From the How-To Guides for Fiendish Rulers series

Entertainingly grandiose but too superficial to reign over more fact-based surveys.

Pharaoh explains why it’s good to be top banana.

Though cast at the outset as a generic pharaoh’s advice for his successor, the pretext is quickly abandoned in favor of a top-down view of ancient Egyptian society that focuses on the necessity of keeping priests, nobles, and common people under the pharaonic thumb. Along with accounts of what viziers and scribes are for, the boastful narrator describes in colloquial language the ruler’s lifestyle, autocratic privileges (“I’m sick of crocodile head. Where’s the cake?”), foreign relations, select deities, and, finally, mummification and burial. “Fiendish Fact File” boxes on every spread offer anecdotes about specific pharaohs—10 more of whom get thumbnail profiles at the close—and on nearly every page Pentney adds scowling, heroically chiseled cartoon figures in period dress with fierce scowls (and unrealistically light skin). Aside from Hatshepsut and Cleopatra, women get almost no notice here. More disappointingly, to bloodthirsty readers at least, actual fiendish deeds likewise rarely get more than bare mentions. The co-published An Emperor’s Guide, A King’s Guide, and A Shogun’s Guide offer similar messages, historical tidbits, and art in the same format from heads of state in, respectively, ancient Rome, medieval Western Europe, and classical Japan.

Entertainingly grandiose but too superficial to reign over more fact-based surveys. (index) (Nonfiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5124-3073-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Hungry Tomato/Lerner

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017


A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering.

An honestly told biography of an important politician whose name every American should know.

Published while the United States has its first African-American president, this story of John Roy Lynch, the first African-American speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, lays bare the long and arduous path black Americans have walked to obtain equality. The title’s first three words—“The Amazing Age”—emphasize how many more freedoms African-Americans had during Reconstruction than for decades afterward. Barton and Tate do not shy away from honest depictions of slavery, floggings, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, or the various means of intimidation that whites employed to prevent blacks from voting and living lives equal to those of whites. Like President Barack Obama, Lynch was of biracial descent; born to an enslaved mother and an Irish father, he did not know hard labor until his slave mistress asked him a question that he answered honestly. Freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, Lynch had a long and varied career that points to his resilience and perseverance. Tate’s bright watercolor illustrations often belie the harshness of what takes place within them; though this sometimes creates a visual conflict, it may also make the book more palatable for young readers unaware of the violence African-Americans have suffered than fully graphic images would. A historical note, timeline, author’s and illustrator’s notes, bibliography and map are appended.

A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering. (Picture book biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5379-0

Page Count: 50

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015


An emotional entry point to a larger, necessary discussion on this complex and difficult subject.

The paths of four migrant children from different Central American countries cross as they enter Mexico, and together they continue their journey to the United States.

Though their reasons for undertaking the perilous journey are different, their hopes are not: They all hope for asylum in the U.S. Ten-year-old Alessandra, from Guatemala, hopes to reunite with her mother, who left four years ago. Thirteen-year-old Laura and her 7-year-old brother, Nando, from El Salvador, are going to live with relatives in the U.S. And 14-year-old Rodrigo, from Honduras, will try to join his parents in Nebraska rather than join a local gang. Along the way they encounter danger, hunger, kindness from strangers, and, most importantly, the strength of friendship with one another. Through the four children, the book provides but the barest glimpse into the reasons, hopes, and dreams of the thousands of unaccompanied minors that arrive at the U.S.–Mexico border every year. Artist Guevara has added Central American folk art–influenced details to her illustrations, giving depth to the artwork. These embellishments appear as line drawings superimposed on the watercolor scenes. The backmatter explains the reasons for the book, helping to place it within the larger context of ongoing projects at Baylor University related to the migration crisis in Central America.

An emotional entry point to a larger, necessary discussion on this complex and difficult subject. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64442-008-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Six Foot Press

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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