History with a wink, though earnest at its base.

PRESIDENTIAL CONVERSATIONS FOR KIDS

Two kids careen through time on a magic skateboard for quick encounters with American presidents at pivotal moments.

Corey at least tries to tone down the satire of 2020’s Presidential Conversations by replacing his original time-traveling protagonist Donald Trump with grade schoolers—GiGi, whose family comes from the West Indies, and her BFF, Georgie, who is of Egyptian and Lebanese descent—but the high spot of this romp through history is a Kennedy Center performance by Richard Nixon with backup singers Trump, Bill Clinton, and Andrew Johnson warbling, “Impeachment is not that bad / So many other things are much more sad / When the House votes to indict / But the Senate says no, it’s alright.” Otherwise, though, presidential character at its best is the theme as Georgie and GiGi use navigation apps to help George Washington cross the Delaware and then, among later stops, pass Lincoln a pen to draft the Gettysburg Address and chant “Yes, we can!” at Barack Obama’s first inauguration. The author closes by having his young witnesses deliver their takeaways to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on a White House class tour. Most of the presidential dialogue consists of quotes from speeches and so has a rhetorical cast. Still, aside from a common but incorrect claim that the Emancipation Proclamation freed enslaved people in every state, historical contexts and occasions are rendered with reasonable accuracy. The illustrator’s closing gallery of loudly decorated skateboards and semiabstract posters scattered elsewhere add color if not relevance to public domain portraits of the 14 presidents (plus one vice) who step onstage.

History with a wink, though earnest at its base. (afterword) (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-73535-093-6

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Cinergistik

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2022

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It’s great to see these kids “so enthusiastic about committing high treason.” (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

THE CONSPIRACY

From the Plot to Kill Hitler series , Vol. 1

Near the end of World War II, two kids join their parents in a plot to kill Adolf Hitler.

Max, 12, lives with his parents and his older sister in a Berlin that’s under constant air bombardment. During one such raid, a mortally wounded man stumbles into the white German family’s home and gasps out his last wish: “The Führer must die.” With this nighttime visitation, Max and Gerta discover their parents have been part of a resistance cell, and the siblings want in. They meet a colorful band of upper-class types who seem almost too whimsical to be serious. Despite her charming levity, Prussian aristocrat and cell leader Frau Becker is grimly aware of the stakes. She enlists Max and Gerta as couriers who sneak forged identification papers to Jews in hiding. Max and Gerta are merely (and realistically) cogs in the adults’ plans, but there’s plenty of room for their own heroism. They escape capture, rescue each other when they’re caught out during an air raid, and willingly put themselves repeatedly at risk to catch a spy. The fictional plotters—based on a mix of several real anti-Hitler resistance cells—are portrayed with a genuine humor, giving them the space to feel alive even in such a slim volume.

It’s great to see these kids “so enthusiastic about committing high treason.” (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-35902-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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The bird’s-eye view into this pivotal moment provides a powerful story, one that adults will applaud—but between the...

MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON

The ugly brutality of the Jim Crow South is recounted in dulcet, poetic tones, creating a harsh and fascinating blend.

Fact and fiction pair in the story of Rose Lee Carter, 13, as she copes with life in a racially divided world. It splits wide open when a 14-year-old boy from Chicago named Emmett Till goes missing. Jackson superbly blends the history into her narrative. The suffocating heat, oppression, and despair African-Americans experienced in 1955 Mississippi resonate. And the author effectively creates a protagonist with plenty of suffering all her own. Practically abandoned by her mother, Rose Lee is reviled in her own home for the darkness of her brown skin. The author ably captures the fear and dread of each day and excels when she shows the peril of blacks trying to assert their right to vote in the South, likely a foreign concept to today’s kids. Where the book fails, however, is in its overuse of descriptors and dialect and the near-sociopathic zeal of Rose Lee's grandmother Ma Pearl and her lighter-skinned cousin Queen. Ma Pearl is an emotionally remote tyrant who seems to derive glee from crushing Rose Lee's spirits. And Queen is so glib and self-centered she's almost a cartoon.

The bird’s-eye view into this pivotal moment provides a powerful story, one that adults will applaud—but between the avalanche of old-South homilies and Rose Lee’s relentlessly hopeless struggle, it may be a hard sell for younger readers. (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-78510-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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