A serviceable biography that will serve the student who chooses Pope Francis as a subject well.



Pope Francis’ life story.

Pope Francis is the first non-European, Jesuit man to be ordained as leader of the Roman Catholic Church. This biography takes middle-grade readers on Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s spiritual and physical journey toward the papacy. Gormley charts Bergoglio’s spiritual development well, beginning with his grandmother, who sparked in him the importance of faith at a young age, and moving from there as political turbulence roiled Argentina. The author provides plenty of context for Argentina’s political and social discord but never loses focus on her subject. While Argentina’s story is important to Bergoglio’s history, it never overwhelms the man. Pope Francis’ reputation as the “People’s Pope,” a man honest about his background, interests, and past, helps the author paint a picture of her subject as a well-rounded, well-intentioned man. There are no grave missteps or shady secrets to reveal here, just a man who always did what he thought was best for the people around him and used his faith as his guide. It is a bit long-winded. The 257 pages of main narrative really hold only about 175 pages of essential story. The “and then this happened” structure of standard biographies is certainly felt, and while that works well for an educational text for children using this for a school project, those looking for a ripping yarn about the pope may want to keep looking.

A serviceable biography that will serve the student who chooses Pope Francis as a subject well. (timeline, sources, photos) (Biography. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8141-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats.


From the They Did What? series

Why should grown-ups get all the historical, scientific, athletic, cinematic, and artistic glory?

Choosing exemplars from both past and present, Mitchell includes but goes well beyond Alexander the Great, Anne Frank, and like usual suspects to introduce a host of lesser-known luminaries. These include Shapur II, who was formally crowned king of Persia before he was born, Indian dancer/professional architect Sheila Sri Prakash, transgender spokesperson Jazz Jennings, inventor Param Jaggi, and an international host of other teen or preteen activists and prodigies. The individual portraits range from one paragraph to several pages in length, and they are interspersed with group tributes to, for instance, the Nazi-resisting “Swingkinder,” the striking New York City newsboys, and the marchers of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade. Mitchell even offers would-be villains a role model in Elagabalus, “boy emperor of Rome,” though she notes that he, at least, came to an awful end: “Then, then! They dumped his remains in the Tiber River, to be nommed by fish for all eternity.” The entries are arranged in no evident order, and though the backmatter includes multiple booklists, a personality quiz, a glossary, and even a quick Braille primer (with Braille jokes to decode), there is no index. Still, for readers whose fires need lighting, there’s motivational kindling on nearly every page.

A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats. (finished illustrations not seen) (Collective biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-14-751813-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Puffin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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From the Giants of Science series

Hot on the heels of the well-received Leonardo da Vinci (2005) comes another agreeably chatty entry in the Giants of Science series. Here the pioneering physicist is revealed as undeniably brilliant, but also cantankerous, mean-spirited, paranoid and possibly depressive. Newton’s youth and annus mirabilis receive respectful treatment, the solitude enforced by family estrangement and then the plague seen as critical to the development of his thoughtful, methodical approach. His subsequent squabbles with the rest of the scientific community—he refrained from publishing one treatise until his rival was dead—further support the image of Newton as a scientific lone wolf. Krull’s colloquial treatment sketches Newton’s advances in clearly understandable terms without bogging the text down with detailed explanations. A final chapter on “His Impact” places him squarely in the pantheon of great thinkers, arguing that both his insistence on the scientific method and his theories of physics have informed all subsequent scientific thought. A bibliography, web site and index round out the volume; the lack of detail on the use of sources is regrettable in an otherwise solid offering for middle-grade students. (Biography. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-670-05921-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2006

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