Both revelatory and entertaining, though not without its gaps.


In anticipation of Canada’s 2017 sesquicentennial, a breezy year-by-year survey of its history.

MacLeod takes a consciously multicultural approach, highlighting both highlights and lowlights. The first game of indoor hockey (1875) is celebrated, as is the discovery of gold in the Yukon (1896) and the birth of the Dionne Quints (1934). Likewise, Treaty No. 7, the 1877 appropriation of much of what is now Alberta, and discrimination against the Chinese, 8,000 of whom arrived in 1882 to help build the railways, are duly noted. When Canada’s history intersects with world history, the book leaves North America, as in the span from 1914 to 1918, which also includes a profile of “In Flanders Fields” poet John McCrae, a sidebar on trench life, and the invention of the gas mask (by Newfoundlander Cluny Macpherson in 1915). Though the format is limiting, it’s a surprisingly effective tour that gets at both parochial Canadian culture (“1955: Fans riot over Maurice Richard”) and its too often overlooked impact on international affairs, as with Lester B. Pearson’s part in resolving the Suez crisis. Still, for all MacLeod’s admirable attention to Canada’s problematic history with First Nations peoples and minorities, it doesn’t get at the constant Anglophone-Francophone tension that has defined Canada from its inception, largely sidestepping it until the 1968 emergence of the Parti Québecois. Smith’s brushy vignettes include both people of color and white figures as appropriate.

Both revelatory and entertaining, though not without its gaps. (index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-77138-397-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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


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...



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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