A salutary gallery of monarchs—or at least monarchial types.

THE BOOK OF KINGS

MAGNIFICENT MONARCHS, NOTORIOUS NOBLES, AND DISTINGUISHED DUDES WHO RULED THE WORLD

A wide-angled survey of men who ruled—and not just empires or countries.

Crowning a series that began with Drimmer’s The Book of Heroines (2016) and Crispin Boyer’s The Book of Heroes (2016) and publishes simultaneously with Drimmer’s The Book of Queens, this gathering of glitterati covers not just historical heads of state from Akbar to Shaka Zulu, but also fictional ones such as T’Challa of Wakanda. Readers will also meet Martin Luther King Jr. and other “Kings of Change,” “Aristocrats of Action” (Babe Ruth, Dwayne Johnson), preeminent performers (Elvis, Lin-Manuel Miranda), and sci-tech sovereigns such as Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Compiled with an eye to examples both good and bad, the roster includes an admixture of tyrants, losers, and deposed rulers, and it closes with a blanket summary of positive characteristics supposedly common to great leaders. Despite occasional flubs, such as an all-white selection of “Emperors of Exploration,” said roster also shows commendable racial and geographic diversity—and even includes queens and other notable women in frequent sidebars (in case, apparently, readers don’t want to check out or buy two books). The profiles range from two pages in length to a quick paragraph, and they focus more on quick summaries of accomplishments (or failures) than biographical details. Though the layout has a dense look, the bright colors and graphics, as well as a plethora of photos, period images, and fanciful but realistically modeled modern portraits, provide plenty of life and visual energy.

A salutary gallery of monarchs—or at least monarchial types. (index) (Collective biography. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 9781-4263-3533-4

Page Count: 176

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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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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