Thoroughly researched and written with passion—and a bit of bite.



A rich chronicle of craft in America from Jamestown to the present day.

In his latest book on craft, historian and curator Adamson displays his vast knowledge of crafts, artisans, and political and business figures who have helped or hindered craft’s advancement. He notes the evolution from craft-as-survival to its current status as a much smaller—but significant—part of our overall economy. He also sees its potential as a way to begin to reunite a divided country. (The author has a couple of harsh comments for Donald Trump, at one point calling him a “farcical blowhard.”) Adamson leads us on a chronological journey through American history, pointing out along the way—sometimes in lush detail—the various craft movements and ideas that were prominent at certain times. The text swarms with interesting anecdotes and names—some well-known (Benjamin Franklin, Henry David Thoreau, Martha Stewart) and others who will be less familiar to most readers: James Pembroke, the first Black man to attend classes at Yale; Candace Wheeler, one of America’s first interior designers, who “realized what many of her fellow craft reformers did not: that beauty and practicality did not always go together, and were often in conflict”; and Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts. Throughout the narrative, the author displays a sensible sensitivity to various cultural, racial, and gender issues that remain with us—from the brutal treatment of Native peoples and African Americans to the denial of equal labor rights (and salaries) to women. Adamson also corrects some myths, noting that there’s no real evidence that Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag: “The thing everyone knows about her…turns out to be uncertain at best, and perhaps an invention from whole cloth, put about by over-enthusiastic descendants.” The author offers welcome details about such topics as repressive schools for American Indians (e.g., Carlisle Indian School) and Rosie the Riveter.

Thoroughly researched and written with passion—and a bit of bite.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63557-458-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.


A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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