Review of Bobby: A Story of Robert F. Kennedy

Bobby: A Story of Robert F. Kennedy
by Deborah Wiles; illus. by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh
Primary, Intermediate    Scholastic    48 pp.    g
9/22    978-0-545-17123-6    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-338-78373-5    $11.99

In 1968, a grandfather and grandchild wait for the train carrying the slain Robert F. Kennedy’s body to pass by, in order to pay their respects. As they wait, the grandfather tells the story of “Bobby’s” life, from a small boy in a rich, ambitious family, acting tough to please his father; to campaign manager for brother and presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, determined to “WIN” at all costs; to his own candidacy for the presidency—undertaken to change things for the better, and working in concert with others. “This time, he didn’t grab at victory to win. Instead, he reached out his hand…Hands of all colors, hands in all neighborhoods, hands of all sizes…reached back to him.” Wiles (the Sixties Trilogy) manages to cover all the outward milestones while making the heart of the book Kennedy’s growth as a human being; her account, suffused with compassion, respect, and melancholy, communicates all that was lost with RFK’s assassination. Fazlalizadeh’s soft, textured illustrations, in graphite and colored digitally, variously convey time, place, and zeitgeist; evoke emotion; and capture personality. The book ends back at the railroad tracks, with the grandfather urging the child to reach out their own hand, to use their own “tough, fierce, mighty” heart to change the world. Appended with an author’s note, suggestions for further reading, and a selected bibliography; quotes sprinkled throughout give further insight into RFK’s character. Superb.

From the November/December 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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