Handsome, well-executed history for a young audience.



The peculiar enmity between founding fathers Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton culminated in an infamous duel.

Brown takes a broad, evenhanded, and pared-down look at the lives of Burr and Hamilton. Both were orphaned as children, both were slender, bright, and determined. After serving in the Revolutionary War, they became lawyers—even occasional colleagues—and developed political passions. They look similar in the quick strokes of Brown’s pen-and-wash illustrations: in gray coats and white cravats, their foreheads high and faces narrow. Panels and dialogue balloons create motion to match the brief, informative narrative. The irascible Hamilton frequently insulted Burr during Burr’s 1800 presidential bid against Jefferson. When, in 1804, Burr ran for governor of New York, Hamilton struck an intolerable blow. Hamilton scowls, pen in hand, as the word “Despicable” appears in a thought balloon above his head. On the page opposite, Burr grimaces as he reads the word aloud, and it appears above his own head. This illustration is evoked at the climax, in which two hands holding pistols face off across the opening, smoke and blood-red fire spitting from the barrels, the word “BANG!” below each. The final page sums up the result for Burr, the survivor: regret and lost reputation. An author’s note for older readers adds texture; the bibliography is adult-directed.

Handsome, well-executed history for a young audience. (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59643-998-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering.


An honestly told biography of an important politician whose name every American should know.

Published while the United States has its first African-American president, this story of John Roy Lynch, the first African-American speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, lays bare the long and arduous path black Americans have walked to obtain equality. The title’s first three words—“The Amazing Age”—emphasize how many more freedoms African-Americans had during Reconstruction than for decades afterward. Barton and Tate do not shy away from honest depictions of slavery, floggings, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, or the various means of intimidation that whites employed to prevent blacks from voting and living lives equal to those of whites. Like President Barack Obama, Lynch was of biracial descent; born to an enslaved mother and an Irish father, he did not know hard labor until his slave mistress asked him a question that he answered honestly. Freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, Lynch had a long and varied career that points to his resilience and perseverance. Tate’s bright watercolor illustrations often belie the harshness of what takes place within them; though this sometimes creates a visual conflict, it may also make the book more palatable for young readers unaware of the violence African-Americans have suffered than fully graphic images would. A historical note, timeline, author’s and illustrator’s notes, bibliography and map are appended.

A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering. (Picture book biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5379-0

Page Count: 50

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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