Rosy, bland hero worship.

READ REVIEW

NEIL ARMSTRONG

FIRST MAN ON THE MOON

From the Trailblazers series

A panegyric to the “reluctant hero” who first stepped onto the moon’s surface.

Woolf digs into Armstrong’s life from first airplane ride at the age of 5 to his death in 2012, taking some glances behind the scenes but with a focus on heroic exploits during the Korean War, as a test pilot, and in space. The famous line is rendered “That’s one small step for [a] man,” with a disclaimer, but overall the author tells a sketchy tale with significant details missing—such as any mention of the racist and sexist aspects of this country’s early space program. Even the return flight of Apollo 11 is covered in just a timeline and one anticlimactic sentence: “After an uneventful ride back to Earth, the astronauts splashed down southwest of Hawaii.” Ho-hum. All or most of the black-and-white illustrations are (poorly) redrawn from photographs; despite inserted wisecracks and actual quotes, they are so lifeless that even a version of the renowned Earthrise has a drab, distant look. A scant handful of further resources and a space-exploration timeline that spans only 1973 to 2015 follow a closing flurry of tributes to Armstrong’s achievements and character. Armstrong is definitely a historical figure worth knowing…but the recent spate of more-nuanced and -dramatic accounts of the space program spoil readers for choice, and this doesn’t stand out as a first or even second one.

Rosy, bland hero worship. (glossary, index) (Biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-593-12401-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for...

TWO MEN AND A CAR

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, AL CAPONE, AND A CADILLAC V-8

A custom-built, bulletproof limo links two historical figures who were pre-eminent in more or less different spheres.

Garland admits that a claim that FDR was driven to Congress to deliver his “Day of Infamy” speech in a car that once belonged to Capone rests on shaky evidence. He nonetheless uses the anecdote as a launchpad for twin portraits of contemporaries who occupy unique niches in this country’s history but had little in common. Both were smart, ambitious New Yorkers and were young when their fathers died, but they definitely “headed in opposite directions.” As he fills his biographical sketches with standard-issue facts and has disappointingly little to say about the car itself (which was commissioned by Capone in 1928 and still survives), this outing seems largely intended to be a vehicle for the dark, heavy illustrations. These are done in muted hues with densely scratched surfaces and angled so that the two men, the period backgrounds against which they are posed, and the car have monumental looks. It’s a reach to bill this, as the author does, a “story about America,” but it does at least offer a study in contrasts featuring two of America’s most renowned citizens. Most of the human figures are white in the art, but some group scenes include a few with darker skin.

The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for thought. (timeline, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-88448-620-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Spy fans and cryptographers will seek this one out.

ANNA STRONG AND THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR CULPER SPY RING

From the Spy on History series

A strong main character and an engaging story make for a revolutionary read.

The career of Anna Strong occupies a fascinating footnote in American history. Was she merely a farmer’s wife, or was she a member of one of the most daring spy rings in our country’s history? The pseudonymous author presents a fictionalized version of Anna’s life in the third volume of the Spy on History series. The examination begins during the throes of the American Revolution. After Anna’s husband is imprisoned and then freed, thanks to Anna’s family connections, and returns to patriot-controlled Connecticut, Anna is pulled into a plot to signal a fellow patriot and pass along information. The plan is simple: Anna uses a black petticoat and a series of handkerchiefs to relay a meeting place. “Alberti” pulls readers into the chaos of Anna’s life (and the war) through an omniscient narrator that documents Anna’s movements over the next year. Astute readers will also realize the dangers women faced from soldiers (and fellow countrymen) during this period. Terry’s loose, two-color illustrations depict an all-white cast and provide an additional sense of movement to the text. The trade edition includes a "Spycraft Kit" in the form of an enclosed envelope with inserts for solving a final coded mystery; the library edition publishes without these inclusions for ease of circulation. Backmatter explains the history of the Culper Spy Ring and its role in exposing Gen. Benedict Arnold.

Spy fans and cryptographers will seek this one out. (historical note, answers, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5235-0216-5

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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