Like Hanoch Piven’s What Presidents Are Made Of (2004), more a quick novelty than a reliable source of information or...



From the Basher History series

Each of the “Oval Office All-Stars” steps up for a brief say in Basher’s newest cartoon gallery—a rare break from his usual STEM topics (Technology: A Byte-Sized World!, 2012, etc.).

Sounding downright cheeky (“I was one wise sucker, I can assure you,” smirks Thomas Jefferson), each president from Washington to Obama delivers a two-paragraph thumbnail summary of his administration’s highlights and, often, lowlights, sandwiched between trios of bulleted “firsts” or trivia. Despite differences in hairstyles, the egg-headed caricatures on each facing page look pretty much alike (Obama excepted), but Basher does add distinguishing dress or other small items, from broken shackles at Lincoln’s feet to Calvin Coolidge’s pet raccoon. A complete set of postage-stamp–sized official portraits brings up the rear. Green is sometimes loose with his facts—the president is not the “head of the federal government,” nor was the system of checks and balances created because presidents “sometimes do stupid things, have crazy ideas, and generally fumble their way through”—and uses an opaque metaphor in characterizing Nixon as “a shifty operator who liked to sail close to the wind” (did he mean “played his cards close to his chest” maybe?). These quibbles aside, the real issue here is that, aside from some of the trivia, all the information is so easily available elsewhere.

Like Hanoch Piven’s What Presidents Are Made Of (2004), more a quick novelty than a reliable source of information or enlightenment. (foldout poster) (Collective biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7534-6964-4

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Kingfisher

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2013

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



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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Superficial but kind of fun.


Take a magic-carpet ride to far-flung and seldom-seen locations.

Readers can follow a young, pale-skinned, khaki-clad adventurer as they set out on their magic carpet to explore unusual, unexpected, and sometimes dangerous spots around the world. Locations visited include the exclusive interior of Air Force One, the remote depths of the Mariana Trench, and the (potentially) fatal shores of Brazil’s Snake Island, among others. Each adventure follows a uniform template, whereby the location is introduced in a sweeping double-page painting with an introductory paragraph followed by another spread of images and facts. The illustrations are attractive, a bit reminiscent of work done by the Dillons in the 1970s and ’80s. Alas, while the text correctly states that the Upper Paleolithic art in France’s Lascaux cave features only one depiction of a human, the introductory illustration interpolates without explanation a probably Neolithic hunting scene with several humans from a Spanish site—which is both confusing and wrong. Trivia fans will enjoy the mixture of fact and speculation about the various locations; a small further-reading section in the back points to more information. While the potentially off-putting choice of magic carpet as conveyance is never explained, there is a disclaimer warning readers that the book’s creators will not take responsibility if they suffer calamity trying to actually visit any of these places. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Superficial but kind of fun. (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-5159-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Magic Cat

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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