Joyful, enthusiastic, well-versed, and uplifting.


Jökulsson and Torfason present 20 men with thighs like oak and feet like mambas.

Like Madonna, these men need only one name, like Maradona. Represented in short, zinging profiles are 20 of soccer’s (or football’s, if you prefer) greatest players. Told with as much flash as the players exhibit, the book is also energetic in its design, with crisp biographies that capture major moments, boxed items that illuminate some particular achievement or disaster, photos, and outline maps of the players’ native countries. Soccer is a game that rivets half the world, from Finland to Cameroon to Argentina, and its global reach is an important aspect of the book’s humanism. It doesn’t shy away from the weaknesses that can attend even the most gifted among us: George Best’s alcoholism, Zinedine Zidane’s temper, Diego Maradona’s drug problems. While all these players had extraordinary physical attributes of strength and endurance, what makes them shine is their elegance and brains. Such words as “cunning,” “dexterity,” and “vision” speak of what is admired in the game: “Beckenbauer was such an ingenious defense player and team leader that he is repeatedly noted as the greatest defender in history—without ever being rough or vicious.” The worldwide scope of the players represented is impressive, and it also gives a sense of world history, as in the entry on Mozambique’s Eusébio, who played for then–imperial overlord Portugal.

Joyful, enthusiastic, well-versed, and uplifting. (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7892-1295-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Abbeville Kids

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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In no particular order and using no set criteria for his selections, veteran sportscaster Berman pays tribute to an arbitrary gallery of baseball stars—all familiar names and, except for the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez, retired from play for decades. Repeatedly taking the stance that statistics are just numbers but then reeling off batting averages, home-run totals, wins (for pitchers) and other data as evidence of greatness, he offers career highlights in a folksy narrative surrounded by photos, side comments and baseball-card–style notes in side boxes. Readers had best come to this with some prior knowledge, since he casually drops terms like “slugging percentage,” “dead ball era” and “barnstorming” without explanation and also presents a notably superficial picture of baseball’s history—placing the sport’s “first half-century” almost entirely in the 1900s, for instance, and condescendingly noting that Jackie Robinson’s skill led Branch Rickey to decide that he “was worthy of becoming the first black player to play in the majors.” The awesome feats of Ruth, Mantle, the Gibsons Bob and Josh, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb and the rest are always worth a recap—but this one’s strictly minor league. (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4022-3886-4

Page Count: 138

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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This absorbing history examines the lives and work of eight innovators in the design and manufacture of musical instruments. From Avedis Zildjian, who brought his family’s centuries-old cymbal-making business from Turkey to Boston, to Robert Moog, whose electronic synthesizer rocked the music world, VanHecke’s portraits celebrate the inquisitive scientific tinkering, dedication to craft and business moxie that rendered Steinway pianos, Hammond organs and Fender guitars both household names and performers’ favorites. The writing’s freshest when VanHecke changes it up with bits of cultural trivia, like Beatles lore. (It’s dullest when awash in the minutiae of cousins, marriages and succession.) Examining the effect of the Great Depression, the World Wars and immigration on these family businesses vibrantly contextualizes those issues for kids. Numerous well-captioned photos and period illustrations, sidebars and clearly labeled diagrams of the musical instruments expertly extend the text. Students and teachers of music are the natural audience for this unique treatment. (introduction, endnote, quotation sources, bibliographies, websites, photo credits, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59078-574-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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