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Arty illustrations and a turgid, purpose-driven narrative waste this opportunity to highlight a major tragedy in its...

Readers who think that the Titanic was the only great ocean liner that ever sank will find this fictionalized eyewitness account of the torpedoed Lusitania’s last voyage a revelation.

If, that is, they can get through the narrative without foundering on the nearly continual foreshadowing that clogs its pages. Naming her title character and other cast members after actual passengers, Wishinsky trots 12-year-old Avis over several days through a purposeful ship’s tour that takes her from bustling galley to common areas of all three classes. She is squired by Prof. Holbourn, a genial fellow traveler who regales her with a magical tale of a young castaway facing a giant and a “bogeyman.” This nested story is related by Dawson in interspersed sections of wordless sequential panels. Along the way, Wishinsky shovels in ominous references to U-boats, an angry refusal by the ship’s captain to hold lifeboat drills, the disappearance of the ship’s cat and so many other hints of impending catastrophe that the torpedoes’ eventual arrival comes as more of a relief than a shock. Dawson’s high-contrast black-and-white scenes add a little suspense, but their plotline is at best marginally relevant to the main one, and they are so cramped and cropped that the action in them is hard to follow. The author closes with a note on the real Avis and Prof. Holbourn.

Arty illustrations and a turgid, purpose-driven narrative waste this opportunity to highlight a major tragedy in its centennial year. Interested readers will get more from Diana Preston’s Remember the Lusitania! (2003). (afterword) (Historical fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-55498-489-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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It’s not the first time old Ben has paid our times a call, but it’s funny and free-spirited, with an informational load that...

Antics both instructive and embarrassing ensue after a mysterious package left on their doorstep brings a Founding Father into the lives of two modern children.

Summoned somehow by what looks for all the world like an old-time crystal radio set, Ben Franklin turns out to be an amiable sort. He is immediately taken in hand by 7-year-old Olive for a tour of modern wonders—early versions of which many, from electrical appliances in the kitchen to the Illinois town’s public library and fire department, he justly lays claim to inventing. Meanwhile big brother Nolan, 10, tags along, frantic to return him to his own era before either their divorced mom or snoopy classmate Tommy Tuttle sees him. Fleming, author of Ben Franklin’s Almanac (2003) (and also, not uncoincidentally considering the final scene of this outing, Our Eleanor, 2005), mixes history with humor as the great man dispenses aphorisms and reminiscences through diverse misadventures, all of which end well, before vanishing at last. Following a closing, sequel-cueing kicker (see above) she then separates facts from fancies in closing notes, with print and online leads to more of the former. To go with spot illustrations of the evidently all-white cast throughout the narrative, Fearing incorporates change-of-pace sets of sequential panels for Franklin’s biographical and scientific anecdotes. Final illustrations not seen.

It’s not the first time old Ben has paid our times a call, but it’s funny and free-spirited, with an informational load that adds flavor without weight. (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93406-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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“By March 5, 1770, it was dangerous to be a soldier in Boston.” In a few lines of terse prose illustrated with densely hatched black-and-white pictures, Decker lays out the causes of the tension between Bostonians and British troops, and then delivers a blow-by-blow account of events on that March night and the ensuing trials. Along with casting a grim tone over all, his dark, crowded illustrations capture the incident’s confusion and also add details to the narrative. Despite some questionable choices—he names most of the soldiers but none of the casualties, and except for a row of coffins in one picture, never mentions how many actually died—the author leaves readers with a general understanding of what happened, and with a final scene of John Adams (who defended the soldiers in court) pondering the necessity of protecting true Liberty from the “lawless mob,” some food for thought as well. (Informational picture book. 9-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59078-608-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2009

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