JOHANN GUTENBERG AND THE AMAZING PRINTING PRESS

Koscielniak wowed with The Story of the Incredible Orchestra (2000); he is much less successful here. He opens with a scene at the library (the person at the desk has a bun and glasses, but at least she is using a computer). “Soooo many books,” he writes. He explains the origins of paper and of movable type in China and in Korea before Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press and movable type in Mainz, Germany, around 1450. Koscielniak’s watercolors are bright and engaging, but they, and the text, raise more questions than they answer. The Chinese and Korean figures are clearly Western; scribes in monasteries are those who did the copying of books, but there is no mention that they were monks or of the Church. There is also the moronic comment that “most people didn’t bother to learn to read because they had no access to books”—tossing aside the social history of literacy in a single line. The accompanying illustration is pretty feebleminded, too. Marginalia adds to the information, and the technical descriptions are good. Definitely not for the younger picture book crowd, however. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2003

ISBN: 0-618-26351-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2003

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For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

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BROWN GIRL DREAMING

A multiaward–winning author recalls her childhood and the joy of becoming a writer.

Writing in free verse, Woodson starts with her 1963 birth in Ohio during the civil rights movement, when America is “a country caught / / between Black and White.” But while evoking names such as Malcolm, Martin, James, Rosa and Ruby, her story is also one of family: her father’s people in Ohio and her mother’s people in South Carolina. Moving south to live with her maternal grandmother, she is in a world of sweet peas and collards, getting her hair straightened and avoiding segregated stores with her grandmother. As the writer inside slowly grows, she listens to family stories and fills her days and evenings as a Jehovah’s Witness, activities that continue after a move to Brooklyn to reunite with her mother. The gift of a composition notebook, the experience of reading John Steptoe’s Stevie and Langston Hughes’ poetry, and seeing letters turn into words and words into thoughts all reinforce her conviction that “[W]ords are my brilliance.” Woodson cherishes her memories and shares them with a graceful lyricism; her lovingly wrought vignettes of country and city streets will linger long after the page is turned.

For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-25251-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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WHO WAS BEN FRANKLIN?

Benjamin Franklin “snatched the lightning from the sky and the scepter from tyrants” and his story is told here in many informative and amusing anecdotes. Among them: young, skinny-dipping Ben pulled across a pond by his kite, Ben in London proving he can swim three miles, Ben making up fake “news items” to spice up his Pennsylvania Gazette, and Ben wanting to get married in spite of his “bumpy” love life. These human-interest stories balance the better-known record of Franklin’s accomplishments as an inventor and political force in colonial America. Franklin invented the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, and an artificial arm. He started a public library, a volunteer fire company, and a general hospital in Philadelphia. He improved the colonies’ mail delivery system and founded the Philadelphia Academy, which later became the University of Pennsylvania. Franklin helped draft the Declaration of Independence, helped secure French support for the Revolution, and helped hammer out the Constitution. His final public act was to urge Congress to end slavery. All of this and more are covered in this brief, engaging, well-written biography. Not just a birth-to-death exposition of facts, this account opens with Franklin’s catching lightning in a bottle and, by the end, has succeeded in portraying Franklin as a “man of many talents” and a flesh-and-blood person. The black-and-white illustrations, which appear on every spread, are superb, adding information and touches of humor. Readers will like the Ben Franklin they come to know in this outstanding biography. Two timelines are appended—one on Franklin’s life, and one on world events. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42495-9

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001

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