THE KITE THAT BRIDGED TWO NATIONS

HOMAN WALSH AND THE FIRST NIAGARA SUSPENSION BRIDGE

A young kite enthusiast lends his skill to an engineering feat—the construction of the first suspension bridge downstream from Niagara Falls.

O’Neill’s narrator (16-year-old Homan Walsh in 1847, from the author’s note) recounts in free verse his entry in the kite-flying contest posed by the bridge’s engineer. The winner must anchor a line 240 feet across an 800-foot chasm between the United States and Canada above Whirlpool Rapids. Though his father is unimpressed by his passion for kite-flying, for the boy: “This is what I studied— / reading the wind, / calculating lift, / gauging line length....” He launches his carefully made kite from the Canadian side, knowing how the winds would work. As the wind drops at midnight, there’s “suddenly, a sag, a jerk. / The heavy line went slack! / It snapped on ice below.” The young hero waits (“Kind folks in Elgin sheltered me”) for ice to clear so he can return home to mend his rescued, broken kite for a second, successful attempt. Widener’s acrylic paintings capture the determination of the boy, the frozen, deeply chilly landscape, and the danger and power of the falls. In a later scene, the completed bridge imposes order on the wild waters below. Backmatter includes a timeline, source list and more complete story of what is actually known or surmised for the story’s telling.

Memorable and dramatic. (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59078-938-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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Thought-provoking and charming.

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THE WILD ROBOT

A sophisticated robot—with the capacity to use senses of sight, hearing, and smell—is washed to shore on an island, the only robot survivor of a cargo of 500.

When otters play with her protective packaging, the robot is accidently activated. Roz, though without emotions, is intelligent and versatile. She can observe and learn in service of both her survival and her principle function: to help. Brown links these basic functions to the kind of evolution Roz undergoes as she figures out how to stay dry and intact in her wild environment—not easy, with pine cones and poop dropping from above, stormy weather, and a family of cranky bears. She learns to understand and eventually speak the language of the wild creatures (each species with its different “accent”). An accident leaves her the sole protector of a baby goose, and Roz must ask other creatures for help to shelter and feed the gosling. Roz’s growing connection with her environment is sweetly funny, reminiscent of Randall Jarrell’s The Animal Family. At every moment Roz’s actions seem plausible and logical yet surprisingly full of something like feeling. Robot hunters with guns figure into the climax of the story as the outside world intrudes. While the end to Roz’s benign and wild life is startling and violent, Brown leaves Roz and her companions—and readers—with hope.

Thought-provoking and charming. (Science fiction/fantasy. 7-11)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-38199-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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It’s not the first time old Ben has paid our times a call, but it’s funny and free-spirited, with an informational load that...

BEN FRANKLIN'S IN MY BATHROOM!

Antics both instructive and embarrassing ensue after a mysterious package left on their doorstep brings a Founding Father into the lives of two modern children.

Summoned somehow by what looks for all the world like an old-time crystal radio set, Ben Franklin turns out to be an amiable sort. He is immediately taken in hand by 7-year-old Olive for a tour of modern wonders—early versions of which many, from electrical appliances in the kitchen to the Illinois town’s public library and fire department, he justly lays claim to inventing. Meanwhile big brother Nolan, 10, tags along, frantic to return him to his own era before either their divorced mom or snoopy classmate Tommy Tuttle sees him. Fleming, author of Ben Franklin’s Almanac (2003) (and also, not uncoincidentally considering the final scene of this outing, Our Eleanor, 2005), mixes history with humor as the great man dispenses aphorisms and reminiscences through diverse misadventures, all of which end well, before vanishing at last. Following a closing, sequel-cueing kicker (see above) she then separates facts from fancies in closing notes, with print and online leads to more of the former. To go with spot illustrations of the evidently all-white cast throughout the narrative, Fearing incorporates change-of-pace sets of sequential panels for Franklin’s biographical and scientific anecdotes. Final illustrations not seen.

It’s not the first time old Ben has paid our times a call, but it’s funny and free-spirited, with an informational load that adds flavor without weight. (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93406-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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