An outstanding achievement and a life worthy of note.



A former slave fulfills his quest for an education and much more in this superbly designed tribute to an oft-maligned African-American educator and author.

The young Washington, who learned his letters from a spelling book his mother gave to him, hears about Hampton College in Virginia, over 500 miles away. With the help of neighbors who share their precious coins, he travels, mostly on foot, from West Virginia with hunger, cold and weariness as constant companions. Asim’s lyrical text transforms the journey into a spiritual awakening for a young man who had “a dream in his soul.” Collier is in brilliant Caldecott Honor style, using his signature watercolor paintings and cut-paper collage to incorporate elements from Booker’s life and visions into each illustration. A map route is a design on his shirt, and letters and words from the speller he cherished decorate the pages. Each tableau is beautifully composed and balanced with textured colors and patterns. The cover display type and the endpapers, which are taken from Webster’s American Spelling Book, embellish this ode to book learning. Washington’s was not a life filled with anger and fiery oratory. Rather, Asim and Collier laud his steadfast determination and lifelong dedication to learning.

An outstanding achievement and a life worthy of note. (additional facts, author’s note, illustrator’s note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-08657-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

A work of breadth and energy, just like its subject; engaging and brimming with appeal for a wide audience.


A beautifully realized labor of love and affection brings to life one of our brightest founding fathers.

Ben Franklin’s multiple geniuses might be too large to be contained in a simple narrative, but Byrd finds a way to convey with warmth and enthusiasm an appreciation for the long and influential life that Franklin lived as printer, inventor and statesman. Byrd’s sparkling marriage of text and illustration lowers the barriers to comprehending the brilliance, energy, passion and inventiveness of this early American phenom. Four generously wide columns across each opening offer a space for the straightforward, clear-voiced narrative accompanied by full-color, captioned artwork—sometimes several illustrations on a page—along with charming, brief inset quotations from Franklin’s writings. The design evokes the two-columned early newspapers that Franklin might have known. Byrd’s prose is respectful of his young readers and sophisticated at the same time, providing historical and cultural context for events and significant moments in Franklin’s life and selecting from a very big life the stories that best convey a sense of the personality and character of the man. The artwork and distinctive design must stand as markers for readers who want to return to specific places in the text, as there are neither page numbers nor an index. However, a comprehensive timeline and bibliography will serve young scholars well, and the author’s notes add to an understanding of both Franklin and the historical record about him.

A work of breadth and energy, just like its subject; engaging and brimming with appeal for a wide audience. (Biography. 8-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3749-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

Riveting reading, well-timed for the centennial of the Titanic’s sinking.


Based on a true story of shipwreck and rescue, Carbone’s tale is leavened with narration by Anthony, a venturesome lad whose penchant for playing pirates helps him through the harrowing event.

It’s 1882, and the steamship Pliny, bound for New York City from Brazil, founders in a storm off New Jersey. Anthony and his friend Pedro run onto the deck to gauge whether New York is near. Instead, they face life-threatening conditions, as towering waves splinter lifeboats and the engines die. In the gray dawn, the boys see land, men and—a cannon. Before there’s much time to ponder pirates, a rescue line is launched from shore to ship, followed by the breeches buoy: “It comes swinging toward us hanging from the rope: a life preserver with a pair of short pants attached.” One by one, passengers are hauled along the line to safety ashore at Deal Beach. Carbone’s text conveys a compelling “you are there” tone as Anthony prepares to ride the breeches buoy: “I swing out into open space. Below me, waves crash and twist like angry snakes. Will the ropes hold?” Carpenter’s pictures beautifully capture both historical detail and the event’s inherent drama. A seagoing palette of blue, gray, brown and ochre, crosshatched in black, thoroughly suits the period.

Riveting reading, well-timed for the centennial of the Titanic’s sinking. (afterword) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-06312-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

Deza is one great heroine in her own right, a fitting literary companion to Bud Caldwell.


