An impressive introduction to the Forbidden City.

READ REVIEW

IN THE FORBIDDEN CITY

In this Chinese import, readers become tourists as each page turn provides views into labyrinthine courtyards and palaces once reserved for imperial China’s emperors.

For almost 600 years, the Forbidden City was home to emperors and their entourages during the Ming and Qing dynasties from 1421 to 1912. Today it stands as the world’s largest enclosed palace and museum, visited by millions of tourists. If readers can’t visit Beijing, this gives an intriguing alternative. On the table of contents, a bird’s-eye-view plan offers a helpful guide to where historical events took place. Through gray-toned, detailed illustrations on multipage spreads, the sections of the Forbidden City unfold, literally, into readers’ hands. While the history covered is complex, there are elements throughout that make it accessible. Tourists and historical Chinese figures alike (and one curious cat) populate the pages, some with thought bubbles expressing facts and observations. A roll call of emperors showcases how each one was famous or infamous. However, most stories of everyday life, while interesting, can be quite dense. The type size is small. These sections are better suited for upper middle grades and older. But all ages will enjoy sifting through grand architectural renderings, especially with the enclosed magnifying glass.

An impressive introduction to the Forbidden City. (author’s note) (Nonfiction. 11 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9893776-0-7

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Tuttle

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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Inspirational pairings of art and verse to read and recite in tribute to those who walked that perilous road.

FREEDOM'S A-CALLIN ME

One slave is the poetic voice for those who toil on a cotton plantation and look to the North Star, following the Underground Railroad to freedom.

Shange wrote the poems in response to Brown's paintings and provides a sound stage for not only the many men and women who sought freedom but also those who were fearful of leaving. The dramatic oil paintings open in the stark white of the cotton fields. In the following tableaux, slaves are whipped, run through swamps, barely ahead of trackers and their dogs, and receive help from white abolitionists and Sojourner Truth. One powerful double-page spread shows a runaway hiding under floor boards, with slivers of light coming through. The end of the road finally comes in Michigan, where white snow on ground and trees serves as a beautiful counterpoint to the opening scene. Painter and poet previously collaborated on We Troubled the Waters (2009), and in this volume they have created a focused narrative that is troubling, violent and soul-stirring. In the title poem, the man says “ah may get tired / good Lawd / ah may may be free.”

Inspirational pairings of art and verse to read and recite in tribute to those who walked that perilous road. (Picture book/poetry. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-133741-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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An opening promise of “beauty and magic and disturbing twists” goes unfulfilled in this monotonous parade of ancient names...

HEROES OF OLYMPUS

A numbing catalog of “Gods, Goddesses, Monsters, and Mortals” from Greek and Roman mythology, condescendingly “adapted” for younger audiences from a juicier version for adults.

Spun off from Freeman’s Oh My Gods! (2012) but hardly differing in page count, Calkhoven’s methodical treatments of 60-some classical myths and legends only rephrase and tone down Freeman’s language. She leaves most of the (nearly continual) sex and violence in but describes it euphemistically or in dryly factual ways. The retellings arbitrarily blend Greek and Roman versions of names (Zeus, Hercules) and inconsistently render some in English (“Sky” rather than Uranus and “Earth” rather than Gaia, but only proper names for all of their offspring). The dozens of headed entries begin with “Creation” and, after Cronus castrates his father (or, as it’s put here, “slashed Sky’s flesh”) the war between gods and titans. Thereafter in no particular order (except that the Roman entries come last) come short accounts of individual gods and demigods mixed with topical overviews (“Goddesses,” “Heroes”), genealogical recitations and short summaries of epic tales (“Troy”) or legends (“Scaevola”). Original sources for all of these get scarcely a mention, and though many of the tales are not among the usual suspects, readers needing reminders of who Despoina, Otus, Ephialtes and dozens of less familiar figures are will get no help from the spotty annotated cast list at the end.

An opening promise of “beauty and magic and disturbing twists” goes unfulfilled in this monotonous parade of ancient names and detached barbarism. Illustrations not seen. (Mythology. 12-16)

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-1729-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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