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Marrin’s biography of our first president is packed with information, but is problematic in its presentation. In his characteristically epic style, he portrays an intriguing George Washington: militarily inexperienced, socially retreating, but with a hard edge that helped him to gain wisdom through his mistakes and earn respect as a commander. Copiously documented, the narrative should inspire readers to learn more about Washington. But Marrin undercuts his own authority with several stylistic problems. He regularly uses sweeping statements that, without clarification or context, are debatable (“Great Britain ruled the mightiest empire in all of human history”), or illogical, e.g., “Had it not been for Charles Lee, Washington might have won the war that day. Because of Lee, it would drag on for another five years.” (Lee may well have kept the war from ending that day, but he himself did not have anything to do with its ultimate length.) In an unusual comparison he suggests that “a war dance was like a ‘pep rally’ before a college football game.” He relies on the present tense to lend drama to his scenes, in a way that can only be considered fiction (“At once, a plan formed in the British General’s mind”), or that makes an interpretation but presents it as fact (“Someone, undoubtedly without his [Washington’s] permission, had driven a pole into the ground amid the corpses”). Marrin’s style makes for dramatic reading here and there, but his narrative is long and often bogged down in details, and he eventually undermines any dramatic tension by overusing his tricks. The book is well illustrated on nearly every page with black-and-white reproductions of etchings, drawings, and maps; notes, a bibliography, and index (not seen) complete it. Marrin’s book may be useful to young readers for its extent of documented information, but they may find better reading elsewhere. (Nonfiction. 12+)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-525-46268-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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Intrepid explorer Lourie tackles the “Father of Waters,” the Mighty Mississippi, traveling by canoe, bicycle, foot, and car, 2,340 miles from the headwaters of the great river at the Canadian border to the river’s end in the Gulf of Mexico. As with his other “river titles” (Rio Grande, 1999, etc.), he intertwines history, quotes, and period photographs, interviews with people living on and around the river, personal observations, and contemporary photographs of his journey. He touches on the Native Americans—who still harvest wild rice on the Mississippi, and named the river—loggers, steamboats, Civil War battles, and sunken treasure. He stops to talk with a contemporary barge pilot, who tows jumbo-sized tank barges, or 30 barges carrying 45,000 tons of goods up and down and comments: “You think ‘river river river’ night and day for weeks on end.” Lourie describes the working waterway of locks and barges, oil refineries and diesel engines, and the more tranquil areas with heron and alligators, and cypress swamps. A personal travelogue, historical geography, and welcome introduction to the majestic river, past and present. (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-56397-756-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2000

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If Freedman wrote the history textbooks, we would have many more historians. Beginning with an engrossing description of the Boston Tea Party in 1773, he brings the reader the lives of the American colonists and the events leading up to the break with England. The narrative approach to history reads like a good story, yet Freedman tucks in the data that give depth to it. The inclusion of all the people who lived during those times and the roles they played, whether small or large are acknowledged with dignity. The story moves backwards from the Boston Tea Party to the beginning of the European settlement of what they called the New World, and then proceeds chronologically to the signing of the Declaration. “Your Rights and Mine” traces the influence of the document from its inception to the present ending with Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. The full text of the Declaration and a reproduction of the original are included. A chronology of events and an index are helpful to the young researcher. Another interesting feature is “Visiting the Declaration of Independence.” It contains a short review of what happened to the document in the years after it was written, a useful Web site, and a description of how it is displayed and protected today at the National Archives building in Washington, D.C. Illustrations from the period add interest and detail. An excellent addition to the American history collection and an engrossing read. (Nonfiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-8234-1448-5

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2000

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