Deza Malone had a brief appearance in Curtis’ multiple–award-winning novel, Bud, Not Buddy (Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Author Award, 2000). Now, she is the dynamic and engaging heroine of her own story.

Deza takes great pride in being the best student in school and the champion of her musically gifted but challenged older brother. Although the Malones are barely surviving the Depression in Gary, Ind., Deza has a strong sense of self and hope for a better life. As she writes in her school essay, “We are the only family in the world, in my ken, that has a motto of our own! That motto is ‘We are a family on a journey to a place called Wonderful.’ I can’t wait until we get there!” Despite severe economic and racial restrictions, the strength of their familial bond remains strong, but even that connection is sorely tested when Mr. Malone returns to his hometown of Flint, Mich., seeking work. Deza, her brother Jimmie and their mother set out to find him as their situation becomes dire. With his distinctive style of storytelling that seamlessly presents the hardships and finds the humor in tough circumstances, Curtis forges the link between characters and readers. The fluidity of the writing, the strong sense of place and time combined with well-drawn characters will captivate and delight.

Deza is one great heroine in her own right, a fitting literary companion to Bud Caldwell. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-73491-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

A beautiful tale of perseverance.


A young girl tackles a learning disability and the uncertainty of daily life in early-20th-century Cuba.

Ten years old at the tale’s opening, Josefa “Fefa” de la Caridad Uría Peña lives with her parents and 10 siblings on their farm, Goatzacoalco. Diagnosed with “word blindness” (a misnomer for dyslexia), Fefa struggles at school and in a home rich with words, including the writings of Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío. Discounting a doctor’s opinion that “Fefa will never be able / to read, or write, / or be happy / in school,” her mother gives her a blank diary: “Let the words sprout / like seedlings, / then relax and watch / as your wild diary / grows.” Basing her tale on the life of her maternal grandmother, Engle captures the frustrations, setbacks and triumphs of Fefa’s language development in this often lyrical free-verse novel. Her reading difficulties are heightened when bandits begin roving the countryside, kidnapping local children for ransom: “All I can think of / is learning how / to read / terrifying / ransom notes.” The author gives readers a portrait of a tumultuous period in Cuban history and skillfully integrates island flora, fauna and mythology into Fefa’s first-person tale. This canvas heightens Fefa’s determination to rise above the expectations of her siblings, peers and society.

A beautiful tale of perseverance. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-58131-6

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

Share with readers of all ages as a beautiful message about peaceful protest and purposeful action.


An African-American family awakens before dawn to prepare for the historic March on Washington in August, 1963.

In this stirring companion to Underground (2011), Evans captures a pivotal event in the struggle for equality and civil rights in America. The family joins neighbors to pray at their church, paint signs and travel by bus to Washington. They walk and sing and grow tired but “are filled with hope” as they stand together at the Washington Monument to listen to Dr. King speak of dreams and freedom. With just one line per page, Evans’ text is spare but forceful. The March has become synonymous with Dr. King’s grandiloquent speech, but Evans reminds readers that ordinary folk were his determined and courageous audience. The full-page paintings depict a rainbow of people holding hands and striding purposefully. One illustration in particular, of the father holding his son high on his shoulders, echoes a painting in Underground, in which a father holds his newborn child high up toward the sky. The strong vertical lines used for the arms of the marchers mirror the intensity of the day.

Share with readers of all ages as a beautiful message about peaceful protest and purposeful action. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59643-539-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

A marvel of history writing that makes complicated history clear and interesting.



Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass met only three times, but their friendship changed a nation.

