Disgusting and futile medical practices are always a pleasure to contemplate. Beccia, following closely in the spirit of The Raucous Royals (2008)—dry-witted artwork, conversational text, engaging historical detective work—asks readers to guess which “cures” may actually have helped a handful of ailments. Take a nasty cough, for example: Should you take a heaping helping of caterpillar fungus, frog soup or cherry bark? Common good sense will lead readers to wag their heads no when it comes to sprinkling mummy powder on a wound or drilling a hole in your head to relieve a headache, though some counterintuitive measures will come as a surprise success: spider web for an open wound, frog slime for a sore throat, moldy bread to treat a cut. The author provides intriguing background information on the cures—where they arose, why they were thought to be efficacious—and pulls more than one gem out of the nastiness, such as the property of silver to kill bacteria, giving birth to a familiar expression: “In the Middle Ages, wealthy-born babies sucked on silver spoons to protect against plague....” (note, bibliography) (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-547-22570-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2010


This unusual presentation of a tale of class-crossed lovers recounts a true 18th-century Russian romance. Nicolas Cheremeteff, the richest man in the land, loves music more than gold. He travels the world to hear the finest performers, but it is Praskovia, a peasant girl working on his estate who captures his heart with her singing. He takes her to his palace, where he teaches her to be a lady and nurtures her singing. Crowned “The Pearl” for her luminous talent, she even sings for the Empress, Catherine the Great. Naturally, Nicolas and Praskovia fall in love and live in a simple cottage. Years go by, and Praskovia still sings like a nightingale, but she’s still a serf and unmarried. Nicolas does the unthinkable and marries her, making her a countess. Their happiness is short-lived, as Praskovia dies after giving birth. Tributes to her remain today. The dramatic story is matched with stylized, theatrical artwork. Vibrant reds, golds and blacks are backlit with broad expanses of white space that frame Praskovia. Heavy, glossy paper adds to the book’s opulence. This historical mesh of "Cinderella" and My Fair Lady is a rich nugget of history for sophisticated readers and as beautiful as a Fabergé egg. (brief author’s note) (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-884167-24-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Umbrage

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011




In the end, however, they all testify to something important: Presidents are only men (so far, anyway) and capable of every...

This gathering of presidential foibles and fancies covers the gamut, from George W. the First to Barack.

Each is set as either a poem (rhymed and free verse) or a prose poem, and all display a handling of language that both is comfortable and exhibits a certain degree of flash. Of one-eyed James Buchanan: “So he cocked his head to focus. / He could tilt his view toward a distant star, / ogle an ash on a nearby cigar, / or peer halfway to Zanzibar. / Was there anything he didn’t notice?” Neubecker’s illustrations are wonderful puddles of colorful personality, true to the text but amplifying it (or further poking a sharp stick into the presidential eye). The only concern here is that some of the presidential tics are a bit dull. Of course, no one will deny the import of blubbery William Howard Taft wedging himself into the White House tub and needing a team of assistants to extricate him. Or T. Jefferson the inventor, J.Q. Adams the skinny dipper or Z. Taylor’s nearly missing the presidency for want of a stamp. But that J. Adams was chubby, J. Madison was small and M. Fillmore is forgotten? There’s little to spark even a muted guffaw or a sympathetic nod.

In the end, however, they all testify to something important: Presidents are only men (so far, anyway) and capable of every mortal weakness and weirdness. (Picture book/poetry. 6-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-18221-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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