Well-intentioned, well-researched, but awkwardly written considering the caliber of the scholar and his expected scholarship.

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DARK SKY RISING

RECONSTRUCTION AND THE DAWN OF JIM CROW

From the Scholastic Focus series

“In your hands you are holding my book…my very first venture in writing for young readers,” Gates writes in a preface.

And readers can tell…though probably not in the way Gates and co-author Bolden may have aimed for. The book opens with a gripping scene of formerly enslaved African-Americans celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation. It proceeds to engagingly unfold the facts that led to Reconstruction and its reaction, Jim Crow, until it disrupts the flow with oddly placed facts about Gates’ family’s involvement in the war, name-dropping of other historians, and the occasional conspicuous exclamation (“Land! That’s what his people most hungered for”). Flourishes such as that last sit uneasily with the extensive quotations from secondary sources for adults, as if Gates and Bolden are not sure whether their conceptual audience is young readers or adults, an uncertainty established as early as Gates’ preface. They also too-frequently relegate the vital roles of black women, such as Harriet Tubman, to sidebars or scatter their facts throughout the book, implicitly framing the era as a struggle between African-American men and white men. In the end, this acts as a reminder to readers that, although a person may have a Ph.D. and have written successfully in some genres and media, that does not mean they can write in every one, even with the help of a veteran in the field.

Well-intentioned, well-researched, but awkwardly written considering the caliber of the scholar and his expected scholarship. (selected sources, endnotes, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-26204-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scholastic Nonfiction

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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Overall, the book offers an appealing introduction to the diverse nations and remarkable resilience of the original...

TURTLE ISLAND

THE STORY OF NORTH AMERICA'S FIRST PEOPLE

A comprehensive overview of the Indigenous populations of North America from 100,000 years ago until the present in just over 100 pages is an ambitious undertaking.

Happily, this one is surprisingly successful. A collaboration between Yellowhorn, a Piikani professor of First Nations Studies, and Lowinger, a white children’s author, the text engages readers through a variety of means: stories from different nations, straightforward scientific and historical information, and sections labeled “imagine,” portraying slices of life in various times and places. From captivating origin tales to mind-boggling advances in archaeological technology, there is a little something here for everyone, with stock images that complement the text. It is a pity that the final chapter on modern times was not fleshed out more, leaving out much Native political and environmental activism from the 1960s to the present day as well as continuing struggles over demeaning sports team names and mascots. The list of notable people skews heavily toward men (where are Maria Tallchief and Louise Erdrich?). Oddly, this chapter also consistently refers to Indigenous people as “they” rather than “we,” depriving young Native readers of a more intimate reading experience.

Overall, the book offers an appealing introduction to the diverse nations and remarkable resilience of the original inhabitants of this continent and is likely to inspire respect, pride, and a desire to learn more. (maps, sources, further reading, index not seen) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55451-944-6

Page Count: 116

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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The genesis of world-rocking inventions is often mysterious; their fate upon people not so much, here given a tantalizing if...

THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

From the Campfire History series

Helfand brings a propulsive optimism to this graphic account of the Industrial Revolution.

Meet Johann Gutenberg, thinking, thinking, thinking big. “What if instead of copying text one word at a time… / …there was a way to reproduce entire pages?” Scribes took five years to copy the Bible. Helfand doesn’t mention the beauty of their work, but Gutenberg’s invention was revolutionary: more people received more news and knowledge. Readers follow Kumar’s clean panels as James Watt makes his entrance, then Eli Whitney, John Kay, Robert Fulton, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford. Helfand is mostly interested in the mechanical wizardry and tenacity of these inventers, which is slippery to capture: “About four times as much steel could be produced with Bessemer’s technique.” Helfand digs the book’s grave by half-heartedly tackling the social consequences. Readers learn that “countless skilled weavers suddenly found themselves out of work,” which is shrugged off: “But the inventions that cost the weavers their jobs were few and far between.” Except “as large landowners snatched up more and more farmland, small farmers found themselves out of work and eager for factory jobs.” Except: “Men and women were operating like clockwork; as efficiently as the machines that dominated the industrial age. The only problem was… / Ford’s employees hated it.”

The genesis of world-rocking inventions is often mysterious; their fate upon people not so much, here given a tantalizing if garbled peek, then left unexplored. (Graphic nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-93-81182-28-4

Page Count: 92

Publisher: Campfire

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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