A frontier adventure that spotlights one of the many significant roles ethnic Chinese played in American history.

MOUNTAIN CHEF

HOW ONE MAN LOST HIS GROCERIES, CHANGED HIS PLANS, AND HELPED COOK UP THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

Themes of racial discrimination, saving nature, and food and cooking are braided seamlessly in this picture-book biography.

At the turn of the 20th century, Chinese men—whether immigrants or American-born—had little choice when it came to work. Most ended up as cooks in restaurants or laundrymen. But Tie Sing “had dreams as big as the country he loved” and made correspondingly expensive plans. Fueled by a love for the outdoors and a passion for cooking, he soon earned a reputation as the best trail cook in California. In 1915, Tie Sing was hired by millionaire Stephen Mather, who had invited a special group of men to go camping in the hope of convincing Congress to protect the country’s natural wonders. For the first few days, Tie Sing kept everyone well-fed with sardine hors d’oeuvres, sizzling steaks, and fresh-baked sourdough rolls. Unfortunately, disaster struck, not once but twice, and Tie Sing lost much of his provisions but tweaked the menu to carry on. Tie Sing’s talent and resourcefulness played a huge part in the success of Mather’s mission, and within a year, Congress created the National Park Service. Pimentel’s lyrically told account is to the point, explaining that “America was a tough place to be Chinese” before zeroing in on Tie Sing’s culinary wizardry. Lo’s illustrations have an appropriately faded look, neatly evoking both the times and the craggy wilderness.

A frontier adventure that spotlights one of the many significant roles ethnic Chinese played in American history. (Picture book/biography. 5-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-58089-711-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering.

THE AMAZING AGE OF JOHN ROY LYNCH

An honestly told biography of an important politician whose name every American should know.

Published while the United States has its first African-American president, this story of John Roy Lynch, the first African-American speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, lays bare the long and arduous path black Americans have walked to obtain equality. The title’s first three words—“The Amazing Age”—emphasize how many more freedoms African-Americans had during Reconstruction than for decades afterward. Barton and Tate do not shy away from honest depictions of slavery, floggings, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, or the various means of intimidation that whites employed to prevent blacks from voting and living lives equal to those of whites. Like President Barack Obama, Lynch was of biracial descent; born to an enslaved mother and an Irish father, he did not know hard labor until his slave mistress asked him a question that he answered honestly. Freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, Lynch had a long and varied career that points to his resilience and perseverance. Tate’s bright watercolor illustrations often belie the harshness of what takes place within them; though this sometimes creates a visual conflict, it may also make the book more palatable for young readers unaware of the violence African-Americans have suffered than fully graphic images would. A historical note, timeline, author’s and illustrator’s notes, bibliography and map are appended.

A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering. (Picture book biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5379-0

Page Count: 50

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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Absolutely wonderful in every way.

THE SECRET SUBWAY

A long-forgotten chapter in New York City history is brilliantly illuminated.

In mid-19th-century New York, horses and horse-drawn vehicles were the only means of transportation, and the din created by wheels as they rumbled on the cobblestones was deafening. The congestion at intersections threatened the lives of drivers and pedestrians alike. Many solutions were bandied about, but nothing was ever done. Enter Alfred Ely Beach, an admirer of “newfangled notions.” Working in secret, he created an underground train powered by an enormous fan in a pneumatic tube. He built a tunnel lined with brick and concrete and a sumptuously decorated waiting room for passenger comfort. It brought a curious public rushing to use it and became a great though short-lived success, ending when the corrupt politician Boss Tweed used his influence to kill the whole project. Here is science, history, suspense, secrecy, and skulduggery in action. Corey’s narrative is brisk, chatty, and highly descriptive, vividly presenting all the salient facts and making the events accessible and fascinating to modern readers. The incredibly inventive multimedia illustrations match the text perfectly and add detail, dimension, and pizazz. Located on the inside of the book jacket is a step-by-step guide to the creative process behind these remarkable illustrations.

Absolutely wonderful in every way. (author’s note, bibliography, Web resources) (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-375-87071-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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