This German import is an unsystematic jumble—but tailor-made for dipping and flipping.

WHO INVENTED THIS?

SMART PEOPLE AND THEIR BRIGHT IDEAS

From airplanes to zippers, a gallery of ubiquitous gadgets, products, and basic discoveries.

In an apparently arbitrarily ordered assortment of one- to three-page entries, Ameri-Siemens recaps around three dozen stories of invention, from Gutenberg’s printing press (1440) to the World Wide Web (1989). Though the inventors introduced are predominantly White, male, and Eurocentric, her choices include nods to a few African Americans such as Garrett Morgan (hair-straightening cream, automatic traffic light) and Thomas J. Martin (a type of fire extinguisher). White women spotlighted include Nancy Johnson (ice cream maker) and Jeanne Villepreux (glass aquarium) and, in an entry misleadingly titled “Computer,” Ada Lovelace, Henrietta Swan Leavitt, and Grace Hopper. Neglecting to provide any sources or evidence, she also makes questionable claims that, for instance, the Brothers Grimm were the first to record oral folktales in print and—hilariously—the Millennium Falcon’s top speed is only half again the speed of light. Showing the same hand wave–y spirit, Thorns presents an unidentified trio of Black women presumably meant to represent the “computers” of NASA rather than the much earlier ones at Harvard that the author mentions. Still, readers will likely look in vain through similar chronicles of invention to find the origins of, say, ramen noodles, soccer boots, toothpaste, or carbonated beverages.

This German import is an unsystematic jumble—but tailor-made for dipping and flipping. (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-3-89955-133-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Little Gestalten

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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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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A coherent if unexceptional overview of the subject given a solid boost by the visuals.

EXPLORING SPACE

FROM GALILEO TO THE MARS ROVER AND BEYOND

Finely detailed cutaway views of spacecraft and satellites launch a broad account of space exploration’s past, present, and near future.

Jenkins begins with the journey of Voyager I, currently the “most distant man-made object ever,” then goes back to recap the history of astronomy, the space race, and the space-shuttle program. He goes on to survey major interplanetary probes and the proliferating swarm of near-Earth satellites, then closes with reflections on our current revived interest in visiting Mars and a brief mention of a proposed “space elevator.” This is all familiar territory, at least to well-read young skywatchers and would-be astronauts, and despite occasional wry observations (“For longer stays [in space], things to consider include staying fit and healthy, keeping clean, and not going insane”) it reads more like a digest than a vivid, ongoing story. Biesty’s eye for exact, precise detail is well in evidence in the illustrations, though, and if one spread of generic residents of the International Space Station is the only place his human figures aren’t all white and male, at least he offers riveting depictions of space gear and craft with every last scientific instrument and structural element visible and labeled.

A coherent if unexceptional overview of the subject given a solid boost by the visuals. (index, timeline, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8931-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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