Lincoln was white and president of the United States; Douglass was black and a former slave. Yet they were kindred spirits: Both had risen from poverty to prominence, both were self-educated men and both had a book in common: Caleb Bingham’s The Columbian Orator. In fact, 12-year-old Douglass was secretly reading the book of speeches and dialogues in Baltimore at the same time Lincoln was reading it in Illinois, and the appendix here presents an excerpt, “Dialogue between a Master and Slave.” When they first met, in 1863, the nation was at war. Lincoln struggled to keep the nation together, while Douglass welcomed war as a first step toward ending slavery; Douglass was ever the voice of moral conscience, nudging Lincoln to do the right thing on behalf of the enslaved. In this slim volume, Freedman makes a narrative challenge look effortless. He tells the stories of two prominent Americans, traces the debate over slavery from the Missouri Compromise to the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dred Scott decision and explains how these events created a momentum that pushed the nation toward war. He does all of this in a lucid and fascinating narrative that never sacrifices depth and intellectual rigor.

A marvel of history writing that makes complicated history clear and interesting.   (selected bibliography, notes, picture credits) (Nonfiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: June 19, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-38562-4

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

Lyrically narrated, resplendently illustrated, and deeply respectful of both subject and audience.



In attuned counterpoint, Golio and Gutierrez present a portrait of John Coltrane’s lifelong quest to discover and share his spiritual truth through music.

Beginning with John’s 12th year, Golio traces his religious roots: Grandfather Blair, a Methodist minister, headed a household that included John’s parents, aunt and cousin. Within two years, his grandparents, father and uncle died, splintering the family. In one bright spot, a pastor began a community band, leading to a borrowed sax and lessons for John. His musical gift bloomed amid loneliness and setbacks. Touring’s pressures led to alcohol and drug dependence. Golio continuously weaves such biographical details into the tapestry of spiritual longing that characterized Coltrane’s life. “He began falling asleep onstage. Or showing up late, only to be fired. Part of him stood in the darkness, while another part was searching for the light.” Gutierrez’s full-bleed acrylic paintings pulse with emotional intensity and iconic religious images; Coltrane is often shown with a halo or wings. Expressionist color channels Coltrane’s psychic life: His hobby-filled childhood is sweet potato pie–sunny; a scene of drug withdrawal is moonlit black. Portraits of jazz influences—Dizzy, Duke, Bird—appear throughout. Coltrane’s spiritual apex, a vision coinciding, Golio notes, with the development of his masterwork, A Love Supreme, is depicted with John meditating, Buddha-like against glowing pink.

Lyrically narrated, resplendently illustrated, and deeply respectful of both subject and audience. (afterword, author’s and artist’s notes, bibliography, discography) (Picture book/biography. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-23994-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

A joy to read. Play calypso music and celebrate! (author’s note, glossary and pronunciation guide, author’s sources)...


Winston, a boy in Trinidad, wishes that he could play in a band and win free rotis, the delicious island specialty prepared by the Roti King and presented to the best performers at Carnival.

In the weeks before Carnival, the people of the Caribbean island are busy sewing costumes, and bands are busy rehearsing with their gourds, bamboo sticks, bottles-and-spoons and drums. Winston hears the sounds that his mango pit makes when he chucks it into a junkyard. Inspired, he tries out different cans and tins, listening carefully to their different notes. More experimentation follows, and soon, he is performing for his neighbors. Friends join him to form a band made up of “pots and pans, tins and cans in a rainbow of colors.” The sounds are winningly irresistible, and Winston and his fellow musicians soon enjoy their “folded pancakes filled with chicken and secret herbs and spices.” Greenwood’s story is based on the childhood of Winston Simon, the 20th-century musician credited with the invention of the steel drum. The text is filled with a cacophony of musical words that are fun and challenging to read aloud. Lessac’s gouache paintings pulsate with sun-drenched island colors and often resemble a folk-art quilt.

A joy to read. Play calypso music and celebrate! (author’s note, glossary and pronunciation guide, author’s sources) (Picture book/biography. 3-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60060-652-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lee & Low

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

Dozens of spectacular Kellar posters along with a dramatic book design nicely support this well-constructed look at a...



A first-rate visual presentation accompanies a fascinating biography of the first dean of the Society of American Magicians, a man Houdini regarded as a mentor.

