Satisfying fare for the culturally myopic.

A HISTORY OF JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING

180 EVENTS, PEOPLE AND INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD

Unusual for its ambition if nothing else, this selective encyclopedia of “world” historical, cultural and scientific highlights offers at least a few unexpected choices but rarely looks beyond Europe and North America.

Arranged in chronological order, the 180 entries begin with the appearance of the first humans (“descended from apes,” as the authors inaccurately put it) about 6 million years ago and end with the 2011 earthquake near Japan. In between, they cover inventions from the plow to MP3 files, people from Confucius to Barack Obama, and events of diverse scale, from the “Rise of Greece” to the publication of the first Harry Potter book. Entries fill up a third of a page to a full spread; each features a date (with “BCE” appended for all before the year 1, justified by the optimistic claim that “it is acceptable to all peoples”), and most include both an informally drawn watercolor illustration and a quick, boxed comment on historical “ripples” that spread from the event or invention. This Canadian publication’s focus on its own national history is so close (not to mention Eurocentric: “1608: Champlain establishes permanent settlement in Canada”) that the American Civil War gets just two quick mentions—which is more notice than most African, Asian and Indian histories or cultures receive.

Satisfying fare for the culturally myopic. (index, no bibliography) (Nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-55453-775-4

Page Count: 124

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Like oil itself, this is a book that needs to be handled with special care.

OIL

In 1977, the oil carrier Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of oil into a formerly pristine Alaskan ocean inlet, killing millions of birds, animals, and fish. Despite a cleanup, crude oil is still there.

The Winters foretold the destructive powers of the atomic bomb allusively in The Secret Project (2017), leaving the actuality to the backmatter. They make no such accommodations to young audiences in this disturbing book. From the dark front cover, on which oily blobs conceal a seabird, to the rescuer’s sad face on the back, the mother-son team emphasizes the disaster. A relatively easy-to-read and poetically heightened text introduces the situation. Oil is pumped from the Earth “all day long, all night long, / day after day, year after year” in “what had been unspoiled land, home to Native people // and thousands of caribou.” The scale of extraction is huge: There’s “a giant pipeline” leading to “enormous ships.” Then, crash. Rivers of oil gush out over three full-bleed wordless pages. Subsequent scenes show rocks, seabirds, and sea otters covered with oil. Finally, 30 years later, animals have returned to a cheerful scene. “But if you lift a rock… // oil / seeps / up.” For an adult reader, this is heartbreaking. How much more difficult might this be for an animal-loving child?

Like oil itself, this is a book that needs to be handled with special care. (author’s note, further reading) (Informational picture book. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3077-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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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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