GENIUS OF COMMON SENSE

JANE JACOBS AND THE STORY OF THE DEATH AND LIFE OF GREAT AMERICAN CITIES

Jane Jacobs is an unlikely subject for a school assignment, which is unfortunate, as being required to do research would be the most likely way that many readers will discover this brief but comprehensive biography. A writer with varied experience, Jacobs brought a wealth of knowledge along with her personal convictions to her work as an activist and critic of the status quo. At a time when city planners were determined to conquer urban blight by destroying buildings and uprooting communities, Jacobs argued for a vision of cities as vibrant, functioning systems whose positive growth could be fostered. That she did so successfully without a degree and during the 1950s and ’60s, a time when women’s contributions were often overlooked, is impressive indeed. Better known in Canada, where she moved in 1968, Jacobs may be unfamiliar to many teens, but she is definitely worthy of their attention. Wunsch and Lang have done readers a service in introducing her so effectively, including black-and-white photos and drawings as well as diagrams to augment their text. Push during Women’s History Month and at every other opportunity. (Biography. 12 & up)

Pub Date: April 2, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-56792-384-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Godine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2009

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A DANGEROUS ENGINE

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, FROM SCIENTIST TO DIPLOMAT

Dash ably covers Franklin’s life from first days to last, but what sets this apart from the plethora of similar portraits is her particular focus on his lifelong interest in science and invention. Ever the amateur, he gathered a group of like-minded “Franklinists” to perform electrical experiments and pranks, like electrifying the iron fence around his house, “for the amusement of visitors,” writes Dash. He took measurements of the Gulf Stream, closely observed natural phenomena on land and sea, fiddled with magic squares and corresponded regularly with many fellow enquirers on both sides of the Atlantic—along with inventing (though deliberately never patenting) a stove, the lightning rod, bifocals, the “glass armonica” and much else. Characterizing Franklin as a “speckled” man, who “changed, took up new roles, found new motives within himself” over his long career, Dash also recounts his later diplomatic triumphs in full, without glossing over his youthful misadventures or occasional lack of candor. Readers will come away with a profound understanding of this great man’s mind, heart, achievements and—with some help from Petricic’s witty line drawings—sense of fun. (annotated bibliography, end notes) (Biography. 12+)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2006

ISBN: 0-374-30669-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2005

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An excellent work of children’s nonfiction that just may inspire the next Chuck Yeager.

Chuck Yeager Goes Supersonic

AN ACTION-PACKED, TRUE FLYING ADVENTURE

This straightforward biography engages young readers’ imaginations, respects their intelligence and takes them along on an exciting, real-life adventure.

From Chuck Yeager’s childhood in the Depression, through his experience in World War II, flight school and finally his chance to pilot the first supersonic flight, this debut children’s book brings his biography to life and includes a science lesson for eager young minds, as well. Biermann expertly weaves vignettes from Yeager’s life—like the time he plowed a test plane through a chicken coop—into the narrative, creating a tale with a cinematic, easy-to-follow rhythm. These anecdotes illustrate Yeager’s character in a natural, show-don’t-tell fashion. Biermann’s explanation of the science behind sound waves, the sound barrier and supersonic flight is so clear and memorable, it’s sure to stick with readers well into their adulthood. (Some adults who read this to kids will be relieved to have this burden lifted from them, so they don’t have to sputter out shaky explanations themselves.) While this story may inspire a lifelong interest in science, it’s unlikely to inspire a lifelong love of poetic language. From the very first paragraph—“Chuck Yeager loved to fly airplanes. He loved to fly high. He loved to fly fast.”—the language is a bit unadorned. But it is crystal clear, precise and geared with almost mathematical accuracy to a young elementary reading level. Science- and adventure-minded readers who are just here for the sonic boom won’t care that the book reads more like a technical manual than poetry. The illustrations are of a piece with the language: precise down to the buttons and badges on Yeager’s flight suit but flat and stylized, reminiscent of old-school film strips. And, like the language, while the illustrations are not inspiring or beautiful, they are perfectly suited to the book’s likely audience, who will probably be scrutinizing the cockpit controls.

An excellent work of children’s nonfiction that just may inspire the next Chuck Yeager.

Pub Date: Dec. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1480276321

Page Count: 48

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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