The son of German immigrant parents, Harry Keller (later Kellar) lived in his hometown of Erie, Penn., only until he was 10, when he hopped aboard a train bound for Cleveland, Ohio, in 1859. He apprenticed to a performing magician a couple of years later. Kellar’s career in magic and illusion led him to South America, England and Australia before he achieved recognition and success in the United States. Kellar’s meticulous attention to detail in the building of his illusions and in the staging of his performances led to his success. Traveling magic shows and established theatrical illusionists were a widespread entertainment in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, incorporating aspects of spiritualism (Kellar demonstrated that he could replicate anything a medium could do) and mechanical wonders like automatons in their performances. Kellar and his team borrowed from other well-known performers, and he worked to polish and improve the illusions to perfection. Few secrets of the illusions are revealed here, but Jarrow makes it clear that it was Kellar’s art that made them seem like real magic.

Dozens of spectacular Kellar posters along with a dramatic book design nicely support this well-constructed look at a consummate showman. (timeline, bibliography, annotated sources) (Biography. 10-14)

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59078-865-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

A rich vein of wisdom runs through this highly entertaining, swashbuckling series debut.


From the P.K. Pinkerton series , Vol. 1

Twelve-year-old P.K. “Pinky” Pinkerton was born with a poker face—he can’t show or read emotion—but it’s not until he lands in Nevada Territory’s silver-mining country that he comes to terms with the hand he’s dealt.

This fast-paced and deadpan-funny Wild West adventure is Pinky’s first-person account, scrawled out as “last words” on ledger sheets in a mine shaft while three desperados hunt him down. These outlaws, seeking something valuable Pinky's Sioux ma had left behind, murdered his foster parents. Pinky narrowly escapes, jumping a stage to “Satan’s Playground,” or Virginia City of 1862, with its colorful mix of greedy gunslingers, “Celestials,” “Soiled Doves” and even Sam Clemens with the occasional jarring witticism. Best of all, he runs into Poker Face Jace who teaches him how to read people’s feet, “the most honest part of a man’s body.” Pinky is likable. A wannabe detective, he’s resourceful and smart, gutsy but not foolhardy…and partial to black coffee. Jace’s detailed lessons in human “tells” drag on a smidge, but readers will fully grasp how thirsty Pinky is for this information that’s more precious to him than silver. Wonderfully dry humor, vivid sensory descriptions of the mountain town and a genuinely appealing protagonist make this a standout.

A rich vein of wisdom runs through this highly entertaining, swashbuckling series debut. (1862 map of Virginia City, glossary) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-25633-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

Levinson builds her dramatic account around the experiences of four young arrestees—including a 9-year-old, two teenage...



Triumph and tragedy in 1963 “Bombingham,” as children and teens pick up the flagging civil rights movement and give it a swift kick in the pants.

Levinson builds her dramatic account around the experiences of four young arrestees—including a 9-year-old, two teenage activists trained in nonviolent methods and a high school dropout who was anything but nonviolent. She opens by mapping out the segregated society of Birmingham and the internal conflicts and low levels of adult participation that threatened to bring the planned jail-filling marches dubbed “Project C” (for “confrontation”), and by extension the entire civil rights campaign in the South, to a standstill. Until, that is, a mass exodus from the city’s black high schools (plainly motivated, at least at first, almost as much by the chance to get out of school as by any social cause) at the beginning of May put thousands of young people on the streets and in the way of police dogs, fire hoses and other abuses before a national audience. The author takes her inspiring tale of courage in the face of both irrational racial hatred and adult foot-dragging (on both sides) through the ensuing riots and the electrifying September bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, then brings later lives of her central participants up to date.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-56145-627-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

And will a young scholar read it again and look for more? You bet—it’s great fuel for the imagination.



Hooray for the launch of a new nonfiction series for newly fledged readers!

