ELSIE’S WAR

A STORY OF COURAGE IN NAZI GERMANY

Using historical photographs from various sources, Dabba Smith offers an ungrounded profile of a German woman who helped people oppressed by Nazis during WWII. Elsie brought food and blankets to Ukrainian women forced into slave labor at her father’s factory, and she risked her life trying to arrange the escape of a German Jew across the Swiss border. Caught and imprisoned by the Gestapo, Elsie spent time in jail away from her children and father before a bribe facilitated her release. While stories of Germans who helped the Nazis’ victims are rare, this piece is so episodic that it isn’t cohesive. The confusing lack of context—about the greater war, horrors, concentration camps, and other pockets of resistance—leaves Elsie looking like an isolated hero. Bits of fictionalization belong to an earlier era of children’s nonfiction. Inoffensive as an addition to a broader curriculum, but—unlike Dabba Smith’s stunningly powerful My Secret Camera—mediocre on its own. (introduction, postscript) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-84507-006-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2005

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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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Several unexpected connections, though Eurocentric overall and lacking in racial diversity.

HEAD TO HEAD

18 LINKED PORTRAITS OF PEOPLE WHO CHANGED THE WORLD

Renowned achievers go nose-to-nose on fold-out pages.

Mixing contemporary celebrities with historical figures, Corbineau pairs off his gallery of full-page portraits by theme, the images all reworked from photos or prints into cut-paper collages with highly saturated hues. Gandhi and Rosa Parks exemplify nonviolent protest; Mother Teresa and Angelina Jolie are (mostly) commended for their work with impoverished people; and a “common point” between Gutenberg and Mark Zuckerberg is that both revolutionized the ways we communicate. The portraits, on opposite ends of gatefolds, open to reveal short biographies flanking explanatory essays. Women and people of color are distinctly underrepresented. There are a few surprises, such as guillotined French playwright Olympe de Gouges, linked for her feminism with actress Emma Watson; extreme free-fall jumper Felix Baumgartner, paired with fellow aerialist record-seeker Amelia Earhart; and Nelson Mandela’s co–freedom fighter Jean Moulin, a leader of the French Resistance. In another departure from the usual run of inspirational panegyrics, Cornabas slips in the occasional provocative claim, noting that many countries considered Mandela’s African National Congress a terrorist organization and that Mother Teresa, believing that suffering was “a gift from God,” rarely gave her patients painkillers. Although perhaps only some of these subjects “changed the world” in any significant sense, all come off as admirable—for their ambition, strength of character, and drive.

Several unexpected connections, though Eurocentric overall and lacking in racial diversity. (map, timeline) (Collective biography. 8-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7643-6226-2

Page Count: 84

Publisher: Schiffer

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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