TIKAL

THE CENTER OF THE MAYA WORLD

Despite plenty of recent archaeological and paleographical discoveries, ancient Mayan history and culture remain by and large great unknowns—a reality that forces even careful, reputable writers like Mann, author of the brilliant Brooklyn Bridge (1996) and other studies of great monuments, into generalizations and speculation. Here, she sketchily traces the 1,700-year career of a sprawling, strategically placed commercial center that apparently enjoyed centuries of prosperity until falling to an alliance of rivals, then rose again under a series of kings, of which little beyond major building projects and exotic-sounding names seems to be known, before suddenly, for no evident reason, being abandoned around 900 CE. For the illustrations, color photos of elaborately ornamented Mayan art, capped by a striking aerial view of Tikal’s pyramid-strewn Great Plaza today, are interspersed with sometimes uncaptioned painted scenes featuring generic figures laboring, shedding each other’s blood, or standing about to give the city’s magnificent buildings scale. Young readers will certainly come away with an appreciation for Tikal’s ruined splendors, but the art and narrative combine to communicate even more clearly a sense of how little we really know about this complex civilization. Still, a reading list would have been nice, especially considering the pace of new discoveries, and the availability of such engaging related titles as Laurie Coulter’s Secrets in Stone: All About Maya Hieroglyphs (2001). (map, timeline, glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2002

ISBN: 1-931414-05-X

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Firefly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2002

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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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AFTER THE LAST DOG DIED

THE TRUE-LIFE, HAIR-RAISING ADVENTURES OF DOUGLAS MAWSON AND HIS 1911-1914 ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION

This liberally illustrated survival tale makes reading as compelling as any of the recent accounts of Ernest Shackleton’s contemporaneous ventures. Unlike Shackleton, Australian geologist Mawson mounted his ill-starred expedition for (mostly) scientific purposes. Having set up base camp at Cape Denison, soon discovered to be “the windiest place in the world,” Mawson departed with a small party on sledges in November 1912. He returned alone and on foot the following February, having lost nearly all supplies, and both human companions (one, Bredeson hints, to vitamin-A poisoning from a forced diet of sled-dog livers), but surviving a 320-mile trek back. Supplemented by expedition photos of dim, windswept landscapes, and laced with horrifying details—at one point Mawson takes off his socks, and his soles peel off with them—this lesser-known, tragic episode from the golden age of Antarctic exploration won’t fail to give readers both chills and thrills. (roster, time line, resource lists, index) (Nonfiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7922-6140-2

Page Count: 64

Publisher: National Geographic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2003

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