Macaulay’s compact, clear and engagingly illustrated explanation of how a castle is built to thwart potential intruders (you, the reader, in this case) is the right length and depth for readers who have progressed beyond beginner books. His trademark pen-and-ink lines reveal the structural purpose of each part of the medieval stone fortress, while color wash adds appeal. Clearly among the first of a series, this title is labeled "Level 4," and the sentences are just complex enough: “Beneath the ground floor is the dark, damp dungeon.” The narrative is well supported by the illustration—and vice versa: An intriguing drawing has the essential details mentioned in the accompanying passage. Readers will encounter new challenges with text set against dark backgrounds on a few pages, but the font size and line spacing are just right. The length of the book—32 pages, including glossary—seems thoughtfully calculated to bestow a sense of accomplishment. The basics get covered here in fascinating detail: the guard who stops to use the toilet; a cross section of a battering ram. Added riches: a glossary, an index and a list of resources for further study, in small type but nicely focused.

And will a young scholar read it again and look for more? You bet—it’s great fuel for the imagination. (Nonfiction early reader. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59643-744-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: David Macaulay Studio/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

A stunning debut.


Set in 1969, Manzano’s first novel offers a realistically mercurial protagonist struggling with her identity in Spanish Harlem.

Fourteen-year-old Rosa María Evelyn del Carmen Serrano is frustrated with life in El Barrio. Tired of working for her mother and stepfather in their bodega, she takes a job at a five-and-dime and hopes to trudge through the rest of the summer. Everything changes when her abuela arrives, taking over Evelyn’s bedroom and bearing secrets of the family’s involvement in Puerto Rico’s tumultuous history. When a group called the Young Lords begins working to bring positive changes to the neighborhood, some residents are resistant, including Evelyn’s mother. Led by her grandmother’s example, Evelyn begins to take an interest in the efforts of the activist group. As the months pass, the three generations of women begin to see one another’s perspectives, and Evelyn realizes the importance of her Puerto Rican heritage. Like most real-world teens, she changes subtly, rather than through one earth-shattering epiphany. The author effectively captures this shifting perception in the dialogue and Evelyn’s first-person narration. Secondary characters of surprising dimension round out the plot and add to the novel’s cultural authenticity, as do the Spanish and Spanglish words and phrases sprinkled throughout the text so seamlessly that a glossary would be moot.

A stunning debut. (author’s note, recommended reading) (Historical novel. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-32505-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2012



A striking glimpse into Chinese girlhood during the 1970s and ’80s.

Beginning with a breathtaking dream of riding a golden crane over the city of Wuhan, China, Liu Na, recounts her subsequent waking only to discover that Chairman Mao has passed away. The 3-year-old finds this difficult to process and understand, although she is soon caught up in the somber mood of the event. From there, her life unfolds in short sketches. With this intimate look at her childhood memories, Liu skillfully weaves factual tidbits into the rich tapestry of her life. In the section titled “The Four Pests,” she explains about the four pests that plague China—the rat, the fly, the mosquito and the cockroach (with an additional explanation of how the sparrow once made this list, and why it is no longer on it)—and her stomach-turning school assignment to catch rats and deliver the severed tails to her teacher. In “Happy New Year! The Story of Nian the Monster,” she explains the origins of Chinese New Year, her favorite holiday, and her own vivid, visceral reflections of it: the sights, sounds and smells. Extraordinary and visually haunting, there will be easy comparisons to Allen Say’s Drawing from Memory (2011); think of this as the female counterpart to that work.

Beautifully drawn and quietly evocative. (glossary, timeline, author biography, translations of Chinese characters, maps) (Graphic memoir. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7613-8115-0

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Graphic Universe

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

Just like Times Square itself, the pages are filled to the brim.



An unexpected history of a very famous intersection.

