Lin-Manuel Miranda : Raising Theater to New Heights  – Kurtis Scaletta, illustrated by David Shephard

    Lin-Manuel Miranda : Raising Theater to New Heights (Trailblazers)  – Kurtis Scaletta, illustrated by David Shephard. Random House, 2021. 9780593124468

Format: Paperback

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

 Genre: biography

 What did you like about the book? The life and success of Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda is covered in this fairly up-to-date biography.  The stories of his upbringing and education, his early interest in theater, and his passion for his Puerto Rican family and heritage provide an interesting backdrop to the narrative of his steady climb to his status as one of the most popular and successful performers in recent years.  A role model because of his work ethic and his philanthropy as much as his many musical and theatrical talents, Miranda is portrayed as a down-to-earth ‘regular guy’ who has worked hard to achieve everything he has.  The book brings its audience right up to the present, including mention of the COVID-19 pandemic and the summer 2020 release of the Hamilton movie on Disney+, and leaves the reader speculating on the many potential projects Miranda has in the works as of now.  

Historical context is gently done – it is certainly clear to which side Miranda leans politically but references to issues surrounding immigration and the Latinx community are dealt with obliquely.  Information about Miranda’s important influences and ‘key collaborators,’ and plot summaries of his plays and projects, even a quick biographical sketch of Alexander Hamilton, are scattered throughout, as well as pertinent quotations from interviews and many lines from Hamilton.  A decent amount of helpful backmatter, including a timeline, a glossary and an index, is appended. 

Anything you did not like about the book?  As with other books in the Trailblazers series, the layout of the book is cluttered, with awkwardly-placed sidebars and fact boxes that disrupt the flow of the text.  Cartoonish illustrations of a very current subject seem out of place; most of them look like renderings of photos pulled either from celebrity magazines or social media, and young readers might find it odd that actual photographs were not used, at least for some of the book.  A nitpicky issue that struck me was the author repeatedly referring to President and Mrs. Obama as “Barack” and “Michelle.” 

 To whom would you recommend this book? Aspiring Broadway stars and young “Hamilfans” will definitely enjoy learning more about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s rise to the top.  The level of detail and thoroughness will certainly suffice for any biography project for upper elementary or middle school students who choose Miranda for a subject in the near future.  

Who should buy this book? Public, elementary and middle school libraries

Where would you shelve it?  Biography

 Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  no

 Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.

Date of review: 2/28/2021

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