MARCO POLO

Marco Polo was just 17 when he left his home in Italy to travel to China with his merchant father—a man who had traveled so long and far that Marco had met him only two years before. It was another 24 years before Marco would return to Italy with a treasure of precious jewels sewn into his clothing and a lifetime’s worth of discoveries and adventures. Marco Polo and his merchant family bridged Europe and Asia long before Christopher Columbus set sail for the West. The anecdotal narrative is just right for an introduction to this remarkable voyager. Small paintings in Chinese inks brightened with gold overlays make each page a treasure—delicately, meticulously assembled, each scene identifies Marco with a red feather, and each miniature emerges from a richly detailed border. It’s disappointing that a sense of the strangeness of the world to Marco’s European eyes never quite emerges; the text and the illustrations remain somewhat detached from each other as a result. Still, there’s plenty of charm for the eyes and imagination. (author’s note, map) (Picture book/biography. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-7614-5433-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2008

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For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

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BROWN GIRL DREAMING

A multiaward–winning author recalls her childhood and the joy of becoming a writer.

Writing in free verse, Woodson starts with her 1963 birth in Ohio during the civil rights movement, when America is “a country caught / / between Black and White.” But while evoking names such as Malcolm, Martin, James, Rosa and Ruby, her story is also one of family: her father’s people in Ohio and her mother’s people in South Carolina. Moving south to live with her maternal grandmother, she is in a world of sweet peas and collards, getting her hair straightened and avoiding segregated stores with her grandmother. As the writer inside slowly grows, she listens to family stories and fills her days and evenings as a Jehovah’s Witness, activities that continue after a move to Brooklyn to reunite with her mother. The gift of a composition notebook, the experience of reading John Steptoe’s Stevie and Langston Hughes’ poetry, and seeing letters turn into words and words into thoughts all reinforce her conviction that “[W]ords are my brilliance.” Woodson cherishes her memories and shares them with a graceful lyricism; her lovingly wrought vignettes of country and city streets will linger long after the page is turned.

For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-25251-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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WHO WAS BEN FRANKLIN?

Benjamin Franklin “snatched the lightning from the sky and the scepter from tyrants” and his story is told here in many informative and amusing anecdotes. Among them: young, skinny-dipping Ben pulled across a pond by his kite, Ben in London proving he can swim three miles, Ben making up fake “news items” to spice up his Pennsylvania Gazette, and Ben wanting to get married in spite of his “bumpy” love life. These human-interest stories balance the better-known record of Franklin’s accomplishments as an inventor and political force in colonial America. Franklin invented the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, and an artificial arm. He started a public library, a volunteer fire company, and a general hospital in Philadelphia. He improved the colonies’ mail delivery system and founded the Philadelphia Academy, which later became the University of Pennsylvania. Franklin helped draft the Declaration of Independence, helped secure French support for the Revolution, and helped hammer out the Constitution. His final public act was to urge Congress to end slavery. All of this and more are covered in this brief, engaging, well-written biography. Not just a birth-to-death exposition of facts, this account opens with Franklin’s catching lightning in a bottle and, by the end, has succeeded in portraying Franklin as a “man of many talents” and a flesh-and-blood person. The black-and-white illustrations, which appear on every spread, are superb, adding information and touches of humor. Readers will like the Ben Franklin they come to know in this outstanding biography. Two timelines are appended—one on Franklin’s life, and one on world events. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42495-9

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001

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