A fascinating introduction to a once-celebrated, now lesser-known lightkeeper.

KEEPER OF THE LIGHT

JULIET FISH NICHOLS FIGHTS THE SAN FRANCISCO FOG

On Sept. 1, 1902, Juliet Fish Nichols began keeping a journal.

Newly installed as the lighthouse keeper on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, she enumerated her many duties, requiring physical strength, steadfastness, determination, and bravery. Every evening, she had to light the oil lamp and keep it shining all night long. On an April morning in 1906, the great San Francisco earthquake damaged the lighthouse, leaving Juliet heartbroken. A few months later, when the bay was saturated with a dangerous, impenetrable fog, the hand-cranked fog bell machine broke down, and Juliet had to manually strike the bell with a mallet every 15 seconds throughout the night to warn ships away from the rocks. Her journal entries, based on historical documents, appear in light, thin handwriting and illuminate her mostly solitary life, wholly dedicated to her important work and punctuated by times of terror and danger as well as occasional trips to the city across the bay for supplies. The story conveys Juliet’s deep appreciation for the beauty of the sea and the island’s landscape. Sumpter’s carefully composed double-page illustrations show the lighthouse, harbor, and city from a variety of perspectives and add detail and dimension to the narration. They show, for example, that the lighthouse was not a tower but a cottage with an attached bell house on a platform high on a cliff. Juliet presents White. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A fascinating introduction to a once-celebrated, now lesser-known lightkeeper. (additional facts, further reading) (Picture-book biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-951836-37-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Cameron + Company

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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Despite choruses praising Ride’s persistence, her life is inexplicably portrayed as lacking struggle.

SALLY RIDE

From the She Persisted series

Sally Ride: from tennis-playing schoolgirl through astronaut and educator to entrepreneur.

Sally Ride stars in this entry to the chapter-book series spun off from Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger’s picture book She Persisted (2017). Long before she becomes the first woman to go to space, Sally is an athlete, a White girl born in California in 1951. She’s a tennis whiz but an inconsistent scholar, attending a prestigious private school on an athletic scholarship. Though the narrative a little ostentatiously tells readers that “Sally persisted,” the youth presented here—a child who rolls her eyes at boring teachers, a college student who drops out to play tennis, an excellent tennis player who “just did not enjoy” the effort of becoming a professional—shows the opposite. Sexism is alluded to, but no barriers are portrayed as blocking young Sally herself. Though her amazing achievements aren’t downplayed, the groundbreaking Sally Ride, in this telling, becomes simply someone who applied for a job and excelled once she liked what she was doing. Sally’s partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy, is mentioned as such, but the text avoids using any pronouns for O’Shaughnessy, which, along with her gender-neutral name, may leave many young readers ignorant that Ride silently broke sexuality barriers as well.

Despite choruses praising Ride’s persistence, her life is inexplicably portrayed as lacking struggle. (reading list, websites) (Biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11592-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Disappointingly lackadaisical.

WHEN SPARKS FLY

THE TRUE STORY OF ROBERT GODDARD, THE FATHER OF US ROCKETRY

Punctuated—unsurprisingly—by explosions, an account of the groundbreaking rocketeer’s childhood and first experiments.

Fueled by an early interest in hands-on science nurtured by his parents and sparked by reading The War of the Worlds, Goddard’s ambition to “build something that would soar to space” led to years of experimentation and failure analysis. Finally, in 1926, a brief but successful flight pointed the way to “every shuttle that has blasted into space, every astronaut who has defied gravity, and every man who has walked on the moon.” Fulton occasionally skimps on scientific details (in one childhood trial Robert “emptied a small vial of hydrogen into a pan”; even in the backmatter, there’s no explanation why, as he notes in his journal, “Hydrogen and oxygen when combined near a flame will ignite”). Still, she highlights the profound curiosity and determined, methodical effort that ultimately earned her subject a well-deserved place in the pantheon of scientists and inventors. Scientific gear in Funck’s cartoon illustrations often looks generic, and in one scene he depicts a rocket that is markedly different from the one described in the adjacent narrative. Moreover, his explosions look like fried eggs, and most come with oddly undersized if all-capped onomatopoeia (“BOOM!”; “POP!”) that underplays both the melodramatic potential and the real danger to which Goddard must have exposed himself. Goddard and his family are white.

Disappointingly lackadaisical. (afterword, list of sources) (Picture book/biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6098-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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