A timely and worthy attempt dragged down by poor execution.

READ REVIEW

STORIES FOR BOYS WHO DARE TO BE DIFFERENT

TRUE TALES OF AMAZING BOYS WHO CHANGED THE WORLD WITHOUT KILLING DRAGONS

Single-page biographies of 76 different men show modern boys a range of male-identified role models.

Some of the men profiled are wildly famous, such as computer nerd Bill Gates, former president Barack Obama, and Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe. More obscure ones include the 12th-century leper king of Jerusalem and a kid who became famous after being virally mocked on YouTube. Each brief entry attempts to distill large ideas into language accessible for young readers. The apparent goal of showing boys role models beyond famous aggressors is admirable, but with no introductory or conclusive note that ties together the author’s overall thoughts, the result is something of a patchwork feel. An overuse of aggressively passive voice and vaguely inspirational statements impede the quality of the text, and questionable or speculative historical information limits its value. The language is simplified to the point of dumbed-down, which contrasts wildly with some of the intense moments, such as the chemical castration of Alan Turing that led to his suicide or the murder of child slave Iqbal Masih; this may make it hard to find an appropriate audience. However, many of the less familiar entries provide an interesting introduction to their lives and efforts, which may lead some readers to search out more and better information. Unfortunately, there is no bibliography or list of further reading, so they’ll have to do that work on their own.

A timely and worthy attempt dragged down by poor execution. (Collective biography. 8-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7624-6592-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Running Press

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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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 detail-rich picture book best for readers who enjoy nonfiction and are interested in history or science.

COUNTING THE STARS

THE STORY OF KATHERINE JOHNSON, NASA MATHEMATICIAN

This biography of renowned mathematician Katherine Johnson featuring illustrations by Colón aims for elementary-age readers.

Cline-Ransome (Finding Langston, 2018, etc.) traces Johnson’s love of math, curiosity about the world, and studiousness from her early entry to school through her help sending a man into space as a human computer at NASA. The text is detailed and lengthy, between one and four paragraphs of fairly small text on each spread. Many biographies of black achievers during segregation focus on society’s limits and the subject’s determination to reach beyond them. This book takes a subtler approach, mentioning segregation only once (at her new work assignment, “she ignored the stares and the COLORED GIRLS signs on the bathroom door and the segregated cafeteria”) and the glass ceiling for women twice in a factual tone as potential obstacles that did not stop Johnson. Her work is described in the context of the space race, which helps to clarify the importance of her role. Colón’s signature soft, textured illustrations evoke the time period and Johnson’s feeling of wonder about the world, expressed in the refrain, “Why? What? How?” The text moves slowly and demands a fairly high comprehension level (e.g., “it was the job of these women computers to double-check the engineers’ data, develop complex equations, and analyze the numbers”). An author’s note repeats much of the text, adding quotes from Johnson and more details about her more recent recognition.

A detail-rich picture book best for readers who enjoy nonfiction and are interested in history or science. (Picture book/biography. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0475-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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