obfuscates skin tones, but most people, including Venetia, appear white. The constellations on the endpapers immediately introduce the connection between mythology and astronomy that inspired Venetia, while stylized maps and diagrams of the solar system will enthrall readers of all ages.
An inspiring and beautifully illustrated tale made all the better by its historical foundation. (author’s note) (Picture book/biography. 4-8)


Rabbi Benjamin

Starred Review, Publisher's Weekly – August, 2014: Rabbi Benjamin and his congregation are besotted with one another, but when the community presents its leader with a yellow-gold vest to wear on holidays, decorated with four shiny silver buttons, they neglect to factor in one thing: Jewish holidays mean lots of irresistible, calorie- and emotion-laden Jewish cooking. As the rabbi grows increasingly portly at various dinners, it’s clear to both him and his attentive dog that the vest and its silver buttons are not engineered to expand. Oy-yoy-yoy! You don’t have to be Jewish to love this marvelously funny, wholly original story about the intersection of faith, food, and families—in fact, it’s got a wrap-up that Michelle Obama would applaud: Rabbi Benjamin discovers that a regimen of community-centered exercise (like helping one family plant a Sukkot garden) can work wonders. McGinty’s (Gandhi: A March to the Sea) loving, lighthearted prose is as sunshiny as her characters, while Reinhardt’s (The Adventures of a South Pole Pig) detailed watercolors depict a diverse congregation brimming with endearing idiosyncrasies and mutual affection—a real mishpochah. Ages 4–8. Illustrator’s agent: Marietta B. Zacker, Nancy Gallt Literary Agency. (Aug.)

Gandhi: A March to the Sea

Starred Review,  School Library Journal – May, 2013 Gr 1-4: This lyrical picture book tells the story of Gandhi’s role in the 1930 Salt March, a peaceful protest of the British-imposed taxation of salt in India. Gandhi and 78 others walked more than 200 miles to gather salt for use and sale in direct violation of a British law that they felt was unjust. The flowing text describes how the marchers faced soldiers, were encouraged by villagers along the way, and how Gandhi’s consistent and gentle confidence kept them on the right path. Stunning mixed-media artwork portrays the journey in brilliant hues with a soft touch. Gandhi’s familiar figure is included in every painting, in unique and inspiring ways; sometimes just his feet, or close-ups of his face, but most often silhouetted against the dramatic landscape of India. While this book shares only a small part of Gandhi’s legacy, it is a key moment in India’s fight for independence, an excellent example of his life and work, and an intriguing introduction to the man. Demi’s Gandhi (S & S, 2001) may provide more detail and a broader scope, but this gorgeous, thoughtful account should be in every biography collection.–Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA.

Publisher’s Weekly, April, 2013: McGinty crafts a subtle yet expansive portrait of Mohandas Gandhi, centering on his leadership during a 24-day march to perform the forbidden act of taking salt from the Arabian Sea (a response to the British government’s control of resources). Melodic free verse ruminates on the symbolism behind Gandhi’s actions: “With his own hands,/ Gandhi draws water,/ from the Untouchables’ well,/ to wash his dusty body/ cool and clean…. He tells Muslims, Hindus, and Untouchables/ that they are different but the same./ India needs them all/ to work as one/ for freedom.” The great majority of Gonzalez’s lavish paintings emphasize modesty and quiet integrity: Gandhi walks the dry earth, barefoot and in solidarity with India’s poor. A striking profile of a luminous human rights activist. Ages 6–up. (Apr.)

Kirkus Reviews, March, 2013: McGinty’s gentle, poetic picture book, awash with sunrises, salt, sand and sensory images, tells an intense present-tense story of Mohandas Gandhi’s 24-day march to the sea in 1930 in search of freedom and peaceful change for the people of India. The bespectacled, contemplative face of Gandhi that appears on the front cover of the book sets the mood for the story, emphasizing his determination. His goal is to challenge 200 years of British rule by breaking the law prohibiting Indians from collecting salt from the sea. His march changes more than just the attitudes of the British. Gandhi sometimes walks alone and at other times leads throngs of people from a variety of castes. When he reaches out to the untouchables and even washes in their well water, “[d]isgust and fear / brew like storms / in the villagers’ watching eyes.” Remaining undeterred and true to his faith, Gandhi marches on. Gonzalez’s rich mixed-media illustrations shift perspectives often to focus on the important elements in each scene: Bare feet and dirty white trousers hint at the difficulty of the journey; faceless crowds that melt into the horizon suggest the size of Gandhi’s following. An imperfect marriage of text and illustrations sometimes creates confusion more than clarity, as when elaborately dressed female dancers suddenly appear on the road with the walkers. Despite this, the book tells a story worth remembering. This walk with Gandhi is time well-spent. (Picture book. 6-12) __________ “This re-telling of a fascinating story introduces today’s American children to a remarkable man who freed India and influenced the whole world, the United States included.” —Rajmohan Gandhi, professor at the University of Illinois and a grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.


Kirkus says: ”An accessible and thoroughly engaging biography of the much-profiled scientist, this easy-to-follow narrative is enriched by striking illustrations and excerpts from Darwin’s own writings. Exquisite and enlightening.”

Booklist says: ”McGinty does a fine job of communicating Darwin’s personal humility as well as his passion for exploring the natural world, his tireless work to understand it better, and his reluctance to publish a theory that seemed to contradict religious teaching. The interplay of the clearly written third-person text with Darwin’s own words and occasional quotes from his contemporaries creates a multifaceted view that leads to a broader understanding. Biographies of scientists can be challenging to write for an audience unfamiliar with their research, but this one succeeds in introducing Darwin and his work to a surprisingly young group.”
- Carolyn Phelan

Wired Magazine says: ”Though aimed at the young evolutionary (ages 6 to 9), Darwin is a surprisingly sophisticated biography, incorporating verbatim excerpts from the naturalist’s own letters and diaries.”(January 2009)