WE ARE THE ROMANS

MEET THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE HISTORY

From the We Are the… series

Nineteen Romans, from an emperor to a gladiator, introduce themselves in this cross-sectional view of an ancient society.

In Fatimaharan’s cartoon portraits, even the enslaved speakers smile, and some, like the gladiator and legionary, are downright gleeful. A startling exception is a formerly enslaved seamstress who now laments that she must work with rough wool and linen rather than fine fabrics. Along with portraying six women, including a professional scribe and an import/export merchant, the artist employs a diverse palette for skin tones. However, since everyone here except the emperor Trajan is fictional, there’s no reason to conclude that either the racial or gender mix is historically accurate. Long gives each member of the gallery a name and a few personal details, but their tonally similar first-person descriptions of their lives and work are so generic that readers will have a hard time telling them apart or catching any sense of what daily life in those days might have actually been like. A closing section of general background, just as superficial, features a timeline that misleadingly bills the fall of Rome in the West as “the end of the empire,” profiles of pagan deities but no mention of those of other major religions, and Latin translations of common phrases like “What time is it?” with no pronunciation guidance.

Bland and sanitized. (map, glossary, list of sites and museums, index) (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-78312-605-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Welbeck Children's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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Go adventuring with a better guide.

50 ADVENTURES IN THE 50 STATES

From the The 50 States series

Find something to do in every state in the U.S.A.!

This guide highlights a location of interest within each of the states, therefore excluding Washington, D.C., and the territories. Trivia about each location is scattered across crisply rendered landscapes that background each state’s double-page spread while diminutive, diverse characters populate the scenes. Befitting the title, one “adventure” is presented per state, such as shrimping in Louisiana’s bayous, snowshoeing in Connecticut, or celebrating the Fourth of July in Boston. While some are stereotypical gimmes (surfing in California), others have the virtue of novelty, at least for this audience, such as viewing the sandhill crane migration in Nebraska. Within this thematic unity, some details go astray, and readers may find themselves searching in vain for animals mentioned. The trivia is plentiful but may be misleading, vague, or incorrect. Information about the Native American peoples of the area is often included, but its brevity—especially regarding sacred locations—means readers are floundering without sufficient context. The same is true for many of the facts that relate directly to expansion and colonialism, such as the unexplained near extinction of bison. Describing the genealogical oral history of South Carolina’s Gullah community as “spin[ning] tales” is equally brusque and offensive. The book tries to do a lot, but it is more style than substance, which may leave readers bored, confused, slightly annoyed—or all three. (This book was reviewed digitally with 12.2-by-20.2-inch double-page spreads viewed at 80% of actual size.)

Go adventuring with a better guide. (tips on local adventuring, index) (Nonfiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7112-5445-9

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Wide Eyed Editions

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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The artwork of this brief look at the Himalayas has a charm that the text struggles to reflect.

HIMALAYA

THE WONDERS OF THE MOUNTAINS THAT TOUCH THE SKY

A quick visit through the mountain range that features some of the world’s highest peaks.

Snowy peaks rear up in the backgrounds in Beorlegi’s jewel-toned illustrations, but the visual focus is consistently at their feet—on towns, temples, dark-skinned residents in shimmering work or festival garb beneath strings of fluttering prayer flags, and flora and fauna in verdant landscapes. In the randomly ordered series of, mostly, locale-based spreads, the author offers terse descriptions of Durbar Square in Kathmandu and the Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini, links Rishikesh along the upper Ganges to the practice of yoga, spotlights the snow leopard in a section on the Indian state of Arunchal Pradesh, and ultimately brings the tour to an abrupt end by rhapsodizing over Kailash, a mountain considered so sacred to several religious traditions that climbers are not allowed. The art’s saturated colors are eye-catching, but along with producing an occasional line more overblown than lyrical (“In a monumental effort to reach the stars, these mountains became the highest…”), the author opaquely characterizes Nepal as a “gateway” between India and China. She also mistakenly claims that pagodas are largely associated with Hindu worship and devotes a spread to Tibetan ethnic groups without actually identifying any of them. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

The artwork of this brief look at the Himalayas has a charm that the text struggles to reflect. (map) (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-914519-28-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Orange Mosquito

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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