Another immigrant gets the job done.



A tribute to the New York City subway’s first official “leak detective.”

Gifted with a literal nose for trouble, James Kelly arrived in New York from Ireland “with nothing but a suitcase and a keen sense of smell”—and leveraged the latter into a long career over the first half of the 20th century sniffing out dangerous gas, water, steam, and other leaks in the subway system and elsewhere. Along the way he solved mysteries (“the most nauseating, nose-scrunching stench ever to hit the subway,” detected at the 42nd Street station, turned out to be caused by a buried deposit of circus-elephant dung beneath the site of the old Hippodrome) and averted several potential disasters. Anderson casts him in a heroic mold, as he had not only a special ability, but the inner motivation to use it in service to public safety: “With such an honor came great responsibility.” (Shades of Spider-Man.) Depicted with a confident smile and a mop of bright orange hair, Kelly shines as he goes after suggestive twists and curls of miasmic yellowish green in the illustrations’ succession of antique-looking street scenes and cross-sectional views of underground pipes and tunnels. Harney tucks a dark-skinned couple into a line of subway riders, but otherwise human figures present White throughout. In a set of endnotes the author adds a portrait photo, describes some of the specialized gear that Kelly invented, and closes with leads to more information about New York’s underground. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 77 % of actual size.)

Another immigrant gets the job done. (source notes, bibliography.) (Picture book/biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68437-399-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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Weirdly fascinating.



“This is a true tale about two mighty nations, an ill-fated pig, and a most unusual war. It is also a story about sharing.”

That opening, in black, sans-serif lettering, is followed by further text that’s broken up by red-inked headings for date, setting, characters, and mood. Continuing a jaunty, lighthearted tone that proceeds throughout the text, it informs readers that the mood is “About to change, for the worse.” The verso sports an antique-looking map of the Western Hemisphere with a detail of San Juan—a Pacific Northwest coast island of, in 1859, ambiguous provenance inhabited both by British employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company and a few American settlers. (The original, Indigenous residents are relegated to a parenthetical mention in the author’s note and figure not at all in the story.) As the story begins, an American named Lyman Cutlar angrily kills Brit Charles Griffin’s pig as it eats from Cutlar’s potato patch. Cutlar apologizes and offers to pay for the pig but then refuses to pay Griffin’s exorbitant asking price. Enter authorities from both nations in an escalation that eventually involves scores of warships. When war seems inevitable, Gen. Winfield Scott is sent by President James Buchanan to mediate. The text is true to its introduction, and it also pursues the idea that hotheadedness leads to disastrous consequences. Vocabulary, verbosity, and content suit this for older elementary, independent readers. The storytelling goes a bit flat at the end, when Cutlar is mentioned but not Griffin. Colorful, stylized art against apparently distressed surfaces is an impeccable complement. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 42.6% of actual size.)

Weirdly fascinating. (photographs, timeline, resources, artist’s note) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68437-171-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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This bare-bones action version lacks emotional and character depth but still delivers a gripping tale.



From the True Rescue series

An adaptation of the 2016 young readers’ edition of the 2013 book for adults, all of the same title, with the addition of black-and-white illustrations.

Aimed at a younger readership than the earlier adaptation, this version further simplifies the plot but not the language, since some of it is taken nearly verbatim from the 2016 story. Tougias has highlighted the action part for this adaptation, presenting a much shorter version that forgoes character development and emotional depth. In this tale based on a true event, three men set out from Florida to sail to France in May 2007. They haven’t met prior to the planned crossing, but the crew, Rudy and Ben, are impressed with the 44-foot Sean Seamour II and its captain/owner, JP, who is experienced and well prepared (a point that comes across better in the 2016 book—this one makes him seem somewhat incompetent). Unfortunately, all the preparation in the world doesn’t help the sailors when they collide with a fierce storm. The yacht is overcome by the incredible 80-foot waves, and the men take to the tiny inflatable life raft, hoping for rescue. Nautical terms and land terms are interchanged: Sometimes it’s “knots,” sometimes it’s “miles per hour”; a character’s “raincoat” becomes “foul weather gear”—inconsistencies that are confusing. Geyer’s black-and-white woodcut-style illustrations, reminiscent of early illustrated action stories, bring the narrative into the realm of timeless adventure stories. Series companion The Finest Hours, an adaptation of the 2014 young readers’ edition of Tougias and Casey Sherman’s 2009 title for adults, publishes simultaneously.

This bare-bones action version lacks emotional and character depth but still delivers a gripping tale. (author’s note, photo gallery, glossary) (Adventure. 7-9)

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-13756-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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