Millions of people begin each new year mesmerized by the ball drop atop One Times Square. But before all the glitz and flashing lights, Times Square was filled with carriages, livery stables and coal yards. It is a stark contrast that’s difficult to imagine. McKendry (Beneath the Streets of Boston: Building America’s First Subway, 2005) takes readers on a journey through 100 years of shifts and changes to this well-known New York City landscape. Beginning in 1904 when the New York Times headquarters was built and forever changed the name of this small plot of land, McKendry accompanies the text with a spectacular painting of the Square from a specific point of view. This same perspective is used repeatedly throughout the narrative, simultaneously grounding readers and letting them watch in awe as buildings and technology sprout and change. Interspersed with the Square’s history—during both thriving years and sordid ones—are fascinating tidbits such as the inner workings of billboards, the arrival of the Motograph News Bulletin (or the “Zipper”) and, of course, the exact number of light bulbs found in the 2000 Millennium ball. Cross sections, diagrams and stunning double-page spreads show how these few tiny streets have changed in very large ways.

Just like Times Square itself, the pages are filled to the brim. (sources) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-56792-364-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Godine

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

Accessible, unfussy and visually charming.



An appealing and slightly humorous portrayal of O’Keeffe’s artistic vision and determination, along with a peek at the Hawaii of over half a century ago.

During her several-weeks sojourn in the Hawaii Territory in 1939, Georgia O’Keeffe painted some of her most lovely work. Though it was the Hawaiian (later Dole) Pineapple Company that underwrote her trip in exchange for a painting of a pineapple, O’Keeffe refused to paint the picked fruit the company offered. She did not actually paint a pineapple until she returned to New York, and readers may be able to find her pineapple painting hiding in the pages. But, as Novesky tells here, O’Keeffe discovered flowers, landscapes and Hawaiian feathered fishhooks that captured her artist’s eye. Morales’ luscious full-page illustrations—digitally assembled edge-to-edge acrylic paintings—seem to glow softly in scenes filled with rich colors and that create an intimate relationship between the figure of Georgia and her surroundings. Labeled illustrations of nine different Hawaiian blossoms cover the endpapers. In one striking spread, a canvas close-up shows Georgia’s just-painted waterfall, with a feathered lure and a shell hanging from the corners, while just beyond Georgia, a striking black lava formation reaches into the ocean. Morales captures Georgia’s intelligent and occasionally formidable look; she also captures what O’Keeffe saw, gracefully echoing, not reproducing, O’Keeffe’s work.

Accessible, unfussy and visually charming. (author’s and illustrator’s notes; sources) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-15-205420-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011


Winter on a Maine farm offers the joys of ice in all its forms.

Icy childhood memories glisten in this magical series of nostalgic vignettes. From the first skim on a pail to the soft, splotchy rink surface at the end of the season, Obed recalls the delights of what others might have found a dreary season. The best thing about ice is skating: in fields, on a creek or frozen lake and, especially, on the garden rink. In a series of short scenes presented chronologically, the author describes each ice stage in vivid detail, adding suspense with a surprising midwinter thaw and peaking with an ice show. Her language shimmers and sparkles; it reads like poetry. Readers will have no trouble visualizing the mirror of black ice on a lake where their “blades spit out silver,” or the “long black snake” of a garden hose used to spray the water for their homemade rink. McClintock’s numerous line drawings add to the delight. They show children testing the ice in a pail, a father waltzing with a broom, joyous children gliding down a hill in a neighbor’s frozen field. One double-page spread shows the narrator and her sister figure skating at night, imagining an admiring crowd. The perfect ice—and skating—of dreams concludes her catalog.

Irresistible. (Memoir. 6-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-618-89129-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

A feast for readers whose eyes are (or should be) on the prize, in a volume as well-turned-out as the dapper W.E.B. Dubois,...

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Addressing the appetites of readers “hungry for role models,” this presents compellingly oratorical pictures of the lives and characters of 10 African-American men who exemplify a “birthright of excellence.”

Each of the chronologically arranged chapters opens with a tone-setting praise song and a commanding close-up portrait. From Benjamin Banneker, whose accusatory letter to slaveholder Thomas Jefferson “socked it straight / to the secretary of state,” to Barack Obama, who “turned Yes, we can! into a celebration call,” the gallery is composed of familiar names. Instead of rehashing well-chewed biographical fodder, though, the author dishes up incidents that shaped and tested her subjects’ moral and intellectual fiber along with achievements that make her chosen few worth knowing and emulating. Carping critics may quibble about the occasional arguable fact and an implication that Rosa Parks’ protest was spontaneous, but like Malcolm X, Pinkney has such “a hot-buttered way with words” that her arguments are as convincing as they are forceful, and her prose, rich as it is in rolling cadences and internal rhymes, never waxes mannered or preachy.

