Plenty of work for sharp eyes and active intellects in this history-based series opener.

READ REVIEW

MARY BOWSER AND THE CIVIL WAR SPY RING

From the Spy on History series , Vol. 1

Using a provided packet of helpful tools, readers can search for clues along with a historical spy in the house of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy.

Fans of ciphers and hidden clues will find both in abundance, beginning on the copyright page and continuing to a final, sealed-off section of explanations and solutions. Fictionalized but spun around actual figures and events, the tale centers on Bowser, a free African-American who worked undercover as a maid in Davis’ house and passed information to a ring of white Richmond spies. Here she looks for the key phrase that will unlock a Vigenère cipher—an alphabetic substitution code—while struggling to hide her intelligence and ability to read. As an extra challenge, she leaves the diary in which she records some of her experiences concealed for readers to discover, using allusive and sometimes-misleading clues that are hidden in Cliff’s monochrome illustrations and in cryptic marginal notations. A Caesar cipher wheel, a sheet of red acetate, and several other items in a front pocket supply an espionage starter kit that readers can use along the way; it is supplemented by quick introductions in the narrative to ciphers and codes, including Morse dashes and dots and the language of flowers.

Plenty of work for sharp eyes and active intellects in this history-based series opener. (answers, historical notes, biographies, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7611-8739-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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Chatty, formulaic, superficial—and dispensable, as the content is neither reliable nor systematic. .

STATES AND CAPITALS

UNITED WE STAND!

From the Basher History series

Sprouting bodies and grins, the states introduce themselves alphabetically in this Basher History gallery.

Following the series’ cast-in-stone design, each entry poses in a cartoon portrait with small emblems representing prominent physical features, industry, number of native U.S. presidents and other select distinctions. On opposite pages, a hearty self-description dominates: “Aloha! Come and hang ten with me, dude. I’m a bunch of chilled-out islands in the Pacific, but I have a fiery heart.” This is sandwiched between bulleted lists of superficial facts, from state bird, flower and nickname to (for Arkansas) “Known for diverse landscape, extreme weather, and Walmart.” U.S. territories bring up the rear, followed by a table of official state mottos and, glued to the rear cover, a foldout map. Along with out-and-out errors (a mistranslation of “e pluribus unum”) and unqualified claims (Boston built the first subway), Green offers confusing or opaque views on the origins of “Hawkeye,” “Sooners,” some state names and which of two “Mississippi Deltas” was the birthplace of the blues. Furthermore, a reference to “sacred hunting grounds” in West Virginia and Kentucky’s claim that “It wasn’t until pioneer Daniel Boone breached the Cumberland Gap…that my verdant pastures were colonized” are, at best, ingenuous.

Chatty, formulaic, superficial—and dispensable, as the content is neither reliable nor systematic. . (index, glossary) (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: July 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7534-7138-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Kingfisher

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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Chortleworthy at first glance, disturbingly superficial at second and subsequent ones.

THE PRESIDENTIAL MASTERS OF PREHISTORY

From the Jurassic Classics series

Six presidents of our Holocene epoch pair up with prehistoric predecessors, from George Washingdonyx to Franklin D. Rex.

Following the format of The Prehistoric Masters of Literature (2016), Lacey matches a dino-bio that comes with an attached booklet containing further details to a profile of a historical chief executive from the (considerably) more recent past. Though millions of years separate the administrations of each couple, there are remarkable parallels: Thomas Jeffersaurus drafted a “Declaration of In-dino-pendence,” and Franklin D. Rex crafted a New Deal for those afflicted by the Great Ice Age. It’s a clever premise—but the author’s efforts to accentuate the positive for each president lead her into some troublesome territory. She trumpets Andrew Jaxceratops/Jackson’s “passion for democracy” while staying silent about his treatment of Native Americans, for instance, and makes no mention of slavery either until noting that (in an infelicitous choice of words) Abraham Lincolnator “freed millions of creatures.” The Winning of the West may not be the best choice to represent Theodore Rexevelt’s publications either, considering that work’s rabid cultural imperialism. For all that they’re uniformly green of skin, the dignitaries in Isik’s cartoon portraits generally resemble their modern white (mostly) counterparts, except in a gallery of additional proto-presidents where “Obamasaurus” has thick lips (wrong in more ways than one).

Chortleworthy at first glance, disturbingly superficial at second and subsequent ones. (list of presidents) (Informational novelty. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63322-109-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Walter Foster Jr.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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