Beautifully rendered drawings are a feast for the eyes, but engaging historical context is lacking.

BEIJING

A SYMMETRICAL CITY

Part architectural tour, part intro to Chinese history and culture, this book showcases one of China’s most famous landmarks.

Beijing is one of the world’s oldest cities, and its architectural layout was begun during the Yuan dynasty in the 13th century. It was further developed during the Ming (14th to 17th centuries) and Qing dynasties (17th to 20th centuries). This book showcases Beijing as it was during the Qing period, China’s last royal dynasty. Like many traditional Chinese cities, Beijing was built symmetrically, with a central axis that forms its backbone. Major buildings were placed on either side of the axis, with the Imperial Palace, also known as the Forbidden City, at the center. Yu takes readers on a walking tour along the nearly 5-mile-long central axis, starting at the south end of the city and ending in the north. Stops include old Beijing’s business district, Tiananmen Square, and the Hall of Supreme Harmony, where business, official ceremonies, and banquets took (and still take) place. Colorful, finely detailed illustrations are placed, often symmetrically, over double-page spreads; one double gatefold depicts the Forbidden City’s grand architecture. The illustrations are breathtaking, but unfortunately, the text is not. Readers learn that on either side of the central axis, “buildings share the same color scheme and style but differ in size and height.” The author tries to liven up the somewhat dry descriptions and recitation of historical facts with sidebars of “Fun Facts” and “Knowledge Tips,” but the small, dense text, set in italicized, low-contrast, brown type, can be a chore to read.

Beautifully rendered drawings are a feast for the eyes, but engaging historical context is lacking. (timeline, glossary, afterword, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949736-03-8

Page Count: 42

Publisher: 1 Plus Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Despite its not insignificant flaws, this book provides insights into the lives of important women, many of whom have...

SHE DID IT!

21 WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WAY WE THINK

Caldecott Medalist McCully delves into the lives of extraordinary American women.

Beginning with the subject of her earlier biography Ida M. Tarbell (2014), McCully uses a chronological (by birth year) structure to organize her diverse array of subjects, each of whom is allotted approximately 10 pages. Lovely design enhances the text with a full-color portrait of each woman and small additional illustrations in the author/illustrator’s traditional style, plenty of white space, and spare use of dynamic colors. This survey provides greater depth than most, but even so, some topics go troublingly uncontextualized to the point of reinforcing stereotype: “In slavery, Black women had been punished for trying to improve their appearance. Now that they were free, many cared a great deal about grooming”; “President Roosevelt ordered all Japanese Americans on the West Coast to report to internment camps to keep them from providing aid to the enemy Japanese forces.” Of the 21 surveyed, one Japanese-American woman (Patsy Mink) is highlighted, as are one Latinx woman (Dolores Huerta), one Mohegan woman (Gladys Tantaquidgeon), three black women (Madam C.J. Walker, Ella Baker, and Shirley Chisholm), four out queer white women (Billie Jean King, Barbara Gittings, Jane Addams, and Isadora Duncan; the latter two’s sexualities are not discussed), two Jewish women (Gertrude Berg and Vera Rubin), and three women with known disabilities (Addams, Dorothea Lange, and Temple Grandin).

Despite its not insignificant flaws, this book provides insights into the lives of important women, many of whom have otherwise yet to be featured in nonfiction for young readers. (sources) (Collective biography. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-01991-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for...

TWO MEN AND A CAR

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, AL CAPONE, AND A CADILLAC V-8

A custom-built, bulletproof limo links two historical figures who were pre-eminent in more or less different spheres.

Garland admits that a claim that FDR was driven to Congress to deliver his “Day of Infamy” speech in a car that once belonged to Capone rests on shaky evidence. He nonetheless uses the anecdote as a launchpad for twin portraits of contemporaries who occupy unique niches in this country’s history but had little in common. Both were smart, ambitious New Yorkers and were young when their fathers died, but they definitely “headed in opposite directions.” As he fills his biographical sketches with standard-issue facts and has disappointingly little to say about the car itself (which was commissioned by Capone in 1928 and still survives), this outing seems largely intended to be a vehicle for the dark, heavy illustrations. These are done in muted hues with densely scratched surfaces and angled so that the two men, the period backgrounds against which they are posed, and the car have monumental looks. It’s a reach to bill this, as the author does, a “story about America,” but it does at least offer a study in contrasts featuring two of America’s most renowned citizens. Most of the human figures are white in the art, but some group scenes include a few with darker skin.

The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for thought. (timeline, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-88448-620-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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