A feast for readers whose eyes are (or should be) on the prize, in a volume as well-turned-out as the dapper W.E.B. Dubois, who was “more handsome than a fresh-cut paycheck.” (timeline, index, lists of recommended reading and viewing) (Collective biography. 10-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4231-4257-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

A morally satisfying page turner.


A teenage boy becomes a spy in Nazi-occupied Norway.

After the Germans invade his country in 1940, Espen goes from a life of school, Scouts and soccer games to delivering underground newspapers. Gradually, he advances to transporting secret documents via bicycle or skis and spying on Gestapo locations for the intelligence branch of the Resistance. Along the way, he navigates relationships with a beloved best friend who has joined the Nazis, his younger sister and peers who share his passion for opposition, as well as a budding romance with Solveig, who wears a red stocking hat signaling displeasure with the new regime. Newbery Honor winner Preus (Heart of a Samurai, 2010) infuses the story with the good-natured humor of a largely unified, peace-loving people trying to keep their sanity in a world gone awry. Based on a true story, the narrative is woven with lively enough daily historical detail to inspire older middle-grade readers to want to learn more about the Resistance movement and imitate Espen’s adventures. A selectively omniscient narrator moves from sister Ingrid’s diaries to the inner thoughts of Espen’s nemesis, Aksel. Preus also incorporates a Norse myth about Odin to shed light on what it means to be wise, the possibility of knowing too much and how to resist shadowing the mountain of hope. 

A morally satisfying page turner. (author’s note, archival photographs, maps, timeline, selected bibliography) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0424-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

Terrifying, life-affirming and memorable.


An orphaned boy in Russia survives as a member of a pack of dogs.

Ivan is only 4 years old when he runs away to the streets of Moscow. At first, he is taken in by a scruffy group of children under one adult’s control. They live in the subway stations, begging and stealing food. He soon befriends and is adopted by a small group of dogs and becomes one of them. They survive on the trains in the winter and in the forest during the summer. Ivan keeps a button belonging to his (probably dead) mother as a talisman and remembers the fairy tales she read to him. Increasingly, his time with the dogs provides nourishment for both his hungry belly and his soul. Threats are ever present in the form of police, gangs of teens and wild animals in the forest. Two years later he is captured, and after months of care, he regains his humanness. Pyron has based her story on magazine articles about a Russian feral child, one of hundreds of thousands whose lives were disrupted by the dissolution of the Soviet Union. She presents Ivan’s story as a first-person narrative in beautifully composed writing enhanced by Ivan’s visual acuity and depth of emotion.

Terrifying, life-affirming and memorable. (author’s note, bibliography) (Adventure. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-39930-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

Outstanding nonfiction writing that makes history come alive.



Sandler brings to life an extraordinary true adventure tale set on the treacherous Arctic terrain.

In September 1897, eight whaling vessels became icebound near Point Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost point in America, and 265 men faced starvation. Acting on orders from President McKinley, Secretary of the Treasury Lyman Gage sent Capt. Francis Tuttle and his ship, the Bear, on a rescue mission. He would take the Bear as far north as possible, put three officers ashore and send them over 1,500 miles overland to aid the men. Using a combination of dog-powered and reindeer-drawn sleds, herding 400 reindeer and living off the land along the way, the three-man rescue team, with immense help from indigenous people, succeeded in their journey through the Arctic winter, arriving 103 days after leaving the Bear. Remarkable photographs, many taken by one of the rescuing officers, grace just about every spread, and even the captions are fascinating. The narrative’s excitement is heightened by the words of the participants, drawn from their actual letters, diaries, journals and other personal reminiscences. Maps are well-drawn, documentation is meticulous, and the backmatter includes a section on what happened to the key players and a useful timeline.

