Despite awkwardness, this is a welcome window into an important American life

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MARY WALKER WEARS THE PANTS

Pants: Women were not supposed to wear them.

Mary Walker not only got her medical degree in 1855, but found it much easier to do her work dressed smartly in men’s trousers and tailored jacket. She was not accepted in the Union Army at first, but as an unpaid hospital volunteer, she tended the Civil War sick and wounded in Washington, D.C., and field hospitals. She was finally commissioned in late 1863, then captured and imprisoned by the Confederates. She was exchanged for a Confederate officer, and in 1866, she was given the Medal of Honor, the first and only woman to receive it. Harness tries valiantly to work this complicated story into one comprehensible for the early grades, but it makes for some difficult phrasing. Calling her, as some did, a “pesky camp follower” has very negative implications that adults, at least, will get. “Many Americans, especially in the South, firmly believed that enslaving people from Africa was a normal thing to do,” is an awkward encapsulation of the reason for the Civil War. Molinari’s images are richly colored and drawn in an old-fashioned but very compatible style and do a lot toward fleshing out the text.

Despite awkwardness, this is a welcome window into an important American life . (Picture book/biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8075-4990-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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A crisp historical vignette.

BEN'S REVOLUTION

BENJAMIN RUSSELL AND THE BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL

A boy experiences the Boston Tea Party, the response to the Intolerable Acts, and the battle at Breed’s Hill in Charlestown.

Philbrick has taken his Bunker Hill (2013), pulled from its 400 pages the pivotal moments, added a 12-year-old white boy—Benjamin Russell—as the pivot, and crafted a tale of what might have happened to him during those days of unrest in Boston from 1773 to 1775 (Russell was a real person). Philbrick explains, in plainspoken but gradually accelerating language, the tea tax, the Boston Tea Party, the Intolerable Acts, and the quartering of troops in Boston as well as the institution of a military government. Into this ferment, he introduces Benjamin Russell, where he went to school, his part-time apprenticeship at Isaiah Thomas’ newspaper, sledding down Beacon Hill, and the British officer who cleaned the cinders from the snow so the boys could sled farther and farther. It is these humanizing touches that make war its own intolerable act. Readers see Benjamin, courtesy of Minor’s misty gouache-and-watercolor tableaux, as he becomes stranded outside Boston Neck and becomes a clerk for the patriots. Significant characters are introduced, as is the geography of pre-landfilled Boston, to gain a good sense of why certain actions took place where they did. The final encounter at Breed’s Hill demonstrates how a battle can be won by retreating.

A crisp historical vignette. (maps, author’s note, illustrator’s note) (Historical fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-16674-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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