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Inspiring, informative, and entertaining.

This biography of a groundbreaking cryptanalyst is entwined with crucial episodes in U.S. history.

Thorough research and accessible, enthusiastic writing create a page-turning read as thrilling as a spy novel. The text begins with Elizebeth Smith’s childhood: born in Indiana in 1892 to a Civil War veteran father and a former teacher mother, both devout Christians, she was determined to attend college despite her father’s opposition. She succeeded, finding her way to Chicago, where a library visit led to a research job working for eccentric millionaire Col. Fabyan at his estate, Riverbank. There she met a Russian-born fellow employee, her future husband, William Friedman. They eventually comprised Fabyan’s Department of Ciphers and married despite both families’ religious objections (William was Jewish). Almost unbelievable adventures ensued as the couple practiced their craft and plotted their escape from Riverbank’s maniacal owner. Elizebeth’s skills enabled the prosecution of alcohol-smuggling criminals during Prohibition. The couple’s work also saved lives and helped capture spies during both world wars. Between the wars, they threw elaborate code-breaking parties. Sadly, they also contended with antisemitism, misogyny, and William’s mental health issues; nonetheless, the tone overall is compelling and upbeat. Nearly every chapter about this intrepid, intelligent, energetic woman ends with a cliffhanger whose promise is fulfilled in the following one. Elizebeth’s life unfolded against a backdrop of some of the 20th century’s most pivotal events, and this riveting title is a fine tribute to her accomplishments.

Inspiring, informative, and entertaining. (bibliography, notes) (Biography. 12-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12719-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House Studio

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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From the Pocket Change Collective series

Small but mighty necessary reading.

A miniature manifesto for radical queer acceptance that weaves together the personal and political.

Eli, a cis gay white Jewish man, uses his own identities and experiences to frame and acknowledge his perspective. In the prologue, Eli compares the global Jewish community to the global queer community, noting, “We don’t always get it right, but the importance of showing up for other Jews has been carved into the DNA of what it means to be Jewish. It is my dream that queer people develop the same ideology—what I like to call a Global Queer Conscience.” He details his own isolating experiences as a queer adolescent in an Orthodox Jewish community and reflects on how he and so many others would have benefitted from a robust and supportive queer community. The rest of the book outlines 10 principles based on the belief that an expectation of mutual care and concern across various other dimensions of identity can be integrated into queer community values. Eli’s prose is clear, straightforward, and powerful. While he makes some choices that may be divisive—for example, using the initialism LGBTQIAA+ which includes “ally”—he always makes clear those are his personal choices and that the language is ever evolving.

Small but mighty necessary reading. (resources) (Nonfiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09368-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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From the Pocket Change Collective series

Brief yet inspirational, this story will galvanize youth to use their voices for change.

Teen environmental activist and founder of the nonprofit Hannah4Change, Testa shares her story and the science around plastic pollution in her fight to save our planet.

Testa’s connection to and respect for nature compelled her to begin championing animal causes at the age of 10, and this desire to have an impact later propelled her to dedicate her life to fighting plastic pollution. Starting with the history of plastic and how it’s produced, Testa acknowledges the benefits of plastics for humanity but also the many ways it harms our planet. Instead of relying on recycling—which is both insufficient and ineffective—she urges readers to follow two additional R’s: “refuse” and “raise awareness.” Readers are encouraged to do their part, starting with small things like refusing to use plastic straws and water bottles and eventually working up to using their voices to influence business and policy change. In the process, she highlights other youth advocates working toward the same cause. Short chapters include personal examples, such as observations of plastic pollution in Mauritius, her maternal grandparents’ birthplace. Testa makes her case not only against plastic pollution, but also for the work she’s done, resulting in something of a college-admissions–essay tone. Nevertheless, the first-person accounts paired with science will have an impact on readers. Unfortunately, no sources are cited and the lack of backmatter is a missed opportunity.

Brief yet inspirational, this story will galvanize youth to use their voices for change. (Nonfiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-22333-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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