It's hard to know how much Rachel's story will interest young readers, who aren't old enough to remember her racing career,...

ALEXANDRA THE GREAT

THE STORY OF THE RECORD-BREAKING FILLY WHO RULED THE RACETRACK

A straightforward biography of one of thoroughbred racing's greatest mares.

Rachel Alexandra was foaled in 2006, from decent but not spectacular racing lines. Big and well-made from the start, she proved to be easy to train, calm, and biddable even as a youngster. And Rachel was fast. Though unplaced in her first race, she won her second and quickly emerged as one of the top 2-year-old fillies in the country. In 2009, her 3-year-old year, she won nine straight stakes races, including the Kentucky Oaks (distaff counterpart to the Kentucky Derby), the Preakness (beating Derby winner Mine That Bird), and the Woodward Stakes (against older male horses), culminating in her being named 2009 Horse of the Year. Aronson writes primarily from personal interviews she conducted with the horse's many owners, trainers, and riders—including jockey Calvin Borel—and includes color photographs, a glossary of racing terms, an index, and a full bibliography. What she can't do is inject much real drama into this riches-to-riches story—Rachel just starts out fast and keeps winning. Only the last chapter, which recounts the mare's near death following the birth of her second foal, carries any real emotional tension.

It's hard to know how much Rachel's story will interest young readers, who aren't old enough to remember her racing career, but it's a decent effort and an overall worthwhile book. (glossary, notes, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61373-645-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats.

50 IMPRESSIVE KIDS AND THEIR AMAZING (AND TRUE!) STORIES

From the They Did What? series

Why should grown-ups get all the historical, scientific, athletic, cinematic, and artistic glory?

Choosing exemplars from both past and present, Mitchell includes but goes well beyond Alexander the Great, Anne Frank, and like usual suspects to introduce a host of lesser-known luminaries. These include Shapur II, who was formally crowned king of Persia before he was born, Indian dancer/professional architect Sheila Sri Prakash, transgender spokesperson Jazz Jennings, inventor Param Jaggi, and an international host of other teen or preteen activists and prodigies. The individual portraits range from one paragraph to several pages in length, and they are interspersed with group tributes to, for instance, the Nazi-resisting “Swingkinder,” the striking New York City newsboys, and the marchers of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade. Mitchell even offers would-be villains a role model in Elagabalus, “boy emperor of Rome,” though she notes that he, at least, came to an awful end: “Then, then! They dumped his remains in the Tiber River, to be nommed by fish for all eternity.” The entries are arranged in no evident order, and though the backmatter includes multiple booklists, a personality quiz, a glossary, and even a quick Braille primer (with Braille jokes to decode), there is no index. Still, for readers whose fires need lighting, there’s motivational kindling on nearly every page.

A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats. (finished illustrations not seen) (Collective biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-14-751813-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Puffin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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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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