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History with a hilarious spin and a cinch to provoke vigorous debates aplenty.

From Pelé to “Doc Soc” Socrates, Mother Teresa to Pythagoras, movers and shakers from the past face off in this split-page, mix-and-match fight card.

For anyone who has ever wondered whether George Washington could have schooled Leonardo da Vinci in pingpong, whether Harriet Tubman pwned Ernest Hemingway in the Hunger Games, or Boudica trumped “Class Act” (get it?) Carolus Linnaeus as a game-show host, Swartz brings the data and lets readers call the outcomes. Endowed with a set of identifying memes—“Marie Curie: Madame Radioactive, Chemist, Physicist, Biohazard”—and a quick, mostly admiring, but solidly factual biography, each contestant strikes a tough pose in a stylized but recognizable cartoon portrait, glaring across the card-stock page’s jaggedly cut divide. Swartz also rates each, 1-10, in seven personal categories (“Leadership,” “Intelligence,” “Wealth,” etc.). In a center section that is likewise mix or match, he supplies 50 competitive challenges (only a few actual conflicts), along with discussion questions: escaping Alcatraz? “Who’s the better schemer?” Living in 10,000 B.C.E.? “Who’s more outdoorsy?” As nearly a third of the contestants are women and over a quarter people of color, the author has plainly made an effort to diversify his cast’s origins as well as their walks of life. He also puts some lesser-known figures on the bill, like Empress Myeongseong of Korea and Zulu king Cetewayo.

History with a hilarious spin and a cinch to provoke vigorous debates aplenty. (Informational novelty. 10-13)

Pub Date: July 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7611-8544-4

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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Logically pointing out that the American cowboy archetype didn’t spring up from nowhere, Sandler, author of Cowboys (1994) and other volumes in the superficial, if luxuriously illustrated, “Library of Congress Book” series, looks back over 400 years of cattle tending in North America. His coverage ranges from the livestock carried on Columbus’s second voyage to today’s herding-by-helicopter operations. Here, too, the generous array of dramatic early prints, paintings, and photos are more likely to capture readers’ imaginations than the generality-ridden text. But among his vague comments about the characters, values, and culture passed by Mexican vaqueros to later arrivals from the Eastern US, Sadler intersperses nods to the gauchos, llaneros, and other South American “cowmen,” plus the paniolos of Hawaii, and the renowned African-American cowboys. He also decries the role film and popular literature have played in suppressing the vaqueros’ place in the history of the American West. He tackles an uncommon topic, and will broaden the historical perspective of many young cowboy fans, but his glance at modern vaqueros seems to stop at this country’s borders. Young readers will get a far more detailed, vivid picture of vaquero life and work from the cowboy classics in his annotated bibliography. (Notes, glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2001

ISBN: 0-8050-6019-7

Page Count: 116

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2000

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An introduction to ancient Egypt and the Pharaohs buried in the Valley of the Kings. The authors begin with how archaeologist Howard Carter found the tomb of King Tut, then move back 3,000 years to the time of Thutmosis I, who built the first tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Finally they describe the building of the tomb of a later Pharaoh, Ramses II. The backward-forward narration is not always easy to follow, and the authors attribute emotions to the Pharaohs without citation. For example, “Thutmosis III was furious [with Hatshepsut]. He was especially annoyed that she planned to be buried in KV 20, the tomb of her father.” Since both these people lived 3,500 years ago, speculation on who was furious or annoyed should be used with extreme caution. And the tangled intrigue of Egyptian royalty is not easily sorted out in so brief a work. Throughout, though, there are spectacular photographs of ancient Egyptian artifacts, monuments, tomb paintings, jewels, and death masks that will appeal to young viewers. The photographs of the exposed mummies of Ramses II, King Tut, and Seti I are compelling. More useful for the hauntingly beautiful photos than the text. (brief bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7922-7223-4

Page Count: 64

Publisher: National Geographic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2001

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