Whether to educate or to entertain, this book succeeds on neither front, told as it is from a colonialist viewpoint

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THOMAS JEFFERSON AND THE MAMMOTH HUNT

THE TRUE STORY OF THE QUEST FOR AMERICA'S BIGGEST BONES

An account of a presidential search for notoriety.

Colonists have settled America and declared independence from the British. President Thomas Jefferson embarks on a new war with a French naturalist, who declares that nothing worthwhile—people nor animals—exists in the New World. Determined to prove him wrong, Jefferson commissions an epic search that uncovers a giant sloth, which is named Megalonyx jeffersonii in his honor but doesn’t impress the Frenchman. When woolly mammoth bones surface on a New York farm, Jefferson finally has his notoriety, and they are immediately sent to the White House, with another set bound for a Parisian museum. Despite the extensive backmatter, the story lacks historical context for the characters and events. Moreover, the digital, watercolor-style illustrations perpetuate stereotypes: A Native American in a feathered headdress (the only one in the book) peers from behind a tree; enslaved black figures work next to white ones in a semblance of parity. People of color are voiceless and have indeterminate facial features, rendering them homogenous and secondary in importance to white characters. One strongly worded backmatter paragraph about slavery (with no mention of Native peoples) is insufficient; such a complex historical event warrants address in the primary narrative in order to merit the attention of young readers today.

Whether to educate or to entertain, this book succeeds on neither front, told as it is from a colonialist viewpoint . (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4268-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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Sage, soothing ideas for a busy, loud, sometimes-divisive world.

GRANDMA'S GARDENS

In an inviting picture book, Chelsea and Hillary Clinton share personal revelations on how gardening with a grandmother, a mother, and children shapes and nurtures a love and respect for nature, beauty, and a general philosophy for life.

Grandma Dorothy, the former senator, secretary of state, and presidential candidate’s mother, loved gardens, appreciating the multiple benefits they yielded for herself and her family. The Clinton women reminisce about their beloved forebear and all she taught them in a color-coded, alternating text, blue for Chelsea and green for Hillary. Via brief yet explicit remembrances, they share what they learned, observed, and most of all enjoyed in gardens with her. Each double-page spread culminates in a declarative statement set in italicized red text invoking Dorothy’s wise words. Gardens can be many things: places for celebration, discovery and learning, vehicles for teaching responsibility in creating beauty, home to wildlife large and small, a place to share stories and develop memories. Though operating from very personal experience rooted in class privilege, the mother-daughter duo mostly succeeds in imparting a universally significant message: Whether visiting a public garden or working in the backyard, generations can cultivate a lasting bond. Lemniscates uses an appropriately floral palette to evoke the gardens explored by these three white women. A Spanish edition, Los jardines de la abuela, publishes simultaneously; Teresa Mlawer’s translation is fluid and pleasing, in at least one case improving on the original.

Sage, soothing ideas for a busy, loud, sometimes-divisive world. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11535-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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Pretty but substance-free—which is probably not how any of this book’s subjects would like to be remembered.

SHE PERSISTED

13 AMERICAN WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD

Inspired by Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s stand against the appointment of Sen. Jeff Sessions as U.S. attorney general—and titled for Sen. Mitch McConnell’s stifling of same—glancing introductions to 13 American women who “persisted.”

Among the figures relatively familiar to the audience are Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, and Ruby Bridges; among the more obscure are union organizer Clara Lemlich, physician Virginia Apgar, and Olympian Florence Griffith Joyner. Sonia Sotomayor and Oprah Winfrey are two readers may already have some consciousness of. The women have clearly been carefully selected to represent American diversity, although there are significant gaps—there are no Asian-American women, for instance—and the extreme brevity of the coverage leads to reductivism and erasure: Osage dancer Maria Tallchief is identified only as “Native American,” and lesbian Sally Ride’s sexual orientation is elided completely. Clinton’s prose is almost bloodless, running to such uninspiring lines as, about Margaret Chase Smith, “she persisted in championing women’s rights and more opportunities for women in the military, standing up for free speech and supporting space exploration.” Boiger does her best to compensate, creating airy watercolors full of movement for each double-page spread. Quotations are incorporated into illustrations—although the absence of dates and context leaves them unmoored. That’s the overall feeling readers will get, as the uniformity of presentation and near-total lack of detail makes this overview so broad as to be ineffectual. The failure to provide any sources for further information should the book manage to pique readers’ interests simply exacerbates the problem.

Pretty but substance-free—which is probably not how any of this book’s subjects would like to be remembered. (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4172-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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