Outstanding nonfiction writing that makes history come alive.   (source notes, bibliography, photography credits, index) (Nonfiction. 10 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5080-3

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

Schlitz’s prose is perfect in every stitch, and readers will savor each word.

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Two orphans, a witch and a girl who laughs at death: Each shares the lens of protagonist in Newbery winner Schlitz’s fully satisfying gothic novel.  

Parsefall and Lizzie Rose assist a wicked puppeteer, Grisini, with his London street shows in exchange for board and crumbs in a Dickensian boardinghouse complete with quirky landlady and ill-behaved dogs. Clara Wintermute is a privileged girl living in the shadow of her siblings, who all died from eating diseased watercress (picky Clara made her twin eat hers). Clara demands the puppet show for her birthday, and shortly after the ominous performance, she becomes trapped in some form she can’t fathom. Grisini is suspected, and the orphans are drawn into a dangerous ploy orchestrated by a dying witch who needs a child to steal something precious from her. Each character is a little horrible: Parsefall is a selfish thief, but this neediness gives him a keen empathy and daring. Lizzie Rose is bossy, but her yearning for her lost family keeps them together. Clara is egotistical, but her steely will saves them all. The witch is more horrible than good, but she is a little bit good, like the chocolate in the box that only grown-ups like. The shifting perspective among these characters and cumulative narrative development (echoing Dickens’ serials) create a pleasingly unsettling tension.

Schlitz’s prose is perfect in every stitch, and readers will savor each word. (Historical fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5380-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

An exceptional life; a stunning achievement.



Audiences thrilled to his mesmerizing performances, in which he spoke through his expressive body without uttering a single word.

Marceau was the world’s most popular and beloved mime. Born in France, he grew up watching and imitating Charlie Chaplin, star of silent films. World War II intruded and turned the Jewish teen into a war hero. At war’s end, he created Bip, his alter ego, who with makeup and costume “walks against the wind, but there is no wind.” Schubert’s spare text is both poetic and dramatic. DuBois’s oil paintings are brilliantly executed and saturated, with textured nuances. Images of Marceau fly across the page, delighting the eye, while close-ups highlight his extraordinary facial expressions. Ordinary paper morphs into stage settings as Marceau dances against white or black backgrounds. One double-page spread depicts a costumed fish with sinuously expressive hands and feet. Another presents seven views of Marceau in movement, updating a series of views of Marceau as a child. The pages set during World War II, in contrast, are a somber palette. Don’t turn the pages too quickly; rather stop and feel the joie de vivre with which the master filled people of all ages all over the world.

An exceptional life; a stunning achievement.   (afterword, source notes, further reading) (Picture book biography. 4-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59643-529-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Flash Point/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

From attractive page design to an afterword that encourages readers to search for their own history, there has been much...



This handsome, engaging study of African-American history brings to light many intriguing and tragically underreported stories.

This is a comprehensive approach to African-American history, beginning with accounts of black explorers before the settlement of North America. The straightforward narrative includes major historical events but places emphasis on unusual aspects. For example, during the segment on the American Revolution, there is good discussion about those who fought for both the Patriots and the Loyalists. Another section of distinction is the period following the Civil War and Reconstruction, including blacks in the West and an intriguing look at the differing views of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois. The societal changes brought on by World War II and the civil rights movement receive their due. Little-known exchanges between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King are the kinds of detail that lift this narrative above the standard history text. Not surprisingly, the story concludes with the election of President Barack Obama and the challenges facing the first black president. This is a well-researched, readable overview with an attractive layout that will engage young readers. There are few pages that are not accompanied by an interesting sidebar or image, many archival.

From attractive page design to an afterword that encourages readers to search for their own history, there has been much attention to detail in this handsome volume. (notes, bibliography, art credits, index) (Nonfiction. 10 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8109-7098-4

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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